BMW 1 Series hatchback (2011-2019)
"The BMW 1 Series isn’t cheap, but superb engines and handling help justify its price, as does its premium interior"
- Classy, high-quality interior
- Frugal, powerful engines
- Fantastic to drive
- Some rivals are cheaper
- Disappointing rear-seat space
- Big petrol engines pricey to run
Not only is the BMW 1 Series more enjoyable to drive than many premium rivals including the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and Lexus CT, the most fuel-efficient versions are actually cheaper to run than these and other competitors. This all helps the BMW to be one of the best all-round premium hatchbacks you can buy.
Never one to rest on its laurels, BMW has made sure the 1 Series remains on top of its game with continual improvements. It's also the only rear-wheel-drive car in its class – a layout enthusiastic drivers appreciate and which gives it an edge over its front-drive rivals. If you prefer the extra security of four-wheel drive, BMW's xDrive system is also available for the 120d. It exploits its advantage with accurate steering, a choice of smooth manual or automatic gearboxes and strong performance. On that subject, even the entry-level BMW 118i can do 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds, which is considerably quicker than rivals.
At the same time, the engines are impressively economical, especially the diesels. Depending on the engine, even the standard 116d, 118d, 120d and 125d models can manage between 48 and 54mpg. Thanks to emission-reducing AdBlue technology now offered on all diesels, the 1 Series diesels' Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) ratings are competitive, which will please company car drivers.
Although thirstier, the petrol engines still return acceptable economy figures ranging from 36 to 38mpg. BiK ratings are generally competitive for these versions, but can be sensitive to wheel sizes. At the other end of the power spectrum is the high-performance BMW M140i and, with 335bhp at its disposal, it can still manage up to 32.5mpg.
Where the 1 Series falls down is in its relative lack of interior space. The rear especially is quite cramped compared to less expensive family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf. The BMW’s boot is 360 litres, which is just a little smaller than the Golf’s, too. The latter model is well built but the BMW’s price premium does buy great build quality. The interior looks great and is built using top-drawer materials.
All 1 Series come with air-conditioning and alloy wheels, as well as an infotainment system complete with DAB radio and sat nav, controlled by BMW's iDrive rotary dial in the console. Every model also offers BMW's 'remote services', with vehicle information, status and functions accessible remotely via a smartphone app. Upgrading from SE to Sport trim costs £1,000 and brings larger alloy wheels, sports seats upholstered in better-quality cloth, ambient lighting and some fancier trim details. Top-spec M Sport adds stiffer suspension, LED headlights and a muscular bodykit, but it costs around £2,000 more than the Sport trim.
The 1 Series received a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, and finished 41st out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK.
Minor gripes aside, the BMW 1 Series is at least the equal of any rival. It’s pricey, but is a very desirable hatchback that looks good and is fun to drive.