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Car trim reviews

BMW 1 Series ES

The BMW 1 Series ES is an upmarket family hatchback, and the cheapest new BMW. It’s also more comfortable to ride in than the model it replaces.

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The 1 Series is the cheapest BMW, and ES trim is the starting point in the range. The 1 Series is unique in the compact hatchback class in that it sends power to the rear wheels, although company bosses admit that four out of every five owners don’t realise this. Rear-drive makes the car tremendously agile, because all the front wheels have to do is steer, but the layout eats into cabin space: the new 1 Series is bigger than the old model, but it’s still pretty cramped in the rear when compared to a VW Golf, Ford Focus or Honda Civic. In ES trim there are only two engines: a 1.6-litre 135bhp turbocharged petrol engine and a 115bhp 2.0-litre diesel in a model confusingly badged 116d. Both are fitted with fuel-saving measures such as stop-start and a button that reduces throttle sensitivity to encourage more economical driving. Standard features include alloy wheels, air-conditioning, an MP3-compatible six-speaker stereo, front and rear electric windows and a raft of safety kit.

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Good points

The 1 Series puts to rights most of the faults of the previous model. It’s more comfortable, feels more stable when cornering and has a better finish inside. The new petrol engine and heavily revised diesel are superb, and with their fuel-saving features they are every bit as efficient as they are smooth and potent: the petrol unit has the performance to match many sportier compact hatchbacks. Rear-wheel drive ensures the 1 Series steers beautifully, because the front wheels don’t have the problem of trying to put power to the road while turning. Being a BMW, the car’s image is sky-high, and that will help keep secondhand values strong.

Bad points

The 1 Series is expensive. There’s only one model below £20,000 – the 1.6 petrol ES – so you’re paying through the nose for the BMW badge and image. And although the new car is bigger and roomier than the one it replaced, it’s still cramped in the back and access isn’t great. The transmission tunnel, which is necessary to take drive to the rear wheels, means there’s not much foot space for a fifth passenger. The equipment list contains what’s necessary but could hardly be regarded as luxurious at the price, so the 1 Series isn’t the best value for money in the class.

What you get

  • Alloy wheels
  • Folding rear seats
  • Alarm
  • Tyre pressure sensors
  • Passenger & Driver airbag
  • Front side airbags
  • Curtain airbags
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Height adjustable driver's seat
  • Front electric windows
  • Single CD player
  • AUX stereo input
  • Stop/Start

Recommended optional extras

  • Bluetooth
  • Uprated audio system

Our choice

Turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine is quick, flexible and achieves nearly 50mpg, although company car drivers might prefer the lower tax rating of the 2.0-litre diesel.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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