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BMW 1 Series (2011-2019) Review

BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series
BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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BMW 1 Series

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2011
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Driver-pleasing compact premium hatchback

Best bits

  • Superb to drive
  • Powerful and economical engines
  • Top-notch infotainment system

Not so great

  • Rear-seat space
  • Awkward boot shape
  • Basic equipment levels a bit stingy on pre-2015 cars

Read by

BMW 1 Series Exterior Front

Overall verdict

BMW 1 Series Interior Black Leather

On the inside

BMW 1 Series Driving Side

Driving

BMW 1 Series Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

BMW 1 Series Exterior Front

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"This is the second generation of BMW’s enormously popular premium family hatchback. Offered in three-door and five-door formats, it’s an upmarket alternative to a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, and frequently rivals the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class for UK for top 10 best-selling honours. Introduced in 2011, this version has proven to be the most popular yet."

BMW 1 Series Exterior Front

For some, the BMW sells because of its class-distinct USP: it is rear-wheel drive, the layout of choice for driving enthusiasts everywhere. For others, the allure of the BMW badge combines with neat styling and an enormous range of engines and trims, ensuring there’s something in the line-up for almost anyone.


The range-topping M135i and M140i versions are particularly sought after and are becoming a bit of a modern classic among enthusiasts. With this car’s replacement, the 2019 BMW 1 Series, switching to front-wheel drive, there may never again be a family hatchback quite like this one.


At launch in 2011, the 1 Series raised a few eyebrows. Its styling was broadly an evolution of the original… but along the way, it seemed to have gained an over-large set of headlights. Kindly sorts called it ungainly, others were ruder, and this was not helped by some curious launch specification packages that included dodgy white-painted wheels.


Even early 1 Series are great cars to drive, though. The engines all gave impressive bang for your buck, particularly the turbo petrols and higher-power diesels. Inside, much of the tech coming to the new 3 Series executive saloon was evident, including BMW’s brilliant latest-gen infotainment systems.


We must warn you though, the 1 Series is only family-friendly at a push. Rear-seat space is much more restrictive than, say, a Volkswagen Golf, and while boot space looks OK on paper, in practice it’s much more compromised. Blame the rear-wheel-drive layout.


BMW later added more engines, launched an all-wheel-drive xDrive version and, in 2015, fixed the biggest complaint with this generation of 1 Series, that awkward front end. With new, slimmer headlights carrying crisp LED running lights, it was a far better-looking car, enhanced at the rear with wider tail lamps making it seem a bit more hunkered down on the road. Sales increased accordingly.


BMW had already launched the brilliant M135i in pre-facelift guise. This performance range-topper was an instant fan favourite, and became even more when upgraded to M140i guise. The turbocharged straight-six engine delivers brilliant power and sound effects, and the handling is not far shy of a sports car.


At the other end of the range, the diesel engines continued to get more and more efficient, with the fuel-sipping EfficientDynamics models hitting new highs for mpg and new lows for CO2. BMW’s front-running infotainment systems have been constantly upgraded over the years, too.


Although it is offered as a five-door and bills itself as a family contender, the 1 Series works best as a sporty model for those who travel two-up and want the best possible entry into the BMW brand. 


Despite its flaws, the exciting way it drives and makes people feel ensures it has a following. That it backs this up with good reliability and low running costs, plus two exceptional performance range-toppers, means it’s easy to see why the 1 Series has proven so popular over the years.


If you're looking for the newer version, you need our BMW 1 Series (2019-) review.

 


Is the BMW 1 Series right for you?

As we say, if you have a family and are switching from a Volkswagen Golf, it might be a bit of a surprise to step into the 1 Series. You and your front passenger may find it fine, but those in the rear will be in for an unpleasant surprise. You’ll almost certainly be leaving behind bags and cases that went into the Golf just fine, too.


On the other hand, if you love driving and would rather be in a sports coupe than a regular hatchback, the 1 Series is the car for you. It feels like an enthusiastic car with breeding far higher than its price tag commands. You can feel the 3 Series spirit running through it and, whenever you come across a twisting road, you will feel chuffed with your choice.


The M135i and M140i models are our tips for future collectables and it’s easy to see why they’ve already won such a following.


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

You might expect us to say the M135i and M140i here, and you’d be right. They’re fantastic. But they’re also in-demand range-toppers and anything but cheap to run. Luckily, the abilities of lesser 1 Series mean there are still fine models to choose from, even if you’re avoiding the full-fat option.


The 118i petrol serves up decent power and performance, with the 120d giving even better economy if you don’t mind diesel. The xDrive versions offer all-wheel-drive grip, too. Over the years, the range grew exponentially, with engines ranging from a 114d diesel to the M140i petrol. But you can’t go far wrong with a mid-spec variant, either diesel or petrol.


As for trim lines, ES and SE are the lead-in ones and Sport offers a bit more. M Sport is the most fancied version, thanks to big wheels, a bodykit, hip-hugging seats and M-branded interior detailing.


What other cars are similar to the BMW 1 Series?

The BMW’s direct rivals start with the Audi A3, both in three-door and five-door Sportback guises. Audi’s range is similarly diverse, with a sporty-looking top trim level called S Line. As for Mercedes-Benz, there’s the A-Class, crowned by the AMG-Line grade, with another broad range of engines – from fuel-sipping diesels to tarmac-tearing super hatches.


The Volkswagen Golf is a more mainstream alternative with a still-decent image, while if you want to go really leftfield, you could choose the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Volvo’s safe Swedish interpretation is the V40 and Lexus offers the CT 200h. There’s also the Infiniti Q30, but that’s such an oddball choice, we don’t expect you’ll take us up on the suggestion...


Learn more

BMW 1 Series Interior Black Leather

On the inside

BMW 1 Series Driving Side

Driving

BMW 1 Series Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

BMW 1 Series Exterior Front

Prices, versions and specification

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