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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

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Interior, design and technology Rating

4.5 out of 5

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The BMW 1 Series was redesigned from the ground up for the latest, third-generation model, to prioritise interior space and packaging. Switching from rear to front-wheel drive for all but the fastest variant and adopting transversely mounted engines means there’s now more space in the interior for passengers and their luggage than before.

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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 A-Class’s interior, but overall quality is more than up to scratch and helps to make the 1 Series feel like a premium product.

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.

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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

Every 1 Series now comes with a 10.25-inch central touchscreen running BMW’s iDrive 7.0 infotainment system. It’s not the firm’s latest set-up, but it’s still a match for the Mercedes A-ClassMBUX software and miles better than the system in a Volkswagen Golf.

One benefit of using this slightly older iDrive set-up is you still get a rotary dial and physical shortcut buttons on the centre console. If you really don’t get along with iDrive, or just want to use your favourite apps for music and nav, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard too.

If you’re looking at a used 1 series, it’s worth noting that there used to be two infotainment systems available for this generation, with less expensive models equipped with a 8.8-inch display using BMW Operating System 6.0, while the larger screen was reserved for higher-spec cars.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    118i SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,885

Most Economical

  • Name
    116d SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £25,405

Fastest

  • Name
    M135i xDrive 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £40,295
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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