BMW 1 Series (2011-2019) Review

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

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Nimble in corners
  • High quality interior
  • Powerful and efficient diesel engines
  • 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 £9,699.
Finance from £173.10 / month.

Used BMW 1 Series prices from £9,699   Finance from £173.10 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 is exactly the same as what you would expect from a 3 Series. This version has been replaced by a brand new 1 Series, which is no longer rear-wheel drive.

The previous-generation BMW 1 Series combines comfort and nimbleness, so it's not too wearing on long drives, but still fun and agile on twisty roads. Only the latest Ford Focus nails this blend in the same way. The Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3 are less comfortable, while the Volkswagen Golf comes close in terms of agility but is more comfortable.

Performance is another strong point of the 1 Series, 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 the high-performance motors could embarrass a sports car.

As ever, you'll pay more for a BMW than the equivalent Vauxhall Astra, Seat Leon or Ford Focus but the 1 Series holds its value well, meaning a used car PCP finance deal could yield lower monthly payments. There's plenty of choice on the used market, too, with 147 models currently available on BuyaCar from as little as £173.10 per month.

A series of updates in 2015 introduced a more modern design, with narrower headlights and sat-nav as standard. These updates don't entirely disguise the car's age but there's nothing wrong with the straightforward layout, quality materials and excellent iDrive system.

One aspect that differenciates this BMW 1 Series from all its competitors is its rear-wheel-drive setup. This contributes to sharper cornering response but the mechanical parts take up space through the middle of the car, meaning 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. 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.

 

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...

Best for Economy – 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.

Best for Families – 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.

Best for Performance – 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.

One to Avoid – 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.

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.
  • September 2019 Deliveries of the new generation BMW 1 Series begin, a new front-wheel-drive configuration replaces the traditional rear-wheel-drive setup.

Understanding BMW 1 Series names

Engine 118d

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 M Sport

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, M140i 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.

The 116d is cheap . BuyaCar prices start at £9,699 or £173.10 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 £9,699 or £173.10 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.

  Fuel Official fuel economy Power Acceleration (0-62mph) Top speed
118i Petrol 47.1-47.9mpg 136hp 8.5sec 130mph
120i Petrol 47.1mpg 184hp 7.1sec 143mph
125i Petrol 45.6mpg 224hp 6.1sec 151mph
M140i Petrol 38.2mpg 340hp 4.6sec 155mph
116d Diesel 65.7-67.3mpg 116hp 10.5sec 124mph
118d Diesel 61.4-64.2mpg 150hp 8.4sec 132mph
120d Diesel 60.1mpg 190hp 7.2sec 142mph
120d xDrive Diesel 54.3mpg 190hp 6.9sec 142mph
125d Diesel 58.9mpg 224hp 6.4sec 149mph

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 M140i, which gets its own design of bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, twin chrome exhaust pipes and the powerful M140i 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%

 

Other Editions

1 Series (2019)

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?