Used buyer's guide: BMW 1 Series

1 Oct, 2013 9:30am Richard Dredge

From £3,000 Original version of premium small hatch is becoming a used bargain

Verdict

If you want a compact premium car that’ll turn every drive into an occasion, the 1 Series could well be the perfect choice. Not only does it have excellent dynamics, it also offers fine cabin ergonomics, plus BMW’s usual build quality. This is a car with a real depth and breadth of talent. The downside is the limited rear space, but view the 1 Series as a two-seater with hatchback practicality, and it’s a great car. Entry-level models are best avoided. Go for an ES or SE, and you’ll have an entertaining, well equipped and frugal small hatch.

By launching the 3 Series Compact in 1993, BMW arguably created the premium small hatch. But the company wasn’t really a force in this class until the arrival of the original 1 Series in 2004. While the baby BMW was controversially styled, any doubts about its abilities were dispelled as soon as it was driven. Now the earliest first-generation 1 Series hatchbacks are almost a decade old, and they’re becoming more and more affordable second-hand, with prices from only £3,000.

History

The five-door 1 Series hatch went on sale in May 2004, in 116i, 118i, 120i, 118d and 120d formats. The 265bhp six-cylinder 130i followed in September 2005. In March 2007, a three-door hatch arrived, along with a 2.0-litre diesel (the 123d). All models got reprofiled bumpers and lights as part of a range-wide facelift, which also brought improved steering, standard stop-start on manual cars (apart from the 130i) and brake regeneration technology. The 3.0 six-cylinder 125i arrived in March 2008, with the 116d following in January 2009. In September of the same year, the 116i got an engine upgrade from 1,596cc to 1,995cc.

Alternatives

Audi’s second-generation A3, launched in 2003, is still a cracker. It’s a strong choice, and features some great engines, with front or four-wheel drive, while the cabin is difficult to fault. The MkV and MkVI versions of the VW Golf (from 2004-2008 and 2009-2013 respectively) are better value than the A3, but they’re not always as reliable as their reputation makes out. Finally, the second-generation Mercedes A-Class, introduced in 2004, is worth a look for its build quality, practicality and comfort. Verdict IF you want a compact premium car that’ll turn every drive into an occasion, the 1 Series could well be the perfect choice. Not only does it have excellent dynamics, it also offers fine cabin ergonomics, plus BMW’s usual build quality. This is a car with a real depth and breadth of talent. The downside is the limited rear space, but view the 1 Series as a two-seater with hatchback practicality, and it’s a great car. Entry-level models are best avoided. Go for an ES or SE, and you’ll have an entertaining, well equipped and frugal small hatch.

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You failed to mention the huge design fault of the timing chain on ALL diesel models 2007-2010. When this snaps, say bye-bye to your engine and £2-4k. Enough of a problem to be on Watchdog.

Correct, diesel timing chains can fail from 40K, so where's the bargain. Repair more expensive than the car. Replacement engine usually the only option - up to £5k. Used to be a massive BMW fan, but why don't they come clean and if the engine fails they should replace it FOC

You did forget to mention that you will have to drive around in one of the top 10 ugliest car's ever made.

Someone I know has had less than 20,000 out of a set of rear tyres on one of these. May be a vigorous sort of driver for all I know but worth being aware of. BMW did not fare as well as might be expected in the last JD Power customer satisfaction survey.

I'm glad I sold my 2007 ES because of the potential issue with the timing chains but while I had it it was a fantastic little car -so much better to drive than say a Golf and much more economical than the new 1 series I've just purchased.:(

Maybe in your opinion, I think it's one of the best looking cars on the road! :)

Your right it is my opinion, also the opinion of pretty much everyone who has reviewed the car.

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