BMW 1 Series hatchback (2011-2019) - Interior & comfort
Sporty handling means the BMW 1 Series isn’t quite as comfortable as its closest rivals
Inside, the BMW 1 Series follows a similar driver-focused template to the company’s larger cars. The previous-generation 1 Series was let down by its scratchy and mixed plastics, so for this generation the German maker has made a concerted effort to improve interior quality. That has really paid off and has been kept up to date, with new dials and air-conditioning controls introduced in 2015.
It feels special behind the wheel, too, with an upmarket ambiance. The front seats are mounted low to the floor for a sportier feel but visibility is decent, with no major blind spots, even when performing tricky manoeuvres.
Excellent forward visibility means the BMW is easy to place on the road, and it feels compact when driving on tight car-park ramps, squeezing down country lanes or parking in small parallel spaces. Still, the rear window is quite narrow, and with three passengers sitting in the back you’ll definitely be relying on your door mirrors to see what’s coming up behind.
The seats offer good support and will hold you firmly in place even if you decide to drive the 1 Series quickly. There’s a wide range of adjustment, too, so with a bit of tweaking most drivers will be able to find a comfortable position, although this process might take a bit longer than it would in the Audi A3.
BMW 1 Series dashboard
From the driving seat, the 1 Series doesn’t quite have the wow factor and touchscreen technology of rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, but the dashboard has a clear layout and all the controls feel solid and robust.
Every 1 Series now comes with sat-nav, digital radio, and a 6.5-inch colour screen that’s controlled by a small wheel mounted on the centre console, with shortcut buttons that allow you to switch between menus with ease. It can be upgraded to a professional system that includes an 8.8-inch screen, hard-drive storage space for music and map data, 3D navigation and an uprated stereo.
Most of the 1 Series’ dashboard is covered in dark, black plastic, but pick one of the sportier trim levels and you’ll get brushed aluminium or coloured inserts that give the BMW a little more style. However, these models also come with black headlining, which makes the car feel a little cramped inside, even though it’s actually bigger than the previous-generation model by quite a significant margin.
The BMW 118i SE petrol model is the entry-level car and the cheapest BMW available. It comes with air-conditioning, alloy wheels, LED rear lights and a leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard, as is DAB and sat-nav, as it is on all BMWs.
Every 1 Series also offers access to BMW's 'remote services'. Here, vehicle information including fuel level can be checked using a smartphone app. It also enables you to operate certain functions remotely, such as the headlight flasher, ventilation and central locking.
Moving up to a Sport brings a longer list of equipment and additional sports styling niceties, while M Sport models have a bodykit and bigger alloy wheels, but it’s worth remembering you can ask your dealer to replace the M Sport suspension with a standard and more comfortable set-up.
As with most upmarket brands, the 1 Series comes with an exhaustive options list and it would be easy to get carried away, adding lots of pricey extras when ordering. Some of the optional kit is good value, and gadgets such as heated seats, bright xenon headlights and even the Harmon Kardon stereo will all make your 1 Series a nicer place to spend time.
BMW’s latest infotainment system is excellent and available on all models. You can also choose a heads-up display that projects information onto the windscreen, making it easy and safe to check while you drive. Luxuries like the small electric sunroof, a reversing camera and auto-dimming mirrors are not essential, though, and the fact that BMW charges extra for simple items including a central armrest or even 20:40:20 split-folding rear seats is frustrating, as you’d expect these items to be included as standard.