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In-depth reviews

BMW 1 Series review - Interior, design and technology

The latest BMW 1 Series feels modern, high-quality and comes loaded with impressive technology

The BMW 1 Series has been redesigned from the ground up, using an up-to-date platform that prioritises interior space and packaging. Front-wheel drive and a switch to transversely mounted engines mean there’s more space in the interior for passengers and their luggage.

The new layout has also dictated a new look for the latest car; there’s a shorter bonnet and less space between the front wheels and doors. BMW’s trademark kidney grille sits proudly on the nose, while the whole design has been geared towards making the car look squat and purposeful. Panel gaps are small and paint quality is good – the 1 Series is a car that looks expensive.

That theme carries on inside, where the 1 Series benefits from an interior that follows the larger 3 Series closely in terms of design, fit and finish. It’s arguably not as exciting to look at as the Mercedes’ interior but overall quality is more than up to scratch and serves to help make the 1 Series feel like a premium product.

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What is BMW Connected Drive?

Higher trim levels benefit from the addition of two 10.25-inch screens operating BMW’s latest infotainment system – these look great, are easy to read on the move and are easier to navigate than Mercedes’ slightly convoluted MBUX. Entry-level cars make do with analogue dials and a central 8.8-inch screen.

SE cars get cloth upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, automatic LED headlights and BMW’s Connected Package Plus with concierge and remote services support. The step to Sport trim adds dual-zone climate control, exterior styling tweaks and sports seats trimmed in cloth and Sensatec faux leather.

M Sport trim is likely to account for plenty of 1 Series sales, bringing desirable upgrades like leather upholstery, heated sports seats, M Sport suspension and a short-shift gearbox (on manual cars), along with the usual smattering of vents, larger alloys and a sporty single-exit exhaust. BMW also offers a range of M Performance accessories, including carbon fibre trim, spoilers, splitters and other aerodynamic additions. An Alcantara steering wheel is also offered.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

There are two infotainment systems on the BMW 1 Series, but it’s the higher spec option that’s most capable of taking on the MBUX setup found in the Mercedes A Class. SE, Sport and M Sport models come as standard with a central 8.8-inch display using BMW Operating System 6.0, controlled via a touch-sensitive iDrive controller on the centre console. Conventional analogue dials sit behind the steering wheel.

It’s worth upgrading to the full-fat twin-screen BMW Live Cockpit Professional system, though. It comes as standard on the top-spec M135i but can be specified on any 1 Series as a £1,000 option, or as part of the £1,500 Tech Pack II that also adds a harman/kardon sound system. In use the system is snappy, responsive and intuitive to use, with the sharp graphics and excellent sat-nav standing out as particular highlights.

It’s a good thing that the on-board sat-nav is up to scratch; Apple CarPlay is not standard and Android Auto is notable by its absence – meanwhile, cheaper offerings like the Ford Focus get both as standard on all models.

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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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