BMW 1 Series Review
The BMW 1 Series is a very smart, premium hatchback that’s great for a small family.
Published: 15 December 2022
Whether you want a small, stylish car for driving around the city or one that doubles as family transport, the BMW 1 Series hatchback is a great choice.
This version has been sold new since 2019. There are a number of petrol and diesel engines to choose from as well as five different trim levels. All versions are practical and comfortable, and some add a sportier feel that makes the 1 Series more satisfying to drive than many rivals.
- Luxurious interior
- Spacious for passengers
- Comfortable and fun to drive
- Some rivals have more space in the back
- Smaller engine range than rivals
- No plug-in hybrid model
Dashboard & tech
All 1 Series models have a central 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen and a 10.25-inch digital screen that shows the driver’s dials. The infotainment system is particularly easy to use and comes with lots of the latest tech including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As an optional extra on some cars, a gesture control system lets you control some features by waving your hands in front of the dash. If you prefer old-school buttons to change between features, you can also use them or the rotary dial near the gear selector. If you fancy going totally hands-free, just ask BMW’s voice control system to change settings for you. The 1 Series also gives you USB ports to charge your devices, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control and climate control as standard. Options to look out for on used cars include wireless charging, a head-up display that projects driving information onto the windscreen, and front heated seats.
Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, sitting in the 1 Series is a very comfortable experience. The front seats fit snugly around you, almost like armchairs. The driver’s seat has loads of adjustment options for the seat and steering wheel, so it’s easy to find the right position for you. You can opt for leather seats if you want, but the standard cloth seats are really cushioned so it’s not necessary to splash the cash for purely comfort reasons.
The 1 Series interior is a classy place, as befits the premium badge on the bonnet. The design of the dashboard isn’t quite as eye-catchingly stylish as its main rival, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but the quality of the solid, plush BMW materials is excellent.
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Practicality & boot space
There’s more space in this version of the 1 Series than in the previous model, which is worth noting if you’re looking at both. The change from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive meant the cabin could be completely redesigned which freed up more space. You’ll be able to fit five adults comfortably; even tall people won’t be too squished in the back and families with younger kids will have lots of room.
Storage space in the front and back is good, with huge door bins that will each fit a big bottle of water. You should be able to fit a medium takeaway coffee in each of the two cupholders upfront but there’s no middle armrest in the back to double up as a drinks holder. Under the armrest between the front seats you’ll find a space big enough to fit wallets and a small handbag. If you get a car with a wireless charging pad, this is where it’s fitted.
The 380 litres of boot space in this new 1 Series is 20 litres more than in the previous version, a little bigger than in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the same size as in the Volkswagen Golf. Pack carefully and you can fit a few large suitcases or a couple of large shopping bags and a pushchair. The loading lip is low so it’s easy to lift in suitcases and bags. You can also opt for a car with an electric boot lid. Just press the button and the boot pops open, saving you trying to juggle with your arms full of bags.
When the back seats are folded down they lie almost flat, giving you a considerable 1,200 litres of load space. Higher-spec models have back seats that fold in a 40/20/40 ratio, especially useful if you need to stuff kit around passengers or transport long items like skis. Flip the seats down by pressing the buttons on the top of them and you should be able to get a couple of chairs or a small bookcase into the extended boot space. There are also some storage nets in the boot, extra space under the boot floor and a hook for shopping bags.
For most drivers, the 1 Series provides a satisfying balance between comfort and agile sportiness. It drives well on any type of road, from winding country B-roads to dead-straight motorways, and both the petrol and diesel engines are very quiet. The automatic gearbox is particularly smooth and could prove a better choice than the manual for anyone regularly covering hundreds of miles at a time. The steering is very sharp and responsive and you can opt for four-wheel drive if you want more confidence and grip in tough weather conditions.
BMW offers several petrol and diesel engines in the 1 Series, and all are to be recommended. The entry-level diesel – the 116d – is more focused on fuel economy than outright performance and lacks a bit of oomph if you want to overtake or get up to speed quickly on the motorway. If that’s the case, the perkier 118d or rather quick 120d might suit you better. The entry-level 118i petrol is a bit beefier, and the more powerful petrol models have lots of power for fast acceleration and fun on the open road.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
Petrol versions of the 1 Series promise a fuel economy of between 36.2mpg and 49.6 mpg, according to official figures. Unsurprisingly, the performance-focused M135i manages the fewest miles on a full tank, while the efficient 116d diesel engine will give you the most.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions range from 120g/km to 179g/km for petrol models and 120g/km to 146g/km for diesel models. Unlike with rivals such as the Mercedes A-Class or Audi A3, there isn’t a plug-in hybrid 1 Series, so super low emissions aren’t an option.
Value for money
The 1 Series is a fraction less expensive than similar-size hatchbacks and gives you the kind of comfort, style and features you’d expect from a premium brand.
Reliability & Warranty
The 1 Series came with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty from new, a step above some rivals that limit mileage over the same time period. The warranty also includes BMW Roadside Assistance cover should things go wrong while you’re on the move.
BMW doesn’t have a great reputation for reliability as a brand. In fact, it came last of all the brands covered in the J.D. Power 2019 UK Vehicle Dependability Study. That said, most of its premium rival brands didn’t fare much better.
The 1 Series has all the safety features you’d expect from a modern, premium car. These include automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and a speed-limit warning system, and some cars have optional upgrades that include blind-spot warning and a pedestrian warning system. Safety experts Euro NCAP awarded the 1 Series a full five-star rating when it was tested in 2019.
Trims & Engines
There are three trim levels available on the 1 Series – SE, Sport and M Sport – and the two most powerful petrol models – 128ti and M135i – have their own high levels of specifications.
All models are well equipped with a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as voice control included as standard. Top-of-the-range models have flashier interiors including contrast stitching, additional interior lighting and brightly coloured sport seat belts. M Sport models, as well as the two performance cars, have a sportier exterior thanks to beefed up bodywork.
On the diesel front, the range starts with the 116d, which has just enough oomph for sedate everyday driving. If you want a bit more power, look at the 118d, which is a solid all-rounder, or the zippier 120d.
When it comes to petrol power, the range starts with the sprightly 118i, which is great for everyday around-town duties. Then there are the more performance-focused models – the 128ti and the very powerful, four-wheel-drive M135i.
Unlike with the Audi A3 or Mercedes A-Class, there is no plug-in hybrid BMW 1 Series. You can, however, choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed automatic.
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