BMW 1-Series

The 1-Series ticks most of the boxes in terms of what I look for

  • Great handling, cruising, fuel economy, pace, driving position, strong brakes, cabin
  • Rear seats tight on space, expensive optional extras

As a road tester at Auto Express, my job involves assessing nearly every new car launched. Being in this lucky position means there’s always a bundle of keys to choose from – but the downside is having to surrender those for my long-term BMW 120d. And now they are about to go for good, because after 12 months and 16,000 miles with us, RF05 FBZ is set to return to BMW.

That’s a real pity, as even though I drive more than 300 new models a year, the 1-Series ticks most of the boxes in terms of what I look for in a car, and suits my lifestyle perfectly.

Firstly, while the tight rear passenger space and cramped boot deter some colleagues, it’s roomy enough for me. And I always love getting back into the driver-focused cabin. The seating position is spot-on, and having become accustomed to the potentially confusing iDrive control system, which comes with the optional sat-nav, I have grown to find the interior more user-friendly than most.

But it’s the driving experience that makes a return to the 120d so welcome. With big car refinement on long motorway trips and the lovely rear-drive balance in corners, the BMW provides enjoyment and relaxation in equal measure.

As we explained in our last update, we have experimented with both Continental and Michelin run-flat tyres, and while the ride certainly isn’t as supple as that in a mainstream front-driven family hatch, I’ve never found it overly uncomfortable.

Then again, with nearly £6,000 of options fitted, I’m spoiled when it comes to specification, although one of the cheaper extras included, the front armrest that’s part of the £200 Comfort Pack, kept falling down under braking, until a DIY bungee cord came to the rescue.

Future owners will also be pleased to know that aside from a broken bonnet catch and a parking sensor glitch – due to a damaged bumper (also explained in our issue 903 report) – the 120d has proven faultlessly reliable. In fact, even though the BMW has racked up 16,000 miles during its time with us, its variable servicing indicator lamp still hasn’t come on. So, aside from a set of brake pads, tyres and a self-induced bumper repair, our 1-Series has been cheap to run, especially with average fuel economy of nearly 40mpg.

I’ll still have plenty of other keys to choose from, but I’m really going to miss a certain BMW fob.

Extra Info

Second opinion I certainly don’t think the baby BMW is pretty, but I like the fact it’s distinctive – there’s no other hatch like it. On the occasions I’ve borrowed it, the 120d has made light work of my trips up north. Nipping round the Yorkshire Dales is a doddle, and I can plug my MP3 player straight into the stereo, so I needn’t carry a load of CDs. My only gripe is the seat bolstering. The sides get in the way of your elbows when changing gear.Julie Sinclair, staff writer

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