Smallest BMW cars

Not everybody wants to supersize their BMW. Our list of the smallest BMW cars proves that the best things can come in small packages

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
May 13, 2022

Few brands offer a wider selection of cars than BMW. There are no fewer than eight different SUVs, plug-in hybridspeople carriers and electric cars. This is before you start looking at the saloons, coupes, hatchbacks and estates.

This means you should be able to find a BMW that’s right for you. BuyaCar prices start from as little as £10,744, so getting behind the wheel of a BMW needn't break the bank.

Choosing the smallest BMW makes perfect sense for many drivers. You get many of the benefits of a larger model, but for a more affordable price and in a more compact package. The same badge, the same level of quality and the same feeling that you’re driving something special.

We’ve pulled together a list of the smallest BMW cars, ranging from the 1 Series hatchback to the X2 SUV. Once you’ve found a small BMW that fits your lifestyle, you’re no more than a few clicks away from ordering and arranging delivery direct to your door with BuyaCar. It couldn’t be simpler.

Best small BMW cars

1. BMW 1 Series

Smallest BMW hatchback

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The current BMW 1 Series is slightly shorter, but taller and significantly wider than the previous version, which is why we’re focusing on the model on sale from 2011 until 2019. Smaller dimensions and a smaller price - what’s not to like?

Key rivals include the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Audi A3, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, along with a host of cheaper and less desirable family hatchbacks. You’ll pay more for a 1 Series if you pay cash, but because it holds on to its value better than most competitors, you'll get more back when you decide to sell it. It also means that you can get surprisingly low monthly payments if you opt for PCP finance.

Unlike the new model, this generation of the 1 Series sends its power to the rear wheels, which makes it more engaging to drive for keen drivers. Four-wheel drive versions are available if you’re after some reassurance on slippery roads, too.

There’s a wide range of engines available, ranging from efficient diesels capable of achieving 50mpg in real-world driving, to a large 3.0-litre petrol capable of propelling the 1 Series to 62mph quicker than some Porsches.

We’d recommend a BMW 1 Series built after the update in 2015. Highlights include smarter exterior styling and a slight improvement in cabin quality, while all models get an intuitive rotary controller for the media system and climate control.


2. BMW i3

Smallest BMW electric car

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Around decade on from its launch, the BMW i3 still looks futuristic and otherworldly. Not that the BMW i3 you can get new today is the same as the one bought by the early adopters in 2014. Thanks to three significant sets of changes, the BMW is, ahem… as current in 2021 as it always has been.

It’s also pretty practical, thanks to a reasonably large boot and seats for four people. The absence of a central pillar between front and rear doors creates a wide opening, which is handy for loading children into a car seat in the back. Just one thing to bear in mind about the rear doors; they’re hinged on the opposite side to normal and you need to open the front doors to release them.

BMW calls the interior styles ‘worlds’, which is just a fancy name for four desirable options. Depending on what the original owner specced, you can expect a range of plush, sustainable and recycled materials.

Early i3 models came with a 24kWh battery, so you can expect to achieve up to 90 miles from a single charge. Post-2016 cars come with a 33kWh battery for up to 110 miles of range, while the latest cars come with a 42kWh battery. Get one of these, and you can expect up to 190 miles of range.


3. BMW 3 Series

Smallest BMW saloon

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There are more examples of the 3 Series for sale on the BuyaCar website than any other BMW, so you can afford to be picky when choosing your next car. Finding the right colour, spec and engine for you won’t be a problem.

You’ll enjoy the greatest choice by opting for the 3 Series on sale from 2012 until 2019. We’d recommend a model registered after the 2016 update, as this is when BMW’s excellent 'iDrive' media system became standard across the range.

Most versions are rear-wheel drive and set up to be more sporty than most alternatives, so you can expect the 3 Series to be more engaging to drive than rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. You’ll also find versions equipped with BMW’s 'xDrive' four-wheel-drive system, which provides extra reassurance when the weather turns ‘British’.

The 320d offers a superb blend of diesel economy and performance, with the potential to deliver 67.3mpg on a long journey. As for the trim level, even the entry-level SE features sat-nav, parking sensors, cruise control and air-conditioning as standard, though many drivers choose to upgrade to the M Sport versions for a sportier appearance and extra equipment.


4. BMW 2 Series Coupe

Smallest BMW coupe

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Although the BMW 2 Series Coupe shares a lot of common parts with the 1 Series hatchback, it’s significantly lower and has a more sleek appearance. It wears it well, with the 2 Series looking more distinctive than the 1 Series.

You might lose a couple of rear doors compared with most 1 Series hatchbacks, but the 2 Series Coupe is more spacious than rivals like the Toyota GT86 and Porsche 718 Cayman. You’re restricted to two seats in the back, but the 390-litre boot is actually 10 litres larger than that in the new 1 Series.

If you’re after the looks without the performance, the 218d and 220d diesel versions offer excellent fuel economy and low running costs. There’s also a range of petrol engines, ranging from a frugal but reasonably quick 218i to the M2 which offers the performance of a sports car.

When it was new, the 2 Series commanded a premium of around £2,500 over the 1 Series, but the prices level out when you’re buying used. That’s a lot of style for a very small price.


5. BMW Z4

Smallest BMW convertible

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The current Z4 is the smallest BMW convertible you can get, although it’s longer, wider and taller than the previous model. It’s actually significantly wider than the old model, so it’s ideal if you fancy a little more elbow and shoulder room in a car that is still short and easy to park.

While some sports cars feel intimidating and edgy, the BMW Z4 has a softer side. It’s easier to drive and more comfortable than rivals like the Porsche 718 Boxster and Alpine A110, with a sense that you could cross a continent or two without fuss.

It’s also more practical than the previous generation Z4, with its fabric roof requiring less space than the complex folding hard-top of old. Boot space has doubled, so you can carry a couple of overnight bags on that cross-continental trip we’re recommending.

There are two turbocharged small petrol engines (sDrive 20i and sDrive 30i) and a more rapid six-cylinder M40i. The M40i engine gives the Z4 a more muscular feel, putting us in mind of the Ford Mustang, but the less powerful versions are cheaper and in keeping with the Z4’s relaxed vibe.


6. BMW 3 Series Touring

Smallest BMW estate

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BMW’s smallest estate car is arguably one of its most convincing models. The 3 Series Touring delivers all of the benefits of the 3 Series saloon but with a more practical and spacious boot.

Don’t rule out the earlier model (pictured above), on sale from 2012 until 2019. Not only is it smaller than the current 3 Series Touring, it’s also cheaper to purchase and there are plenty of used options to choose from. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a keen driver, you’ll enjoy the sharp steering and the way it feels on a country road.

There’s a wide range of engines to choose from, including the 320d Touring diesel, which offers the best blend of performance and economy. We’d recommend finding a car with the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox, as it takes the stress out of driving and is a joy to use in traffic and when parking.


7. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Smallest BMW people carrier

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The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is the exception that proves the rule. While the majority of people carriers tend to prioritise practicality at the expense of desirability, the 2 Series Active Tourer says you can have a good dose of both.

It’s the smallest BMW people carrier you can get, although a larger 2 Series Gran Tourer is available if you require seven seats. The 2 Series Active Tourer is front-wheel drive - unusually for a BMW - and while that might not seem like an important detail, it means that you get more interior space.

There’s enough room in the back for three adults, with plenty of headroom and legroom for all three seats. The boot is large enough for a weekly shop or a large pushchair, and you can increase the size of the boot by sliding the rear seats forward on all except the entry-level model.

Visibility is excellent, helped by the raised driving position and the large windscreen. The view out of the back isn’t quite as good, but all models come with rear parking sensors. Look out for models with the optional Driver Pack, as this adds front parking sensors and the ability to let the BMW park itself.


8. BMW X2

Smallest BMW SUV

BMW X2 front three quarters view

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Don’t be fooled by the badge, because the BMW X2 is marginally smaller than the X1 SUV. Although they share the same platform upon which they're built, the cars couldn’t be more different, with the X2 offering a sportier take on the tried and tested SUV recipe.

Not that the more rakish and muscular styling has come at the expense of practicality. Sure, it’s less spacious in the back than the X1, but it’s fine for young children. The driving position is lower than in the X1, but forward visibility is still better than in the 1 Series hatchback. The view out of the back isn’t great, but rear parking sensors are standard across the range.

To drive, the X2 feels more like a sporty hatchback than an SUV, aided by the stiffer body and the lower centre of gravity. The range-topping M Sport versions feature lowered suspension for an even sportier drive.

Because it didn’t arrive until 2018, you’ll pay more for an X2 than an X1, as older models aren't available yet, but in return you’ll get an SUV that’s more exclusive, nicer to drive, better to look at and slightly smaller than the car it’s based on.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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