Review

BMW 1 Series hatchback

Price  £17,775 - £31,375

BMW 1 Series hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Great to drive
  • Frugal engines
  • Top class interior
Cons
  • Less practical than rivals
  • Pricey options
  • Poor customer satisfaction

At a glance

The greenest
116d EfficientDynamics 5dr £21,360
The cheapest
114i ES 3dr £17,775
The fastest
M135i 5dr £31,375
Top of the range
M135i 5dr £31,375

"The BMW 1 Series isn’t just a premium quality hatchback, is the best car to drive in its class."

The BMW 1 Series is a hatchback of a similar size to a Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, but offers a much greater level of luxury and build quality. Because of that, it is often described as a “premium hatchback” and competes with cars like the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and, to a lesser extent, the Volkswagen Golf.

This is the second generation of the BMW 1 Series, and it is the smallest and most affordable model in the BMW range. The first version of the 1 Series was criticised for being impractical, but the latest model is a lot more spacious. It also offers a range of truly outstanding diesel and petrol engines, and comes jam-packed with equipment and accessories.

It's also superb to drive, as you would expect from a BMW. In fact, it's the best car to drive in the hatchback class. If you add the optional adaptive dampers, it's also really comfortable, too. Plus the interior is plush and a pleasure to spend time in. The BMW 1 Series is available as both a three-door and a more practical five-door, while the  performance-focused M135i model accelerates from 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds. Trim levels on the BMW 1 Series include the ES, SE, Sport, M Sport, Urban and the performance orientated M135i. 

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.6 / 5

Super efficient diesel offers tax-free motoring

The BMW 1 Series isn’t just the cheapest model in the BMW range, it also has the lowest running costs. The most efficient model in the line-up is the 116d EfficientDynamics model, which can do 74.3mpg and 99g/km CO2, which makes it free to tax.

But even the performance-focused, top-of-the-range M135i is capable of 37mpg and emits just 175g/km CO2 – which isn’t bad at all for a car with that level of power and speed.

The other petrol engines in the range are pretty efficient, too, but we’d recommend you go for one of the diesel engines, which offer a better balance of speed and low running costs.

BMW also does a super value-for-money fixed-price servicing package that helps keep costs down. And there are some good finance deals to be had via BMW Financial Services.

Interior & comfort

3.4 / 5

Not as comfortable as rivals due to its sporty handling

This second generation BMW 1 Series is a lot more comfortable than the old version, and it's easier to drive, too. But this is still a car that's been setup to have sporty handling – in fact, it's the sportiest car in its class. As a result, it has firmer suspension than rivals like the Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf, and isn’t as comfortable to drive because of this.

That said, it's not uncomfortable – BMW has done a good job of tuning the suspension so that it still delivers the razor-sharp handling that keen drivers expect from a BMW without making the ride too uncomfortable. And you can select adaptive dampers as an optional extra, which allows you to select different setting to make the car more comfortable or sportier at the touch of a button.

It's worth noting that the M Sport model comes with firmer-than-normal suspension to make for even better handling, which can get pretty uncomfortable over longer journeys.

The driving position in the 1 Series is very good, with plenty of scope for adjusting both the seat and the steering wheel to find an ideal position, and the seats are really comfortable and supportive, too.

There's less space in the rear than you find in more mainstream rivals, though, so if you’re looking for a family car, you may be better off with the roomier Volkswagen Golf.

Practicality & boot space

3.4 / 5

It’s simply not as spacious as rivals

The original 1 Series was really quite cramped on the inside because, but that's an issue that BMW has addressed with the latest model. The current version may not be the roomiest car in class but there is space enough to fit adults comfortably in the back.

The boot has 360 litres of capacity – smaller than the 380-litre boot in the Volkswagen Golf and the 365-litre boot in the Audi A3. But you get 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats as standard, and if you fold them capacity increases to 1,200 litres – which is bigger than the 1,100 litres in the Audi. There are a range of storage cubbyholes in the interior, too. 

Reliability & safety

4.0 / 5

Well put together and comes with an impeccable safety score

BMW has a well-deserved reputation for making quality products and, while the 1 Series may be the cheapest model in the range, there is no evidence of cost cutting. Every inch of the car feels to be of premium and we would expect it to be very reliable.

It also picked up a five-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests – and was actually ranked among the best in class for crash protection. You get a raft of safety tech fitted as standard, including a five-stage traction control system, four airbags, ISOFIX points for child seats, traction control, ABS and electronic stability control. And you can pick from a number of safety-orientated optional extras such as lane departure warning and auto-brake, which automatically brakes the car to prevent an imminent collision.  

Engines, drive & performance

4.7 / 5

Best car in the class to drive

You won’t find a premium hatchback – or mainstream family hatchback, for that matter – that's better to drive than the 1 Series. It handles brilliantly thanks to superb levels of grip and tight body control.

It also has a clever steering system, which increases in weight the faster you go. That means it's light and manoeuvrable during low-speed city driving, and beautifully controlled on motorways and A-roads.

There is an extensive range of model – and all of them are very good. The entry-level 100bhp 114i is the most affordable BMW there is, but is also a decent performer and efficient. Those who want maximum driving thrills should look no further than the 316bhp petrol-powered M135i. But our recommendation is the 116d EfficientDynamics diesel – not only is it really frugal, it's also great fun to drive.

Price, value for money & options

3.6 / 5

Price is high, but fair for its ability, quality and equipment

The BMW 1 Series is a premium hatchback, so it's one of the most expensive cars in its class. Those looking for maximum value for money should look at more mainstream models like the Ford Focus, Kia Cee’d or Skoda Octavia. But the BMW does still offer good value.

The price may be high, but so is the quality, ability and the level of standard kit. The 114i petrol model is the entry-level car and is the cheapest BMW available. It comes with air-con, alloy wheels and a leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard, but you don’t have to go far up the specification levels to get a kit list that has everything you need.

We’d advise against ticking to many boxes on the options list, because they are expensive and will send the price sky-rocketing – try and find an engine/specification combo that has the kit you consider essential fitted as standard.

Resale values for the 1 Series are among the best-in-class because the car is so desirable, so it resists depreciation better than most of its competitors.

What the others say

4.2 / 5
based on 3 reviews
  • 7.0 / 10
    "A brilliant premium hatch that appeals to both keen drivers and the economically minded."
  • 5.0 / 5
    "The BMW 1 Series rivals the VW Golf, with a quality interior, fun handling and efficient engines"
  • 4.0 / 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.."

Last updated 
14 Mar 2014

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