Singapore, Nov. 9 -- It is a front-wheel-drive with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine. But it is not a Renault, Citroen, Ford or Toyota. It is a BMW.

It would be easy to dismiss the Bavarian marque as having gone soft (or bonkers), but a spin in the 118i convinces you otherwise.

For day-to-day driving, the new 1-series is as fun and engaging as its rear-wheel, 1.6-litre four-cylinder predecessor. If anything, it feels more light-footed, with a spring in its step afforded by the driven wheels being so much closer to the engine.

Despite its modest power plant, there is verve and vigour in the compact hatch. At the wheel, it feels a lot quicker than its proclaimed century sprint of 8.5 seconds.

The engine feels and sounds bigger than i...