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
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. A Volkswagen Golf is 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.
Car group tests
Used car tests
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 134bhp 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 38.7mpg 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, Sport and the racy M Sport versions.
Used and nearly new
Having been on sale since 2004, the BMW 1 Series makes for a great used buy if you're seeking a family hatchback that offers superb driving fun. The 1 Series is into its third generation, so you should find plenty of second-hand examples to choose from, each offering typical BMW premium build quality and driving dynamics.
BMW 1 Series history
BMW 1 Series Mk2: 2011-2019
The Mk2 1 Series offers plenty of rear-wheel-drive thrills for the keen driver, while those with running costs in mind will be pleased to hear that all models offer efficient engines, with even the quickest versions still able to deliver decent economy. Three- and five-door body styles are available, although the 1 Series doesn't offer the most interior space compared to its close rivals. Read our full Mk2 BMW 1 Series buyer’s guide here…
BMW 1 Series Mk1: 2004-2011
The most modern Mk1 1 Series you can buy will still be over ten years old, so you should be able to source a relatively cheap example. There is a choice of either petrol or diesel power, while the six-cylinder 130i model offers 265bhp. Interior space isn't great, but the cabin still feels typically BMW, with solid build quality and easy to use controls. Read our full Mk1 BMW 1 Series buyer’s guide here…
For an alternative review of the BMW 1 Series, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe BMW 1 Series is one of the best premium hatchbacks on sale, offering a combination of performance, efficiency and driver thrills
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe switch to front-wheel drive hasn’t dulled the BMW 1 Series’ dynamic appeal – in fact, it’s better to drive than before
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe BMW 1 Series is a remarkably frugal choice, with low CO2 emissions and good fuel economy
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe latest BMW 1 Series feels modern, high-quality and comes loaded with impressive technology
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe BMW 1 Series’ switch to front-wheel drive has improved cabin and boot space, but neither is class-leading
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe BMW 1 Series receives a full five star Euro NCAP rating, but some optional safety kit can be expensive