"The BMW 1 Series is still the choice for drivers who want a small premium hatchback that's fun to drive."
The latest second-generation BMW 1 Series is more spacious inside than its much-criticised predecessor.
Now, this affordable and desirable entry-level BMW offers a truly outstanding range of frugal diesel and petrol and is jam-packed with more equipment and accessories than ever before. Plus, it's still one of the most enjoyable cars in this class to drive.
You get more space inside and a bigger boot, which means it can really compete with its mainstream rivals, the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, but still take on the premium competition of the Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3 too.
If you add the optional adaptive dampers then it's comfy on long drives, and a well-built interior makes it a genuinely pleasurable place to be, too. All the engines are powerful and responsive, with the M135i accelerating from 0-62mph in under five seconds.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The 1 Series is the cheapest BMW to buy and run. The most efficient model is the 116d EfficientDynamics model, which returns 74.3mpg in combined fuel economy, emitting a tax-free 99g/km of CO2.
Stop-start technology is also included as standard across the whole range, so even the top-of-the-range M135i hot hatchback still manages to return 37mpg and emit only 175g/km of CO2 - if fitted with the clever eight-speed automatic gearbox.
But we’d recommend sticking with the efficient diesel models, if only for the superior mix of performance and economy. BMW also offers fixed price servicing and competitive finance deals, which, when added to an extendable warranty, helps keep maintenance and repair costs to a minimum for the first five years of ownership.
Interior & comfort
The latest 1 Series is much more comfortable and easier to drive than the old model, with the addition of electronic power steering making a genuine difference. It remains the sportiest car in its class, however, which means the suspension is slightly firmer than you’ll find rivals such as the Audi A3.
But BMW have done a good job of balancing comfort with a fun drive – provided you don’t go for the M Sport model, but then your motivations will be more speed-focused anyway.
You can get some especially clever adjustable dampers as an option, which means that you can select different driving settings at the touch of a button. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, with loads of adjustment to help you get into the best driving position.
You don’t get as much space in the rear as you’d find in VW Golf, but it is certainly roomier than the old 1 Series.
Since its launch in 2011, it's also obvious that BMW didn’t cut any corners with the 1 Series - it's definitely more of a premium car now, and the interior feels like a much more expensive car. The dashboard is logically laid out, with chunky controls that are solid to touch and robust to use, while general fit and finish is very impressive.
Practicality & boot space
BMW have attempted to address the accusation that the original 1 Series put style over substance, which means larger dimensions that give more space for storage and passenger comfort.
You get 360 litres of boot space when the standard-fit 40:20:40 split-fold back seats are still in place. Fold down the rear seats and the boot expands to 1,200 litres.
Inside, there's a large centre console compartment, deep door bins and a large glove compartment. One negative is that practicality was one of the 1 Series’ main failings in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and there simply as much space inside as a Volkswagen Golf, while the back isn’t as roomy as in a SEAT Leon.
Reliability & safety
When a new car enters the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey at number 54 in the top 100 cars, you may start to worry because 99 per cent of cars only go one way in the survey year-on-year – down. So the 1 Series may have some difficulty making up ground.
However, the excellent build quality will have helped it secure the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, where it was ranked it among the best in class for crash protection.
You get loads of safety equipment fitted as standard, including the effective five-stage traction control system, four airbags, as well as safety accessory options such as lane departure warning and automatic braking to slow the car when it detects an accident is about to happen.
The convertible model also gets pop-up rollover hoops that deploy if its sensors detect that the car is about to roll.
Engines, drive & performance
The 1 Series is a BMW, first and foremost, so of course it's fun to drive. In fact, it leads its class in terms of out-and-out driver enjoyment.
And because of its extensive engine range, you can easily find an engine set-up that won’t cost you a bomb to a run.
The latest version is far easier to manoeuvre through town streets than the old model because of its electric power steering system, making it a very easy to park and negotiate congested urban traffic.
The steering also increases in weight when you drive faster, making it more reactive and agile on the open road, but then very safe and controlled on the motorway. If you regularly rack up a lot of miles, then the 1 Series is a very solid choice.
The entry-level 100bhp 114i petrol makes owning a BMW the most affordable it's ever been, plus the frugal diesel engines on offer keep running costs low as well. We’d recommend the 116d EfficientDynamics diesel and 316bhp M135i petro paired with the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox. The joy of the 1 Series is that you don’t need to buy the top specification to enjoy its great all-round driving ability.
Price, value for money & options
The 114i petrol model makes the 1 Series is more affordable than you might think - it's now cheapest ever BMW. Costs are also kept relatively low by a comprehensive warranty and fixed-price servicing, while more efficient engines also keep running costs in check.
The 1 Series only costs a little more than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf to keep on the road, but it comes very well stocked with equipment, technology and accessories.
All models are fitted with air-conditioning, alloy wheels and a leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard. But a word of caution – the options list is filled with expensive extras and it's easy to send the price through the roof.
We’d suggest skipping any extra because then you get a great-value, best-in-class family hatchback that won’t break the bank.
And thanks to BMW's extensive dealer network, resale values on the used car market for the 1 Series are strong, with the car's unique blend of desirability, quality and low running costs making a big difference when looking for a good second-hand deal.