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BMW 1 Series (2012-2019) review - Interior, design and technology

The 1 Series has a high quality interior with good levels of standard equipment and some clever safety tech

Whether you love or hate the way it looks, the 1 Series certainly stands out from the crowd. It is characterised by BMW's trademark kidney grille and large headlights, while a wide stance and slightly flared wheelarches make the car appear sportier than the average hatchback.

A facelift in 2015 gave the 1 Series a subtle redesign, although few will be able to tell the difference between a 2011 and a 2015 1 Series from the outside. The grille was redesigned slightly, and at the rear, later cars get LED tail-lights and slightly bigger exhaust pipes.

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There are three standard specifications in the 1 Series range: SE, Sport and M Sport, while Shadow Edition is a cosmetic upgrade of M Sport. ES and Urban models were dropped for the 2015 facelift, simplifying the range, which now offers more kit as standard.

All versions get alloy wheels, DAB digital radio, satellite navigation and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and all boast a well-built interior, with chunky controls, a stylish dashboard with soft-touch trim and, in some cases, contrasting stitching.

Sport models come with bigger wheels, sportier seats, which is to say seats that are more heavily bolstered at the sides, plus high-gloss interior trim and a sports steering wheel. Moving up to M Sport, you get 18-inch alloys, aluminium trim, M Sport branded seats and steering wheel, and a bodykit.

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These high gloss, metal and leather finishes give the 1 Series an air of class that most rivals can’t match. The exception is the Audi A3, which has a cabin that is high-end simplicity itself.

The driving position is one area where the 1 Series really excels, with a wide range of adjustment for the seat and wheel meaning anyone of any size can get comfortable.

Optional extras include adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, climate control and adaptive headlights.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The 1 Series uses BMW's iDrive system, which has been improved and developed over the years. The current control setup is one of our favourites to use, thanks to quick performance and an intuitive layout. BMW gave the system a touchscreen in 2017, but we prefer the iDrive control wheel - theswivel wheel and collection of buttons are easier to use when you're on the move.

The 1 Series comes with user-programmable buttons that can be set as shortcuts to favourite radio stations or navigation destinations, while the screen - either the standard 6.5-inch one or the upgraded 8.8-inch - is bright and clear. All cars are also equipped with sat-nav as standard, while a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio set up is an optional extra.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    118i SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,355

Most Economical

  • Name
    116d SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £24,445

Fastest

  • Name
    M135i xDrive 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £34,995
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