BMW 1 Series review
The BMW 1 Series rivals the VW Golf, with a quality interior, fun handling and efficient engines
Since its introduction back in 2011, the BMW 1 Series has always been under a certain amount of criticism, because of its love-or-hate looks.
BMW is hoping to remedy this by giving the second-generation 1 Series, due in 2014, a midlife facelift. But the current model, despite its controversial appearance, still makes an affordable yet desirable entry-level BMW.
There's a wide range of frugal diesel and petrol engines, and it's packed with accessories and equipment. It provides a stern rival for the likes of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf, and the well-built interior goes a long way, too.
Plus, there's a flagship M135i version that offers high-end sports car-rivalling performance. You can get the BMW 1 Series in either three or five-door formats.
Our choice: 116d EfficientDynamics 3dr
You can love or hate the BMW 1 Series for its looks, but either way, it stands out from the crowd. The 1 Series is characterised by a prominent kidney grille and large headlights, while a wide stance and flared wheel arches make it appear lower and sportier.
There are plenty of specifications: BMW 1 Series ES, SE, Sport, Urban and M Sport. All can boast a well-built interior, with chunky controls, a stylish, trimmed dashboard and a generous amount of leather and metal finishes. All versions get alloy wheels, DAB digital radio and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, too.
This is where the 1 Series truly excels, with its great range of frugal diesel and petrol engines. The entry-level 114i petrol only produces 100bhp, but it does make owning a BMW the cheapest it's ever been.
The 116d EfficientDynamics diesel is particularly outstanding - it manages 74.3mpg and emits the magic tax-free 99g/km of CO2.
Plus, there's an exciting flagship M135i petrol model, which reaches 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds when paired with the slick eight-speed automatic gearbox.
All 1 Series models corner without much body roll and show impressive rear-drive agility, while the ride is more comfortable than the equivalent Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. No matter which BMW 1 Series you choose, you're guaranteed a comfortable ride and impressive agility, meaning you don't need to opt for the top specification to truly enjoy yourself.
While the previous BMW 1 Series finished 82nd in the 2012 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the latest model managed to climb up the rankings to 54th place, which isn't too bad.
The BMW 1 Series also secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, ranking among the best in class for crash protection. This was in no doubt helped by the generous amount of safety equipment fitted as standard, including a clever five-stage traction control system, four airbags, as well as safety accessory options such as lane departure warning and automatic braking.
The original BMW 1 Series was criticised heavily for placing style over substance. The latest version, however, boasts larger dimensions, which has resulted in lots of useful storage and improved room in the rear.
There's 360 litres of boot space with the back seats in place - that's a 30-litre increase on the old version. Plus, if you fold the 40:20:20 rear seats, this expands to an impressive 1,200 litres of boot space.
BMW has worked hard to improve the practicality of the 1 Series, but nonetheless, it was one of the most cited negatives in the 2013 Driver Power survey. Granted, it's not as spacious inside as a Volkswagen Golf or SEAT Leon, but there are plenty of storage spaces, a large centre console, deep door bins and a large glove compartment.
The 1 Series is BMW's entry-level model, so it isn't surprising that it's the cheapest car in the range to run. The 116d EfficientDynamics model is, as the name would suggest, incredibly efficient - it returns 74.3mpg in fuel economy and emits a tax-free 99g/km of CO2.
You'll find stop-start technology standard across all the range, but we'd suggest sticking with the efficient diesel models, as they offer a great balance of performance and value. The 118i engine is capable of returning around 48mpg and emitting 137g/km of CO2, which is very impressive given its performance.
This version falls into insurance group 15, which will mean premiums will be more expensive than for the equivalent Mk7 Golf. All 1 Series models get ECO PRO mode, which encourages more economical driving by reducing throttle response and the amount of load taken from the engine by equipment such as air-con.
BMW offers a range of cost-effective fixed price servicing and competitive finance deals, which will help keep repair costs to a minimum in the first five years of ownership.