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Car trim reviews

BMW 1 Series SE

"The new 1 Series is a vastly improved car over the previous model, and in SE trim has all the equipment you really need.

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The 1 Series continues to fly in the face of convention in that it has rear-wheel drive while every rival drives through the front wheels. BMW’s argument is that it makes for a purer driving experience, because the front wheels only have to steer. The 1 Series goes a long way to supporting that. It’s agile, taut, composed and – with the suspension set-up that comes with SE trim – is comfortable, too.

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SE is only available with a 1.5-litre diesel engine that offers 116bhp. BMW claims excellent economy of up to 76.5mpg, while emissions can be as low as 94g/km.

SE trim is the entry-level model, with a starting price of around £21,000. There’s Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a multi-function steering wheel with a speed limiter button and BMW’s iDrive central control system, which is linked to a 6.5-inch flat-screen monitor. Automatic climate control and a DAB radio are fitted too. BMW also include their full suite of Teleservices, which features an emergency call button.

Good points

Although there's not much engine choice, the 1.5-litre diesel is the most economical in the range.The 1 Series is now built to the standards expected of a BMW, with high-quality materials in the cabin. BMW’s image ensures secondhand values will be better than those of the majority of compact hatchbacks.The 1 Series also represents a standard for how a car should handle; it's much crisper to drive than an Audi A3 or Mercedes A-Class.

Bad points

The 1 Series is an expensive car, even in entry-level SE trim. Prices start at more than £21,000 and reach almost £23,500 for the model with strongest of the three diesel engines.It’s also fairly impractical for family use. There’s not much space in the back, the rear doors are narrow and the transmission tunnel leaves precious little foot space for a fifth passenger.To our eyes it’s also far from the most stylish compact hatchback, with a long bonnet and a lumpen rear end – a consequence of its rear-drive layout.

What you get

  • Alloy wheels
  • Folding rear seats
  • Alarm
  • Passenger & Driver airbag
  • Front side airbags
  • Curtain airbags
  • Front fog lights
  • Auto climate control
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Height adjustable driver's seat
  • Single CD player
  • AUX stereo input
  • DAB Radio
  • Cruise control
  • Automatic wipers
  • Bluetooth

Our choice

There's only one engine available, but at least it's economical. The 1.5-litre diesel is capable of more than 75mpg and has the chance to escape road tax.

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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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