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BMW 1 Series Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2019
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Diesel, Petrol
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“Practical hatch, fun to drive”

Best bits

  • Great to drive with strong engine line-up
  • Interior is practical and hard to fault
  • Lots of safety tech and five-star crash test rating

Not so great

  • Firm ride, especially with big wheels and the M Sport suspension
  • Looks won’t appeal to everyone
  • More expensive than a Volkswagen Golf

Read by

BMW 1 Series Exterior Front

Overall verdict

BMW 1 Series Interior

On the inside

BMW 1 Series Driving

Driving

BMW 1 Series Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

BMW 1 Series Driving Side

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"It might be the smallest and most affordable BMW you can buy, but the latest 1 Series still has bags of appeal."

BMW 1 Series Exterior Front

For the third-generation model, BMW’s ditched the archaic rear-wheel-drive layout - meaning it’s got more interior space and is even better - and more predictable - to drive.


There is a wide range of engines on offer, from economical three-cylinder diesels to the Porsche-baiting M135i hot hatch. Unless you cover mega miles, we’d highly recommend the entry-level 118i. This is a punchy little three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine which is both efficient and fun to drive.


The diesel engine of choice is the 2.0-litre 118d, while the more powerful 120d is available with xDrive four-wheel-drive. Most buyers won’t need this, but it’s there as an option.


While we love how good the BMW 1 Series is to drive thanks to its precise steering and compliant (if a little firm) chassis, its most impressive feature is its cabin. It’s on a par - if not better than - the latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3. It uses quality materials and there’s more space than ever before, particularly for front-seat passengers.


There’s a big enough boot for most buyers and the rear seats are easily dropped if you need more space. Isofix points in the rear make fitting child seats easy, and the five-star Euro NCAP safety rating should put your mind at ease when it comes to transporting your family in the 1 Series.


Standard equipment is pretty good, meaning you won’t have to go hunting for used examples fitted with any must-have options. All models come with a very good 8.8-inch media system incorporating all the usual features such as navigation and Apple CarPlay (for mirroring apps from your phone) - although, annoyingly for Android users, there’s no Android Auto.


A bigger 10.25-inch display is available as an option (standard on the M135i). This incorporates BMW’s Siri-like Intelligent Personal Assistant, which responds to voice commands and learns your preferences over time. It’s pretty clever.


So what hasn’t the new 1 Series going for it? Well, we’re not so sure about its looks - like that gaping front grille and the slightly stodgy dimensions. It’s just not as timeless as the old model, but you can decide for yourself whether you like it or not.


It’s also pretty expensive, starting from around £24,500. That’s significantly more than a Volkswagen Golf, for example - and it’s in high demand, meaning you’ll pay strong money for a used example.


If you’re happy to pay the price for the BMW 1 Series, the latest model is easier than ever to justify. It’s more practical than before and has a superb interior which puts it in the same league as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3. It’s also brilliant to drive no matter which engine you opt for - indeed, the entry-level 118i is arguably the most appealing of the bunch.


If you're looking for the older version, you need our BMW 1 Series (2011-) review.


Is the BMW 1 Series right for you?

If you want a premium family car that’s more enjoyable to drive than a Mercedes-Benz A-Class or Audi A3, the BMW 1 Series is a strong choice. There’s a wide variety of petrol and diesel engines - including a hot M135i model for those seeking sports car performance. 


There are some caveats. While its interior is better (and more practical) than ever, it still makes a fairly cramped family car. If you’re looking for something with a big boot, you’d be better putting your badge snobbery to one side and looking at a Skoda Octavia.


It’s also expensive compared to mainstream alternatives. Sure, a Kia Ceed or Ford Focus might not be on your radar, but a Volkswagen Golf is very nearly as good as the 1 Series and significantly cheaper.


What’s the best BMW 1 Series model/engine to choose

Most BMW 1 Series models on the used market are powered by the 1.5-litre petrol engine, badged the 118i. That’s a good thing as we reckon it’s the best choice for the majority of buyers. It’s a characterful three-cylinder engine which combines peppy performance with wallet-friendly efficiency.


If you cover high miles, consider one of the diesels - a 1.5-litre badged as the 116d will appeal to the most frugal of buyers, while the 2.0-litre 118d is also a sensible option. There’s also a 120d which is available with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system, if that appeals.


Anyone seeking hot hatch performance should look for the M135i, which uses a twin-turbo four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine - unfortunately, not the silky six-cylinder of the previous 1 Series.

What other cars are similar to the BMW 1 Series?

Before parting with your cash for a 1 Series, you should also look at the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. All three are competing for class honours - there’s little to differentiate between them, really. We reckon the A-Class’s interior perhaps pips the BMW’s for feel good factor and you get slightly more standard equipment on the A3, but there’s not a great deal in it objectively.


If getting more for your money appeals, you should also consider the Volkswagen Golf. It’s not got a premium badge but it’s certainly a step up from cars like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.


Learn more

BMW 1 Series Interior

On the inside

BMW 1 Series Driving

Driving

BMW 1 Series Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

BMW 1 Series Driving Side

Prices, versions and specification