2017 BMW 1 Series review: Fun, smart hatchback

BMW’s 1 Series, introduced in 2004, was the Munich company’s first truly dedicated range of family hatchbacks below the 3 Series. The 1 Series has proved to be a huge success and this second-generation car, launched in 2011, remains a strong contender in the premium family car segment, despite its impending replacement. Offered in three- or five-door formats, with a wide choice of efficient petrol and diesel engines, and the option of rear- or four-wheel drive, the BMW still deserves consideration for its excellent driving dynamics, its high-quality interior, and the fact that the range-topping M140i is an utterly fabulous performance car.

Did you know? BMW delights in the 1 Series being the only rear-wheel drive car in its class – but platform-sharing could see a future model switch to front-wheel drive.

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It might be getting on a bit relative to its rivals, but the BMW 1 Series remains highly relevant in the class simply because it’s an excellent car in many respects. A range of turbocharged engines was drafted into the facelifted range in 2015 to keep it efficient and feeling modern, while the equipment levels are reasonably generous even on base cars. Like most rear-wheel-drive BMWs, it drives beautifully. It has a plush interior, too, but bear in mind that its very defining feature – rear-wheel drive – does lead to some packaging compromises, and so the BMW isn’t as spacious as an Audi A3. However, if you like the BMW’s distinctive looks, then there’s every chance you’d still pick the 1 Series over many of its younger rivals.
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Fuel Economy
We Like
Rear-wheel-drive dynamics
Excellent interior quality
Strong engines
We Don’t Like
Not the prettiest car
Fairly expensive
Some safety kit is optional
Manual gearbox can be hard work

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The BMW 1 Series has never been the prettiest hatchback going, although the mid-life model facelift of 2015 certainly improved the aesthetics. Wider light clusters front and rear made a positive difference to the more recent cars, though, and at least the 1 Series has always been distinctive. As with many BMW line-ups, the M Sport models in strong colours and on bigger wheels look the best. The most handsome variant is the flagship M140i, which gets its own styling cues to denote its potency.
The 1 Series is also one of very few cars in this class that are still available with three doors; most, including the Audi A3 Sportback, have become five-door only.

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BMW put a lot of effort into making the 1 Series’ cabin feel as upmarket as the interiors on its bigger models, and it shows. It might not quite rival the newer Audi A3 for ambience, but it’s still better to touch, nicer to look at and easier to use than practically any other hatchback on the market, including the Mercedes A-Class, which has a less intuitive fascia and infotainment system.
A significant gripe: only the M140i gets leather and dual-zone climate control as standard, whereas it’s an option costing more than lb1,100 on all other models – most variants come with cloth seats and single-zone climate control.
There are plenty of useful storage cubbies and loads of space up front in the 1 Series, while the view forwards is good (although rear visibility isn’t great) and a sporting, low-to-the-floor driving position suits the car’s character. The BMW’s practicality foibles come at the back. The very thing that makes the car so alluring as a driving machine, its rear-wheel-drive layout, hobbles rear passenger space. There’s a big transmission tunnel in the cabin that cuts into footspace for a middle occupant, and access isn’t as good as it is in many rivals as the wheelarch cuts into the door opening. Adults really wouldn’t want to sit in the centre-rear seat for long, then, even in the five-door model, and access to the back row isn’t easy if you opt for the three-door variant. At least it’s spacious enough for two tall-ish people to sit in the back, but an Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf is roomier and lighter in the back.
That rear-wheel-drive packaging equates to a boot that’s down on capacity compared to rivals’, too. It will hold 360 litres with the 60:40 standard split rear seatbacks in place, and 1200 litres with them folded down. Plus points: the seats lie nice and flat when they’re stowed, and there’s a 40:20:40 through-loading option that’s less than lb200 if you need more flexibility.

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Technology & Connectivity
The BMW iDrive infotainment system is the most user-friendly control interface around, including touchscreens, because it works fluently and you can click through settings without having to take your eyes off the road.
Decent equipment is offered, one of the key selling points being the inclusion of sat-nav on every 1 Series. Remember, this is a basic version of BMW’s guidance system, displayed on a 6.5-inch dash screen, while the swisher-looking 8.0-inch Professional Nav is part of the optional Media Package BMW Professional.
Essentially, though, all models come with Bluetooth, BMW Emergency Call, BMW Online Services, a DAB radio, a multifunction steering wheel and a bit more besides. Two sound system upgrades are offered, the first being BMW Loudspeaker for less than lb300, while the Harman Kardon set-up is double that price. What is hard to forgive is that Apple CarPlay is only available for lb200, and that only if you also add the lb900 Professional Media Package. That’s over lb1000 to get tech that’s standard on most rivals, and Android Auto isn’t even offered.
Further options, bundled into the Innovation Package, include wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi Hotspot Preparation, so the BMW is a bit behind its rivals

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Performance & Handling
An excellent array of engines makes up the 1 Series range. Leaving the M140i aside, there are just four units – three-cylinder petrol and diesel motors of 1.5 litres’ capacity (badged 118i or 116d), or four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines of 2.0 litres’ capacity (badged 120i/125i, or 118d, 120d, or 125d). The different model numbers simply denote that a certain engine has more power – so the 125i has 221bhp to the 120i’s 181bhp figure, for example.
The vast majority of 1 Series models come with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels. Options include two eight-speed automatic transmissions, one called Sport as it comes with steering wheel paddle-shifts, and there’s the possibility of adding xDrive four-wheel drive to the 120d (only on the five-door), although it costs more than lb3,000 and makes the car automatic-only. The 125-badged cars also can’t be equipped with a manual gearbox, while the fuel-saving 116d EfficientDynamics Plus is the only 1 Series that has no automatic option. We’d recommend going for the auto if you can – it’s about the best automatic gearbox in the class, and makes the 1 Series fantastically easy to drive.
Regardless of which output or drivetrain you pick, these are fantastic engines. The three-cylinder motors bring their own benefits, such as a lighter nose (which makes the BMW more agile) and a burbling soundtrack, but you won’t go far wrong with the four-cylinder engines. The pick of these is the 118d, which has an appealing blend of rapid performance and incredible frugality, including CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km even with the automatic gearbox.
Yet the BMW’s real fort’e is its handling. The agility bestowed upon it by the rear-wheel-drive design is unmatched by anything else in the class. It’s fun on a quiet back road, and it has great body control and a meaty set of brakes, too. Only the steering lets things down a bit, as it can feel a bit too heavy and artificial, but it does give you confidence in what the car’s doing and lets you make the most of the chassis. Don’t worry about the security of this rear-wheel drive hatch, either. In anything but ice or snow, the 1 Series is grippy and forgiving – unless you go for one of the potent performance models, which can be quite lairy.
Thankfully, the BMW is also a doddle to live with. The ride quality is generally smooth and the refinement levels are exceptional. Be wary of M Sport models, as their firmer suspension and bigger alloys do tip the balance more towards roadholding at the expense of comfort. If you are set on M Sport for its better equipment and style, then it’s worth adding the adaptive dampers if you can as it really improves the BMW’s balance of comfort and entertainment.
For ultimate motoring thrills, go for the M140i. It’ll do 0-62mph in a thunderous 4.6 seconds with the Sports Automatic (4.8 seconds for the manual), courtesy of a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, and it’s an absolute riot to drive. It might not be as quick across the ground as an Audi RS 3 or Mercedes-AMG A 45, but it’s a lot more engaging than either of its pricier, four-wheel drive rivals, and is still really easy to live with.
Recommended engine: 118d SE Automatic
0-62 MPH
8.1 seconds
Fuel economy

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While modern safety equipment is available on the 1 Series, and the car received a five-star Euro NCAP rating, Driving Assistant is a cost-option. It’s a suite of useful technologies – namely, Attentiveness Assistant, City Collision Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Preventive Pedestrian Protection – but it isn’t standard on any 1 Series. Sure, it’s only lb390 to add the pack but the autonomous emergency braking (city collision mitigation, in BMW speak) shout certainly be standard by now. It’s standard fit on plenty of cheaper cars. Even rear parking sensors are optional on most trim levels.
There are two cruise control options, the first being a standard system with a braking function (standard only on the 116d ED Plus), while Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go is almost lb800. Safety equipment across the board includes a tyre-pressure monitoring system, four airbags, and two ISOFIX mounting points, but there’s no driver’s knee airbag.

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Spec & Trim Levels
There are 13 colours overall, although which ones are available depends upon the chosen specification. No-cost, non-metallic colours are Jet Black and Alpine White. Metallic shades are Melbourne Red, Glacier Silver, Black Sapphire, Valencia Orange, and Mineral Grey, as well as Platinum Silver, Mediterranean Blue, Sparkling Brown, Midnight Blue, and Mineral White. However, these last five metallic options and Jet Black are not offered on the M Sport cars – by small way of recompense, they are the only 1 Series variants that can be finished in attractive Estoril Blue metallic, which would be our pick of the colour range.
Trim Levels
In a hierarchical structure, there are three trims that diminish the more power you specify. So, both the 118i and 118d are available in SE, Sport, and M Sport guises; the 120i and 120d drop the SE grade; and then the 125i and 125d cars are M Sport-only.
The exceptions to this rule are the bookends of the range, the 116d and the M140i, as the former has an additional, special ED Plus business-focused specification that adds just a few items (cruise control with braking function, rear Park Distance Control, and Servotronic variable-rate steering) to SE grade, while the latter car gets a high-end equipment tally of its own.
In general, SEs come with 16-inch alloys, air conditioning, push-button keyless start, auto lights and wipers, and front fog lights. Sport enlarges the wheels to 17s, brings in the Drive Performance Control switchable driving modes, and smatters sporty detailing throughout the cabin, including sports seats and a different steering wheel.
M Sport further bolsters the dynamic look with a bodykit, 18-inch wheels, an M Sport-themed interior and LED headlights with auto high-beam function. There’s a further pack called M Sport Plus, which collates the Harman Kardon sound system, stronger M Sport brakes and Sun Protection Glass. Owners can opt, at no extra cost, to have the 18-inch alloys painted grey as part of this bundle.
Size and Dimensions
The BMW 1 Series should easily fit most domestic garages with little bother and it should prove easy to thread about at rush hour, too.
1,765mm (excluding door mirrors)
Max towing weight without brake
From 650kg (any model of 118i) – 750kg (120d xDrive)

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Fuel Economy
All models get BMW’s EfficientDynamics suite of measures, designed to save fuel. This incorporates Auto Start-Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration, Eco Pro mode, electric power steering, and lightweight build where possible. Additionally, every 1 Series bar the M140i has low rolling-resistance tyres. That means the BMW, with its strong residual values included, is cheaper to run than you might think – petrol returns are between 36mpg (M140i manual) and 59mpg (118i SE auto), while the regular diesels achieve anything from 60mpg (120d xDrive M Sport) to 78mpg (116d SE).
While an automatic 1 Series is mostly a little more fuel-efficient and less polluting, by the official figures at least, the eco-champ of the range is the 116d ED Plus which is manual-only and has Active Air Flaps in its front grilles. These open and shut automatically, depending on driving requirements. As a result, it will do more than 83mpg with less than 90g/km of CO2 emitted, making it the obvious choice for business buyers.
Currently, there’s no plug-in hybrid 1 Series model to rival the A3 e-tron and Golf GTE. You’ll have to look to the i3 if you want a small, electric BMW.
Reliability and servicing
We’ve not heard of any major problems that are specific to the 1 Series. Servicing is done on a condition-based rotation, with the car determining when it requires maintenance, and service plans covering up to three years or 36,000 miles of upkeep are available for a fixed fee of just a few hundred pounds.
Petrol model
No fixed schedule – BMW Condition-Based Servicing.
Diesel model
No fixed schedule – BMW Condition-Based Servicing.

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It’s a BMW and so the 1 Series is not at the cheaper end of the family hatchback scale, competing instead with similarly premium products from Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, and Volvo. Prices start at slightly almost lb22k and rise to almost lb35k for the M140i high-performance model. However, this 1 Series is nearing the end of its production life now, so sizeable discounts should be available in dealerships – and, at the end of the day, you do ultimately get a high-quality product for the considerable outlay.
Finance deals are very competitive. As we write, BMW has a contract hire offer that’ll see you into our favourite eco-champion of the 1 Series range – the 118d Auto – for lb229 per month after a lb4500 deposit, and PCP finance deals are similarly competitive if you reckon you might buy the car at the end of the deal.

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New Parents
A five-door 118d M Sport with the automatic transmission provides the best all-round 1 Series experience and good family transport.
Company Car Buyer
It was designed purely for this purpose: the 116d ED Plus majors on low running costs and essential business equipment. The 118d is usefully better to drive, mind, and is also a very affordable company cars.
Car Enthusiast
Only the best will do, as the M140i is one of the finest high-performance hatches going. Stick with a manual three-door for cost reasons.
Audi A3
Newer than the 1 Series and possessed of a fine range of engines/technology, the A3 can also be specified as a saloon if needed.
Lexus CT 200h
Only one drivetrain choice and it’s a petrol-electric hybrid. Strange interior design, dumpy bodywork and a dull drive, but the CT is cheap to tax and run.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Handsome machine with wide engine line-up and impressive technology levels, although interior ergonomics won’t please everyone.
Volkswagen Golf
Revised 2017 Mk7 Golf remains a class act in all departments – and it’s usefully a bit cheaper than the BMW.
Volvo V40
Although there’s life left in the 2012-launched Volvo yet, it looks very dated compared to the Swedish company’s ’90’-badged products.


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