BMW 1 Series hatchback (2004-2011)

“When BMW designed the 1 Series, it decided to leave blandness at the door. Cabin quality is good, the driving position excellent and the range of engines lead the class.”

Carbuyer Rating

3.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.2 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Fun to drive
  • Efficient and quick diesel engines
  • Neat, well built cabin

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Lack of space in rear and boot
  • Pricey options list

Launched to prove that BMW could build a car to compete with the Volkswagen Golf, the 1 Series is a car with styling that you’ll either love or hate. It’s quite cramped in the rear and the boot is smaller than most rivals, but cabin quality is good, the driving position excellent and the range of engines is the very best available. It’s the only rear-wheel-drive compact hatchback available, which means it has more focus on driving fun than its rivals. Diesel versions are particularly impressive, as they are quick and economical.

This model has now been replaced. You can read our full review of the latest BMW 1 Series here.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Engines, drive & performance

Sporty handling

With its sporty, rear-wheel-drive chassis, the 1 Series is more engaging to drive than its main rival – the Audi A3 – but this focus on handling has compromised the appeal of the overall package, particularly in regard to practicality. However, if driving fun is a priority for you, look no further. The 1 Series has a low-slung driving position that is easy to get comfortable in, and both the steering and gearbox feel accurate. All but the basic 116i and 116d versions feel powerful - while the range-topping 123d diesel is very quick.

Interior & comfort

Seats are supportive

The front seats are supportive, but the BMW 1 Series isn’t as comfortable on rough roads as rivals because it’s more focused on being fun to drive. It has quite stiff suspension, which means you can feel more of the lumps and bumps of the road in the cabin. Some people like that because it makes the driving experience more ‘involving’, but if you want a softer ride that irons out the bumps, the 1 Series isn’t for you. Top-spec M Sport versions are harsher still, thanks to large-diameter wheels and even stiffer suspension.

Practicality & boot space

Access to the boot is good

BMW’s decision to stick with its traditional rear-wheel-drive layout for its smallest model means the 1 Series loses out on rear space because of the need to run a transmission tunnel from front to back. The hatchback rear makes access to the boot easy, but its 330-litre capacity is 40 litres down on the Audi A3 Sportback. Split-folding rear seats increase space to 1,150 litres. In the cabin there’s less rear headroom, legroom and shoulder space than in most rivals, but these are sacrifices 1 Series buyers make in exchange for a car that’s uniquely styled and fun to drive.

Reliability & safety

The BMW 1 Series is well made

In our opinion, build quality in the 1 Series cabin is poorer than in other BMWs, but it is still better than rivals like the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. There have been a couple of minor recalls involving low numbers of vehicles, but our research shows 1 Series owners are satisfied with their cars. There have been no major issues, and safety impresses too, with the car scoring a full five stars in the Euro NCAP test.

Price, value for money & options

Recommended

BMW 1 Series hatchback review
BMW 1 Series M Sport
BMW 1 Series
8 Mar 2021

BMW 1 Series hatchback review

BMW 1 Series owner reviews
BMW 1 Series M Sport
BMW 1 Series
8 Mar 2021

BMW 1 Series owner reviews

Best luxury small cars
Best cars
7 Sep 2020

Best luxury small cars

Most Popular

What are Audi TFSI petrol engines?
Yellow Audi Q2
Audi
16 Apr 2021

What are Audi TFSI petrol engines?

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Best new car deals 2021
Skoda Fabia
Deals
16 Apr 2021

Best new car deals 2021

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Tips and advice
10 Nov 2020

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?
Tips and Advice
23 Mar 2020

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
24 Feb 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Best cars
10 Mar 2020

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Best cars
24 Dec 2020

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
1 Feb 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Hot hatches
9 Apr 2020

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks