BMW 1 Series Review
The 1 Series is a popular posh hatchback, but the latest model is completely different in looks and engineering. So is it still a wise buy?
Strengths & weaknesses
- More space
- Great to drive
- Interior quality
- Limited rear headroom
- Expensive options
- Styling not to all tastes
BMW 1 Series prices from £10,295 Finance from £170.89 per month
Now into its third generation, BMW’s new 1 Series hatchback has received some radical changes that the company says gives drivers ‘more’ - more space, more power and a more sporty drive.
The biggest change is the swap from powering the rear wheels - a BMW trademark that is traditionally associated with sports cars - to front-wheel drive, like every other hatchback, with four-wheel drive available on more powerful versions. This move not only affects the way the 1 Series drives, it also frees up a lot more space inside.
While the 1 Series has actually shrunk in length - it’s now 5mm shorter than before with 20mm less distance between the front and rear wheels - BMW has shortened the bonnet so there’s no loss of space inside. It’s also 34mm wider and 13mm higher.
This adds up to more interior space, particularly in the rear, where the old car was cramped compared with rivals (due to the additional mechanical parts needed to power the rear wheels). There’s now a noticeable gain in leg and elbow room but, despite the increase in height, tall people might find it’s still a smidge tight.
Another area where the latest 1 Series is bigger is in the boot, which has grown in size to 380 litres. That’s the same as the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 Sportback, and marginally bigger than a Mercedes A-Class. With the seats down, the 1 Series' boot extends to 1,200 litres. A powered hatchback release is now offered for the first time on a 1 Series as an optional extra.
So what difference have the revisions to increase space made to the way the 1 Series drives? After all, within the hatchback class, the old 1 Series’ rear-wheel drive chassis was the thing that set it apart from rivals and drew driving enthusiasts looking for a sporty drive. Thankfully the 1 Series continues to provide the sharpness it is renowned for.
On the road, you barely notice the fact that it's the front wheels rather than the rears that are now powered. It feels superbly balanced around corners, has quick and direct steering and a comfortable ride. BMW has also fitted the 1 Series with something called ARB, first seen on its i3 electric car, and it works to reduce the amount the front wheels spin, particularly in low-grip situations.
Power comes from a range of three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, and tweaks have seen improvements in efficiency and power and a reduction in emissions. There’s also the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox as standard on most models, with the option of a seven-speed 'double-clutch' automatic - something which typically provides quicker gear changes - or an eight-speed auto on the top models. Keep reading for more details on the new BMW 1 Series’ engines.
Best BMW 1 Series for...
Best for Economy – BMW 1 Series 116d
The smallest diesel engine in the 1 Series is the three-cylinder 1.5-litre with 116hp. It returns on average 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of only 100g/km (54.3mpg and 103g/km if you go for the auto). This is under the latest, more realistic economy testing procedure, so you should be able to meet - or even exceed - these figures with careful driving.
Best for Families – BMW 1 Series 118d
The slightly more powerful 118d uses a 2.0-litre diesel engine so it will fare better with heavier loads while also striking a good balance between economy and performance.
Best for Performance – BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive
The M135i xDrive is a seriously quick car. 0-62mph takes 4.8 seconds and it has 306hp to call upon, with four-wheel drive to limit wheelspin. The offset is an average economy figure in the mid thirties.
- 2004 BMW 1 Series introduced, available as a three or five door hatchback and a two-door coupe or convertible
- 2011 Second generation BMW 1 Series launched. The coupe and convertible are dropped to become the 2 Series
- 2015 The 1 Series is given a mild facelift and BMW introduces three-cylinder engines as well as an M140i model with 340hp
- 2019 all-new BMW launched with more space and a switch to front-wheel drive
Understanding BMW 1 Series names
The d in 116d denotes that this is a diesel engine, though the number isn’t quite indicative of the size (the 116d is a 1.5-litre engine). Larger numbers do refer to bigger, more powerful engines, though.
This denotes the level of standard equipment. The BMW 1 Series has three trim levels, entry-level SE, mid-level Sport and sportier M Sport. Performance models such as the M135i are badged differently.
BMW 1 Series Engines
Petrol: 118i, M135i Diesel: 116d, 118d, 120d
BMW has kept the 1 Series’ engine line up pretty simple. There are two petrols, the economy-focused 118i and the performance-oriented M135i. The 118i isn’t a 1.8-litre as you might expect, but a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder with 140hp (4hp more than before). It’s 5kgs lighter than the previous car’s engine, so there’s an improvement in economy and emissions: the 118i will average 47.1mpg and emit 114g/km of CO2.
The M135i uses BMW’s most powerful four-cylinder ever, a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine giving 304hp. That’s enough to see it hit 62mph in only 4.8 seconds. It should return an average of 35.3mpg and emit 155g/km of CO2. It is four-wheel drive and automatic as standard. Despite the speed, this version is less powerful than the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder M140i model available with the previous model range.
Onto the diesels, the entry-level 116d uses a three-cylinder turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, which returns 61.4mpg, 116hp and emissions of 100g/km.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a seven-speed dual-clutch a £1,350 option. It’s available with the 116d and 118i, and while performance figures remain the same as the manual, CO2 emissions rise ever so slightly.
The next engine is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder. There’s a 118d with 150hp, a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds and fuel economy and emissions of 60.1mpg and 108g/km respectively. The 190hp 120d xDrive is four-wheel drive as standard and will hit 62mph in 7.0 seconds. It returns 51.4mpg and has emissions of 117g/km.
BMW 1 Series Trims
SE, Sport, M Sport, M135i
Starting with SE, the entry-level trim, this is available with the 116d, 118d and 118i. As standard, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen media system with sat-nav, Bluetooth, driving modes, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers. It has a 8.8-inch digital driver display, which replaces the analogue dials behind the steering wheel. Standard safety kit includes a vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian warning and braking system, and a lane departure warning system.
Moving up to Sport, which is available on all 1 Series engines bar the M135i, adds 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, steering wheel paddles (if you choose the automatic gearbox), launch control and aesthetic changes such as black exterior highlights and a chrome exhaust. It also adds a Sport+ mode to the driving modes, which dials back the car’s ESP and traction control without turning it off completely.
Over and above the spec of the Sport, M Sport adds sportier suspension, perforated leather seats with contrasting stitching, M-badge details inside and out and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The flagship M135i gets 18-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, larger exhausts, chunkier M Sport bumpers, even sportier seats that are finished in Alcantara, a Harman Kardon sound system, Apple CarPlay with a year’s free subscription (though Android Auto isn’t available) and a larger digital driver’s display.
Whichever trim you settle for, you’ll find the interior comfortable, modern and well built, with soft-touch materials covering the dash and the doors. A neat BMW trait that has been carried over to the new 1 Series is to angle the main instruments and controls towards the driver, so in this car the central touchscreen is easy to access on the move.
BMW does like to charge for options, and among the choices include wireless charging, a heads-up display, gesture control (standard on the M135i’s larger touch screen), a panoramic roof and a reversing assistant that provides semi-automated parking.
BMW 1 Series Reliability and warranty
In Auto Express’ 2018 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the 1 Series was ranked 62nd out of 75 cars. And in the 2019 survey, BMW as a brand was ranked 25th out of 30 manufacturers. So while the cars might appear well built, mechanical niggles are causing owners cause for concern. This is a brand new model, however, so thanks to its selection of a number of proven engines and lots of new tech, it's hard to predict just how it'll fare right now.
From new, the 1 Series comes with a standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty. There’s also a free end-of-warranty check to make sure everything’s tickety-boo, with the option to buy an approved BMW extended warranty for added peace of mind.
Used BMW 1 Series
This latest version of the BMW 1 Series has only just arrived on the UK market and, while you might find some pre-registered cars for sale with a slight discount, you won’t get any used ones for a few months yet. However, the 1 Series has been around for 15 years and there’s one to suit every budget.
We’d go for a newer model from 2011 onwards. In 2015 the 1 Series was facelifted and given a raft of styling and engine improvements. On BuyaCar right now, there are 109 1 Series for sale, with prices starting at £10,295 or £170.89 a month with a PCP finance deal.