Luxo hatchbacks: the group test
Just be warned the gearchange is obstinate - it won't be flicked lightly like the other manuals here but needs to be pulled determinedly into each gate. Otherwise, it's hard to criticise the BMW. On the move, it does nothing badly and plenty of things tremendously. Even with modest power and fat tyres, it's detectably and enjoyably rear-wheel-drive. It has great steering, changes direction with no slop and is perhaps the most refined and comfortable cruiser here. This car does you credit, BMW.
The Volvo is the anti-BMW. Not because it's awful - because it blatantly isn't - but because it can't be fussed with that ride and handling nonsense. It does the job well enough, but not so well that there aren't flaws in the over-assisted, springy steering and occasionally patchy ride. But if you do choose to give it the berries, something odd happens - there are hints that it wants to join in the fun.