BMW 1 Series hatchback
Price £20,930 - £32,405
- Fantastic to drive
- Frugal, powerful engines
- Classy, high-quality interior
- Big petrol engines pricey to run
- Disappointing rear-seat space
- Some rivals are cheaper
At a glance
“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.
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
The BMW 1 Series is the best car in the class to drive, with strong performance and good handling
Sporty handling means the BMW 1 Series isn’t quite as comfortable as its closest rivals
Limited space for rear-seat passengers and luggage means it’s simply not as roomy as its rivals
The BMW 1 Series is very well put together and has an impeccable safety rating