In-depth reviews

BMW 1 Series review

The BMW 1 Series is one of the best premium hatchbacks on sale, offering a combination of performance, efficiency and driver thrills

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Price
£23,885 to £38,695
  • Fun to drive
  • Practical
  • Quality interior
  • Limited engine range (for now)
  • Firm ride in M Sport trim
  • Tight rear headroom

The BMW 1 Series may have made the switch to front (and four) wheel drive but this change hasn’t diluted its appeal – the smallest BMW is still great to drive. The 1 Series also has increased space inside and offers a range of efficient yet punchy engines.

Quality has taken a step in the right direction too; the 1 Series’ interior is now on a par with the latest 3 Series in terms of lay-out, build and – crucially in this class – infotainment. BMW’s Live Cockpit Plus system with a 10.25-inch screen is one of the best available and a good match for the A Class’ MBUX infotainment set-up.

A Volkswagen Golf is still cheaper and more practical – especially when it comes to rear headroom – but the 1 Series is a seriously appealing package that’s very hard to fault.

About the BMW 1 Series

We’re now into the third generation of the BMW 1 Series, and the German brand’s upmarket rival for premium hatchbacks such as the Mercedes A Class and Audi A3 has been a huge success from the first one.

The 1 Series was the follow-up to the BMW Compact that first established BMW as a player in a segment where it competes with higher-spec versions of hatchback stalwarts like the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Mazda 3.

There’s one big difference between the latest generation 1 Series and its predecessors though, and it’s one that caused consternation in the ranks of BMW enthusiasts when first announced. 

The German brand has built its reputation on fine handling rear-wheel drive cars, yet this 1 Series made the switch to a front-wheel drive platform that’s shared with the MINI Countryman and Clubman. The UKL2 platform that underpins the 1 Series also features beneath the BMW X1, X2 and 2 Series Active Tourer, and as well as the obvious economies of scale it’s also a more space-efficient package which has enabled BMW to improve the accommodation.

Predictably, the new 1 Series also shares transversely-mounted engines with the MINI range, and until recently the line-up consisted of a trio of diesels and two petrols. The line-up has now been boosted by the arrival of a new 1 Series petrol variant called the 128ti, which is a performance model designed to sit below the M135i where it will challenge the iconic VW Golf GTI.

The 1 Series range kicks off with the popular 138bhp three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine in the 118i, while the other established petrol option is the 301bhp 2.0-litre powerhouse fitted to the rapid M135i xDrive. The 128ti is a less extreme performance option, and gets a 261bhp version of the 2.0-litre engine.

A 1.5-litre three-pot engine also features in the 114bhp 116d, while the 148bhp 118d and 187bhp 120d get a torquey 2.0-litre four. All the 1 Series models are strong performers and  - relative to their outputs - the engines are paragons of efficiency too. Even the lowliest diesel manages 0-62mph in just over 10 seconds, while the go-faster M135i still returns up to 36.2mpg on average. 

The majority of these come with a six-speed manual as standard and the option of a eight-speed auto; the M135i and 120d models come with the automatic as standard, while xDrive four-wheel drive is standard on the M135i, and optional on the 120d. The 128ti is front-wheel drive only.

There are just three trim levels in the 1 Series range at present, which includes the entry-level SE, the Sport and the raciest M Sport.

For an alternative review of the latest BMW 1 Series Hatchback visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    118i SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,885

Most Economical

  • Name
    116d SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £25,405

Fastest

  • Name
    M135i xDrive 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,240

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