The changes seem less drastic than we would've liked.
The BMW 1 Series isn't sold in the United States but it's always been one of the best premium hatchbacks to drive. Well, at least that was the case before the current F40 generation transitioned to a front-wheel-drive layout instead of BMW's famed rear-wheel-drive setup. Still, the current 1 Series remains a good match for the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 Sportback (no longer sold here).
It's now time for the 1 Series to receive a facelift and our photographers captured the first spy photos of BMW's hatchback, but we're still not sure if the changes are enough since the original design hardly blew us away. The facelifted 1 Series is covered in camouflage but we can pick out more rounded, slimmer headlights that surround a kidney grille that looks like it may just have gotten smaller.
As before, we expect this grille to be highly sensitive to color, as the black treatment looks quite different to the chrome one - and both are affected by the color of the paint. Darker colors and a black grille worked well on the pre-facelift car to make the grille look better integrated. New bumpers and new taillights graphics are also expected, but it's difficult to make out any of the finer details.
As things stand now, the BMW doesn't look as well-resolved as the sophisticated Audi A3 Sportback, but maybe we'll change our minds once the updated car is revealed in full. There's no word yet on whether BMW will implement any drastic changes to the interior or the powertrains, although it could receive the latest iDrive infotainment system.
In the UK, the 1 Series lineup includes the sporty 128ti - a direct Golf GTI competitor - with a 261-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. There are also efficient diesels and an M135i xDrive with a 301-hp engine. The latter is the same engine found in the M235i xDrive variant of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, a car that we found had strayed disappointingly far from BMW's traditional virtues. It's possible that a plug-in hybrid 1 Series will be available.
All that being said, it's a pity that hatchbacks often get overlooked in the US. The facelifted 1 Series joins the likes of the Mercedes A-Class, Ford Focus, and Hyundai i30 N as fantastic hatchbacks that will remain forbidden fruit here for the foreseeable future. It's believed that road testing of the new 1 Series will begin imminently before a debut sometime in 2023.