BMW 1 Series (2011-present)

The BMW 1 Series has the comfort and performance of a bigger BMW for a lower cost

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Nimble in corners
High quality interior
Powerful and efficient diesel engines

Weaknesses 

You pay a premium for the BMW badge
More powerful petrols not so efficient
Rear seats are a bit cramped
BMW 1 Series prices from £8,995   Finance from £146 per month

Its size might make it the baby BMW but the 1 Series doesn't seem too junior when you're sitting in the driving seat. The steering wheel, layout, dashboard display - even the smell of newer models - is exactly what you would expect from the company's larger cars.

The story is the same on the move where the 1 Series feels similar to larger BMWs. It combines comfort and nimbleness, so that it's not too wearing on long drives, but still fun and agile on twisting roads. Only the latest Ford Focus blends these two elements quite as successfully. The Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3 are less comfortable, but the Volkswagen Golf runs it close for agility - and is more comfortable.

Performance is another strong point, thanks to an excellent range of engines that are smooth and fairly quiet at steady speeds. The entry-level petrol and diesel engines have plenty of power to keep up with traffic, while at the other end of the range, the high-performance motors could embarrass a sports car.

Quality isn't always what you might expect though: the 1 Series feels well screwed together but owners consistently complain about interior and exterior fit and finish problems.

As ever, you'll pay more for a BMW than the equivalent Vauxhall Astra, Seat Leon or Ford Focus but the car holds its value well, which helps make finance more affordable. There's plenty of choice on the used market, where BuyaCar prices start from £8,995 or £146 per month. A series of updates in 2015 introduced a more modern design, with narrower headlights and sat-nav as standard. These should be fitted to almost all 2016 cars, which cost from £12,189 or £180 per month.  

The updates don't entirely disguise the car's age, particularly inside. There's nothing wrong with the straightforward layout, quality materials and excellent iDrive dashboard software controlled with a rotary dial, but the Audi A3 has a cleaner design and even better quality feel. The previous-generation Mercedes A-Class is arguably more stylish inside, while the latest 2018 model has a high-tech dashboard built around two widescreen displays.

These rivals have a little more space than the 1 Series too. The BMW is one of the few cars of its size to send power from the engine to the rear wheels rather than the front. This contributes to the car's sharp cornering response but the mechanical parts take up space through the middle of the car. As a result, there's barely any legroom for anyone sitting in the middle rear seat, although two adults should be fairly comfortable on the other two rear seats.

There are two Isofix points in the back seats for safely securing child seats and the car is one of the safest of its era. It was awarded a full five stars after crash testing by Euro NCAP in 2012, but hasn't gone through the tougher tests now used for newer models.

With 360 litres of space in the back, the 1 Series matches the Mercedes A-Class and is within 20 litres of the Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. For more space and a higher driving position, the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 crossovers combine a similar level of comfort with a taller design - and a higher price.

But the appeal of the 1 Series lies beyond boot space and legroom. This is a car with the design and driving appeal of a proper BMW for a (relatively) modest price. It will cope perfectly with family duties or commute - but will then have you seeking out the long and winding route home.

Last Updated 

Monday, August 20, 2018 - 12:30

Key facts 

Warranty : 
Three years/unlimited miles
Boot size: 
360 litres
Width: 
1,765mm
Length : 
4,324mm
Height: 
1,440mm
Tax (min to max): 
£165 to £515 in first year, £140 thereafter

Best BMW 1 Series for... 

BMW 116d SE
Some used BMW 1 Series, badged Efficient Dynamics Plus, have such low emissions that they qualify for free road tax, but the most efficient 1 Series sold brand new is the 116d model. You can expect around 50mpg in real-world driving.
BMW 118i SE 5dr
For regular short school run trips, the petrol-powered BMW 118i is ideal, with enough power for quick acceleration in town. Real-world fuel economy of 35mpg is less impressive on long trips, though. SE trim includes sat-nav and air conditioning.
BMW M140i 3dr
The M140i switches instantly from being a calm and comfortable hatchback to accelerating from 0-62mph in a blistering 4.6 seconds. The three-door looks sportiest, but you can have it as a five-door, too.
BMW 120d xDrive M Sport Auto 5dr
Four-wheel drive is only offered on one diesel model, but you'll rarely use it, particularly if you fit winter tyres in cold weather. It just ends up increasing the car’s purchase price and running costs to no end.

BMW 1 Series History 

  • September 2011 Current BMW 1 Series goes on sale in UK
  • July 2012 125d M Sport, 125i M Sport and 116d EfficientDynamics added to range
  • September 2012 Entry-level 114d diesel joins the range
  • January 2013 BMW 120d xDrive four-wheel-drive version arrives
  • May 2013 Business trim level added, with heated leather seats and media pack
  • May 2014 New BMW eight-speed automatic transmission launched
  • March 2015 Update sees more efficient engines, redesigned headlights and  and extra kit across range
  • June 2015 1 Series among 1,600 Sep ‘14-Mar ‘15 BMWs recalled (fuel pump issue)
  • September 2015 Sat-nav fitted as standard to all models
  • May 2016 M135i replaced with the more powerfula nd efficient M140i
  • July 2017 Sport and M Sport models gain interior improvements, including pearl chrome window switches and air vents. Sat-nav software is improved. M Sport Shadow Edition introduced with Harmon Kardon sound system, 18in alloy wheels, smoked rear lights and dark chrome exhaust.

Understanding BMW 1 Series car names 

  • 1 Series
  • Engine
    118d
  • Trim
    M Sport
  • Engine
    BMW 1 Series engines are identified with a three-digit number – the higher the number, the more powerful the engine. Diesels have a ‘d’ at the end and petrols an ‘i’. BMW calls its four-wheel-drive system xDrive.
  • Trim
    Each trim level brings a different amount of equipment for a different price. The cheapest is SE, followed by Sport, EfficientDynamics Plus and M Sport.

BMW 1 Series Engines 

Petrol: 118i, 120i, 125i, M1340i
Diesel: 116d, 116d ED Plus, 118d, 120d, 125d

Despite the lengthy list of engines, there's no great need to look beyond the entry-level options, as all offer strong, smooth performance and reasonable fuel efficiency.

For economical driving, pick the 116d. It's not quite as good as the official (laboratory tested) 64.2mpg figure would have you believe, but on-road tests for the Equa Index, an estimate of real-world fuel efficiency, suggest that you can expect around 50mpg. Although this is the smallest engine fitted to the 1 Series (1.5 litres), it feels powerful, with plenty of push without needing to be revved.

The 116d is also cheap. BuyaCar prices start at £9,399 or £152 per month. The larger 118d engine is just as economical and ultimately faster, but has less urge at slower speeds. 

If you rarely make long journeys, or just don't want diesel, then the petrol-powered 118i is an excellent choice, with prices starting at £10,490 or £167 per month on BuyaCar. It feels swift enough to merit the BMW badge, and is quiet too. Fuel economy is considerably lower than the diesel, though - at 35mpg in real-world driving - so it could be much more expensive to run if you make lots of long journeys.

Every 1 Series is available with an automatic gearbox, but the 118i is the only petrol model that comes with a manual. AAlmost all diesel models are available with both types of gearboxes, apart from the 125d and xDrive four-wheel drive models.

Performance starts to get seriously quick with the 125i petrol and 125d diesel models, which have the acceleration to rival performance-focused hot hatchbacks. The sportiest choice blows even these cars away: the M140i will go from 0 to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. That's the same as a Porsche 911.

FuelOfficial fuel economyPowerAcceleration (0-62mph)Top speed
118iPetrol47.1-47.9mpg136hp8.5sec130mph
120iPetrol47.1mpg184hp7.1sec143mph
125iPetrol45.6mpg224hp6.1sec151mph
M140iPetrol38.2mpg340hp4.6sec155mph
116dDiesel65.7-67.3mpg116hp10.5sec124mph
118dDiesel61.4-64.2mpg150hp8.4sec132mph
120dDiesel60.1mpg190hp7.2sec142mph
120d xDriveDiesel54.3mpg190hp6.9sec142mph
125dDiesel58.9mpg224hp6.4sec149mph

BMW 1 Series Trims 

SE, Sport, EfficientDynamics Plus, M Sport, M140i

In years gone by, BMW was known for being particularly stingy with standard equipment, even charging extra for a radio on some models. Those days are now long gone however – since mid-2015, every single BMW sold has come with sat nav as standard, for example.

Starting point for the 1 Series range is the SE trim level (or version). Just because it’s the cheapest, doesn’t mean it’s sparsely equipped, though: you get 16-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch colour sat-nav screen, air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB digital radio, front foglights, a leather steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.

The EfficientDynamics Plus version of the 116d engine comes in its own trim level, which has all the equipment the SE features, plus cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Next up is the Sport trim, which bumps up the wheel size to 17 inches, adds classy ambient lighting for the interior and some more comfortable sports seats up front. There’s also some glossy interior trim pieces and the whole package costs you around £1,000 more than SE.

The M Sport is the top of the ‘regular’ 1 Series range, boasting 18-inch alloys, ‘M’ badges on the gear lever, LED headlights, a distinctive M Sport bodykit outside, the same sports seats as the Sport model inside and lower sports suspension for sharper handling.

Above that is the M135i, which gets its own design of bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, twin chrome exhaust pipes and the powerful M135i engine unique to this model, plus upgraded braking and steering systems to enhance the driving experience.

BMW 1 Series Reliability and warranty 

BMW reliability hasn’t always lived up to the brand’s Teutonic image, and that's the case with the current 1 Series. Serious problems appear to be rare, but customer satisfaction surveys do highlight more common issues with the fit and finish.

The 2018 Auto Express Driver Power survey ranked the 1 Series 63 out of 75 cars for reliability, after one in five owners of relatively new cars reported at least one problem. Exterior paint and trim isues came up most frequently. The JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study focuses on one- to three-year-old cars and it found similar complaints, with interior and exterior quality proving the car's weakest link.

Warranty cover on BMWs lasts for three years, with no mileage limit, but if you plan to keep the car longer than that you do have the option of extending the warranty once it’s expired, at extra cost. This can be done with a BMW policy or a third-party extended warranty.

Used BMW 1 Series 

In common with other upmarket family hatchbacks such as the VW Golf and Audi A3, the BMW 1 Series has strong residual value, still commanding nearly 60% of its new price after three years on the road. This makes bargain-hunting as a used buyer difficult, as even relatively high-mileage cars can look quite expensive next to a comparable Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. But those cars lack the BMW’s sporty image and satisfying rear-wheel-drive handling, so depending on your priorities, the 1 Series can be worth the extra cash.

Efficient Dynamics Plus models. Official CO2 below 99g/km, so you won't pay any road tax as ong as the car was first registered before April 2017. Don't make any false economies. Some early Efficient Dynamics cars don't meet the latest Euro 6 emissions regulations, so these will face some diesel charges that newer cars won't. You'll find the emissions rating in the technical information for every car sold on BuyaCar

 

List price

BuyaCar new

1 year old

2 years old

3 years old

Best for performance

BMW M135i 3dr

Price

£31,860

N/a

£27,555

£21,720

£18,975

Save

N/a

14%

32%

40%

Best for families

BMW 116d SE 5dr

Price

£21,360

N/a

£16,170

£14,200

£12,720

Save

N/a

24%

36%

43%

Best for economy

BMW 116d EfficientDynamics Plus 3dr

Price

£22,030

N/a

£19,360

£14,200

£12,720

Save

N/a

12%

36%

42%