Review

BMW 1 Series hatchback

Price  £20,930 - £32,550

BMW 1 Series hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Fantastic to drive
  • Frugal, powerful engines
  • Classy, high-quality interior
Cons
  • Big petrol engines pricey to run
  • Disappointing rear-seat space
  • Some rivals are cheaper

At a glance

Our Pick
118d Sport 5dr £24,540
The greenest
116d EfficientDynamics Plus 3dr £22,180
The cheapest
118i SE 3dr £20,930
The fastest
M135i 5dr £32,550
Top of the range
M135i 5dr £32,550

“The BMW 1 Series is great fun to drive, it has efficient engines and is a high-quality entry into BMW ownership.”

The BMW 1 Series is the smallest car in the BMW range, taking on the likes of the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class, Volvo V40 and Infiniti Q30, but it's unique in that it's the only car in its class to be rear-wheel drive. This, like larger BMWs such as the 3 Series and 5 Series, gives it the edge when it comes to driving enjoyment, but the 1 Series still faces stiff competition from its rivals, but also cheaper cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3.

From the outside, the BMW 1 Series is bound to appeal to BMW fans. It has the trademark kidney grille, sharp lines and recognisable front lights. What's more, it has a desirable image that only boosts its appeal. Inside it's a similar story because it has a classy dashboard design, while all the materials used look and feel high quality.

The 1 Series isn’t the biggest car in its class, though. While the interior is a nice place to sit, tall rear seat passengers won’t want to be there for too long, because the roofline slopes and there's also a high transmission tunnel for passengers in the middle seat. The boot is a good shape, but it's not as big as the boot in the Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3 Sportback.

There should be a 1 Series to suit all buyers, too. There are four trim levels – SE, Sport, Efficient Dynamics Plus and M Sport - available with a range of petrol and diesel engines, while there's also a high-performance M135i. All models come with satellite-navigation, BMW's iDrive infotainment system, alloy wheels, DAB radio, Bluetooth and air-con. Move further up the range for luxuries like larger alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control and sports seats. M Sport models add a sporty bodykit and larger alloy wheels.

Company car buyers will be tempted by the 116d EfficientDynamics Plus, which should return up to 83mpg and emits just 94g/km of CO2, meaning it falls into the 16% BiK tax bracket. If you’re a private buyer, you’ll pay no road tax. It's not the fastest and can feel quite underpowered, so stepping up to the 118d might be worth it for a better blend of performance and economy – it should still return around 70mpg, while it sits in the 18% BiK company car tax bracket.

If you prefer petrol power, there's a good range available, too, ranging from a frugal three-cylinder unit found in the MINI Cooper, to the powerful six-cylinder M135i. Economy for petrol models ranges from 35.3 to 58.9mpg, while CO2 emissions can be anything between 112 and 175g/km.

Safety shouldn’t be a concern for 1 Series buyers. Euro NCAP awarded the car five stars and a 91% adult occupant protection rating. There's plenty of standard safety equipment, while you can specify extras like adaptive cruise from the options list.

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.8 / 5

The BMW 1 Series offers super-efficient diesels that can be free to tax, but excellent petrols are worth looking at, particularly for around-town drivers

Engines, drive & performance

4.7 / 5

The BMW 1 Series is the best car in the class to drive, with strong performance and good handling

Interior & comfort

3.4 / 5

Sporty handling means the BMW 1 Series isn’t quite as comfortable as its closest rivals

Practicality & boot space

3.4 / 5

Limited space for rear-seat passengers and luggage means it’s simply not as roomy as its rivals

Reliability & safety

4 / 5

The BMW 1 Series is very well put together and has an impeccable safety rating

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 4 reviews
4 / 5
"The BMW 1 Series has a great range of engines, is good to drive and comes with plenty of kit."
4 / 5
"The BMW 1 Series is one of the best small family cars you can buy because it's hugely desirable, good to drive and surprisingly cheap to run.."
7 / 10
"A brilliant premium hatch that appeals to both keen drivers and the economically minded."
4.5 / 5
“A redesigned dashboard, upgraded trim and a host of new design details make the interior feel a lot more upmarket and premium-feeling than the previous generation.”
What owners say 
4.0745454545455
4.1 /5 based on 55 reviews
67%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
8 Apr 2016
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