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BMW 1 Series Review

The BMW 1 Series is a premium family hatchback that offers high levels of driving dynamics combined, state-of-the-art technology and strong build quality

£13,082
Average Price
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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Fun to drive
  • Good practicality

Cons

  • Firm ride
  • Limited cabin and boot space
  • Lack of hybrid/electric model
  • MPG

    41 - 74

  • CO2

    100 - 154 g/km

Model Review

BMW launched the first 1 Series premium family hatchback in 2004 as a rival to the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and Volkswagen Golf. It was originally the replacement to the 3 Series Compact, and rewrote the rule book in this class by offering a family hatch with an involving drive, excellent build quality and clever technology.

BMW wanted a car that didn’t detract from the excellent driving characteristics from models higher up the range and its rear-wheel-drive set up meant it drove unlike anything else in its class. 

Earlier versions of the 1 Series were also available as a coupe and convertible but since the second generation was launched in 2013, these became the 2 Series models.

Latest model

The third-generation 1 Series was launched in 2019, with the biggest difference being the model changing from rear wheel drive to front-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive on selected versions.

But while the previous versions were very involving because of the rear-wheel-drive set up, this switch hasn’t dulled its appeal. It remains a great car behind the wheel.

The reason for the change to front-wheel-drive is down to platform sharing, with other models in the line-up including the X1, X2 and 2 Series Active Tourer. It also shares plenty in common with the MINI Countryman and Clubman.

The other big changes include the improvements to cabin practicality, with occupants now getting more space to stretch out, as well as a bigger boot for luggage. While on the subject of the cabin, the perceived quality has also improved too, with this latest version being more like a 3 Series, not only in terms of layout and quality but also tech, featuring an 8.8- or 10.25-inch touch screen infotainment system with all the usual kit like satellite navigation, DAB radio and phone connectivity.

Value for money

With prices starting at £24,475, the 1 Series is more expensive than more mainstream family hatchbacks, but on a par with other premium offerings from Mercedes and Audi. The premium badge also brings with it guarantees regarding build quality, driving manners and technology.

Used prices on this new model are holding up well, too. A six-month-old 1 Series in base SE trim is available for £20,500. Sport and M Sport versions are the more desirable choices, though, with these starting from £21,000 and £22,000 respectively for used nearly-new examples.

As we mentioned, earlier models have a different powertrain set up, but do offer excellent value with a good condition, first generation model available from around £1,000 and second-generation versions starting at around £5,000.

 

Looks and image

The first-generation 1 Series was very much a marmite car, some loved it, some hated it, but through the years the styling has become more endearing. The latest version just improves things on its predecessor with a more aggressive stance, and bold features like the trademark kidney grille, aerodynamic body kit and stylish character lines.

Much like the previous model, the biggest appeal of the 1 Series is its driving dynamics. This all-new model is powered by a range of new engines, with some offering more appeal than others of course, but all versions deliver more enjoyment behind the wheel than the equivalent Audi or Mercedes model would.

Space and practicality

The 1 Series is now only available as a five-door hatchback, which means that there’s no awkward climbing over a front seat to get in the back as you would with three-door versions of its predecessor.  It’s no great loss, though, as more hatchbacks are going doing the five-door route only option.

While it does focus on the driving experience, it hasn’t sacrificed practicality with good levels of head and leg room for driver and occupants, although space is better in some rivals.

Because the 1 Series it longer and wider than the outgoing model, it means that there’s more space in the boot than its predecessor as well. It now offers 380 litres of room with the rear seats up, and if you need more space, they fold down 40:20:40 to increase things further.

 

Engines

The latest model comes with a range of new engines which have been mounted transversally to make things more efficient, space wise, up front. There are two petrol engines and three diesels, however there are no hybrid or electrified models in the line-up yet.

The entry level petrol version is a 138bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder, which is badged as the 118i. At the other end of the scale is a performance-based 302bhp 2.0-litre (the M135i) which also features a four-wheel drive system and can reach 0-60mph in just 4.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph.

If you prefer diesels, then the line-up up starts with a 114bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel (the 116d), followed by a 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder, which is badged as the 118d.  The most powerful diesel is the 187bhp 2.0-litre 120d. You can choose this with either front or xDrive all-wheel-drive. With the latter, it can accelerate from 0-60mph in an impressive 6.8 seconds.

 

Running costs

With the 1 Series armed with a range of turbocharged three- and four-cylinder engines, rather than harder working naturally aspirated engines, emissions and economy figures are extremely impressive.

The most efficient option is the 116d which will return around 62mpg and emit 119g/km of CO2, which is good news for company car buyers. But don’t worry, if you want a bit more power without sacrificing running costs, then the 118d isn’t far behind, both in terms of CO2 emissions and fuel economy.

Petrol models aren’t bad either, with the popular entry-level 118i averaging a combined fuel economy in the mid-40s and emissions of up to 135g/km of CO2. Needless to say, the range topping M135i averages around mid-30mpg and CO2 figures of 177g/km, though that’s still not bad for a powerful hot hatch.

Things to look out for

The 1 Series has proved a pretty reliable family hatchback over the years, and the latest model should be no different.

Before you buy though, make sure the 1 Series doesn’t have wheels that impact ride comfort too much, and also ensure that you’re happy with the amount of cabin space. While it is an improvement over older models, some of the competition are roomier.

 

Rivals

The family hatchback segment is one of the most competitive markets with a mix of budget, sporty and premium offerings. Some offer more space than the 1 Series, some offer more equipment but as an overall package the BMW is one of the most rounded offerings out there.

The most direct rivals also come from Germany in the shape of the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class, but you could also compare the 1 Series with a high-spec Volkswagen Golf, too.  

Depreciation

BMWs in general tend to hold their value pretty well and the 1 Series is no different. Depending on which model you go for, you’ll find it should retain about half of its value over three years. In fact, the figures aren’t too dissimilar to that of the A-Class, and are much better than non-premium hatchbacks.

Which 1 Series to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

118i SE 5dr

Most MPG

116d SE 5dr

Fastest Model (0-60)

M135i xDrive 5dr Step Auto

Trims Explained

The 1 Series is pretty well equipped even as standard, but there are several trim levels available – SE, Sport, M Sport and the top-spec M135i. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows:

'SE'

The SE specification is the entry-level specification and designed for anyone looking for a practical family hatchback with a premium badge on the bonnet. It features 16-inch alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch touchscreen, air conditioning, LED headlights and front and rear parking sensors. It also comes with cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and a leather steering wheel.

Priced from £24,475

'Sport'

Sport model adds larger 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and a revised styling kit. You also get ambient interior lighting and sports seats.

Priced from £25,475

'M Sport'

M Sport models continue to prove popular, with these adding larger 18-inch alloy wheels , a sportier styling kit and heated front seats.

Priced from £27,275

'M135i'

At the top of the line-up, the M135i importantly comes with the more powerful engine, which explains the steep jump in price. However, you also get a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen with additional connected services, along with a revised bodykit and different 18-inch alloy wheels. Cerium Grey styling cues help to separate it from the M Sport, in terms of looks.

Priced from £36,770

Summary

  1. Larger boot than before
  2. Aggressive looks
  3. Lack of hybrid or electric version
  4. Excellent driving manners
  5. Expensive alongside mainstream models
  6. Low running costs
  7. Good build quality
  8. Cabin space on par with rivals
  9. Holds its value well
  10. Firm ride on M Sport models

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