The side exterior of a red BMW 1 series

BMW 1 Series review

Offering a sharp, nippy ride, the BMW 1 Series hatchback has accurate steering and rear-wheel drive. This car has the fun factor.


  • Rear wheel drive gives sharp handling
  • It looks modern and stylish
  • A great range of punchy and economical engines


  • It's not the most practical car
  • Pricier to buy than less prestigious rivals
  • Running costs are higher than comparable cars


“All 1 Series models are fun to drive with nimble handling, perfectly complementing the premium look and feel.”

The 1 Series is a fun and desirable rear-wheel drive hatchback. It's a highly popular town driver, motorway cruiser and sports hatchback which holds its value well.

Despite its smallish size, it’s big on style, quality and equipment. With its large range of petrol and diesel engines, the 1 Series offers everything from sensible, economical motoring through to out-and-out sports performance. The three or five-door versions also offer versatility.

It features BMW's trademark grille and badge, while the interior boasts swathes of leather and high-quality materials. A range of technological infotainment and safety features comes as standard.

What’s the interior like?

“Classy inside with sporty, comfortable seats, the 1 Series has a chunky steering wheel, clear instruments and a well laid out dashboard.”

The interior includes BMW’s excellent iDrive controller with its big tablet-style infotainment display. The driving position is great with plenty of adjustment options to help you get comfortable.

Boot space is good at 360 litres, which means you can fit in a number of small suitcases. This space increases to 1,200 litres with the seats folded down - they go almost flat too.

If you want the most dynamic feel in a 1 Series, then the Sport trim level is the way to go with its sports seats and a racing steering wheel.

What’s it like to drive?

“The 1 Series’ rear-wheel drive layout offers nimble handling to make it feel agile and responsive around corners.”

The 1 Series is one of the very few rear-wheel drive hatchbacks available making it one of the best compact family cars to drive. You can find plenty of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre engines which both come as petrols and diesels. The smaller 1.5 engines will be more than powerful enough for most.

The Sport adds 17-inch alloy wheels and a Drive Performance Mode control. If you’re looking for truly impressive performance, the M140i is superb, for the sure-footedness of a four-wheel drive and the 120d is available with BMW’s xDrive system.

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“BMWs tend to hold their value well.”

The 1 Series can be very economical if you pick an entry-level diesel, but the prestigious badge means that prices can be higher than some rivals. BMWs are also well equipped as standard, which is great for used buyers.

Most 1 Series models on the road have low running costs, including insurance and tax, but these costs can rise considerably if you buy one with a more powerful engine.
Main dealer servicing and parts prices will look slightly higher compared with more basic rivals.

How reliable and safe is it?

“A Euro NCAP rating of 5 stars speaks volumes.”

You would expect any BMW to be ultra-reliable because they’re very well built. That said, a few 1 Series cars have had some reliability issues, though no more than rivals, with the electrics occasionally highlighted in independent reliability surveys.

With its maximum-star NCAP crash test rating, the 1 Series is a safe place to be.  It has an impressive list of important safety features, as standard, including a lane departure warning and ESP electronic stability program which stops the car skidding.

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 116d Efficient Dynamics

Best for family - 116d

Best for fun - M140i

Aim for the entry-level BMW 1 Series SE 116d. All the basics are covered and it should be the easiest to find and most cost-effective. The SE has a decently high spec which includes 16-inch alloy wheels, the BMW Navigation system with traffic info and a 6.5-inch colour display. It’s a very popular choice, so expect to find a lot of SEs around.

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