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New BMW 1 Series gets heavy facelift and cutting-edge tech

The baby BMW goes under the knife, surfacing with a completely new look, a more hi-tech interior and upgraded engines

The big-selling BMW 1 Series has been given a mid-life nip and tuck, in what must go down as an unusually extensive facelift for the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class rival. So significant are the visual and mechanical changes, BMW is referring to this as the fourth-generation 1 Series – despite the fact the Mk3 car only launched in 2019 and the basic underpinnings remain unchanged.

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Key to these revisions is a new look – albeit one that is clearly based on the outgoing car. At the front you’ll first notice the much sleeker nose, with swept-back headlights and sharper, more angular surfacing. The wide kidney grilles lose their colour-coded central strake – merging to form a single large, vented panel on the car’s nose. This section, comprised of vertical and diagonal bars, also houses the sensors and radars for the car’s driver assistance systems.

To the side, the most notable change is the embossed number ‘1’ on the car’s C-pillar, incorporated within the iconic Hoffmeister kink directly above the rear wheel. The back of the new BMW 1 Series has been given a more subtle makeover, with revised LED light clusters and a fresh bumper design. The car is 42mm longer (4,361mm in total) and 25mm taller (at 1,459mm) than before, though the width is “virtually unchanged” at 1,800mm.

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The upgrades continue inside, where the new BMW 1 Series gets a single-piece curved infotainment display, made up of a 10.7-inch main screen and 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. While the recently revised BMW 3 Series is running BMW’s OS 8.5 software, the 1 Series boasts OS 9 – the company’s latest tech with Quickselect on-screen shortcut functions. “Consistent digitalisation reduces the number of buttons and controls”, according to the maker.

Elsewhere, there’s a new sport steering wheel (a heated M Sport wheel with shift paddles is optional) and new seats. The interior is completely free of leather, with buyers able to spec ‘Econeer’ upholstery made from recycled PET. Boot space is unchanged from the old 1 Series, but customers can now option a 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat.

New model names and engine updates

The new 1 Series is the first of BMW’s models to ditch the ‘i’ designation. This letter will be reserved for the brand’s EVs going forward, meaning the outgoing 120i and M135i become the 120 and M135 respectively. No diesel models will be offered in the UK this time around.

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That 120 will be the new entry point to BMW ownership, powered by a mild-hybrid 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 168bhp and 280Nm of torque. It’ll do 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. The 1 Series now gets a seven-speed Steptronic automatic transmission as standard.

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The only additional model, at least at launch, will be the aforementioned M135, which BMW claims will offer “significantly enhanced performance characteristics” – despite being slightly down on power and slower from 0 to 62mph. Power drops from 302bhp to 296bhp, and the benchmark sprint now takes 4.9 seconds – one-tenth behind the old car. Top speed remains an electronically-limited 155mph.

Standard cars get “invisibly integrated” tailpipes, while the M135 swaps out the old car’s twin exhausts for a quad-exit layout. This, matched with the M radiator grille and mirror caps marks out the flagship car visually, while under the metal there’s Adaptive M Chassis tech and a sports steering set-up. The xDrive all-wheel drive system is carried over.

Speaking of under the metal, BMW says the “agility, steering precision and cornering dynamics” of the new 1 Series is improved thanks to “increased rigidity of the body structure and the chassis connection”. This, apparently, is achieved through optimised kinematics, pre-loaded anti-roll bar mounts and new shock absorbers. The caster angle on the front wheels has also been increased by 20 per cent, to ensure “particularly stable directional stability and optimised steering feedback”.

Prices and specifications

We’re told UK specifications for the new BMW 1 Series will align with those in Europe, meaning every version will get at least 17-inch wheels, electrically-folding door mirrors, automatic air conditioning, and BMW’s Live Cockpit Plus, including BMW Maps and cloud-based navigation. The infotainment system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto built in, while individual options include two-zone climate control, a panoramic glass roof and a Harman Kardon stereo.

As is now customary, certain extras will be bundled into packages, with the Innovation Package bringing Live Cockpit Professional with head-up display and Parking Assistant Plus. The Premium Package adds wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, plus puddle lights with logo projection and adaptive LED headlights.

The base 120 model will come in Sport (£29,950) and M Sport (£31,950) guises, with the standalone M135 acting as the range flagship. The hot hatchback costs £41,000, though all quoted prices are without the necessary on-the-road costs taken into account. Market launch for the new BMW 1 Series is scheduled for October.

Click here for our list of the best hatchbacks...

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Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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