So far, most the reviews for the BMW 1 Series we’ve seen, including our own, have been surprisingly positive. It seems that BMW ain’t too shabby at making front-wheel drive-based architectures. However, most of the 1er’s we’ve driven, and seen reviewed, have been all-wheel drive models. More specifically, the BMW M135i.

With BMW’s front-drive xDrive all-wheel drive system, it’s constantly sending some power to the rear wheels, helping to quell traditional front-drive characteristics. Admittedly, the xDrive system found in the BMW 1 Series is a Haldex-based system, so it can only send a maximum of 50-percent of its available power to the rear wheels. Still, that extra help at the rear does make a difference. But what about a purely front-wheel drive model? Can the Bavarians make a front-drive car actually feel and handle like a proper BMW?

BMW 118i Luxury Line F40 18 830x553

In this new test drive from Auto Express, we take a look at a purely front-wheel drive BMW 1 Series, one that’s going to be a volume seller in Europe — the BMW 118i M Sport. Under the hood of the 118i lies a puny 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 138 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. All of that “power” is sent to just the front wheels. Hardly an enthusiast’s spec. At least, in this case, it has a six-speed manual.

Can this econobox-version of the BMW 1 Series actually be any decent to drive, though? According to AE, it’s not bad at all, surprisingly. It supposedly turns in sharply, has very little body roll and actually isn’t bad to chuck around. That engine, despite being relatively weak, also isn’t bad unless you’re trying to pass traffic on the highway. Plus, its manual gearbox probably lends to some of that fun. So it seems that BMW is actually not too shabby at making affordable front-wheel drive hatchbacks. Who woulda thought?

[Source: Auto Express]