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. 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.
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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.
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 1 Series’ driver 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