BMW 1 Series

The Essentials

  • Price from £19,380
  • What Car? says: 4 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 74.3mpg
  • What is it? The BMW 1 Series is one of the best small hatchbacks you can buy


  • Combines sharp handling with a comfortable ride
  • Scores highly on performance, economy and emissions
  • It's in demand, so it'll hold on to its value


  • The steering is a bit too light, which can make the car feel nervous at speed
  • There isn't much space, for passengers or for luggage
  • The pedals are offset to the driver's seat and entry-level models don't get Bluetooth
  • Drive

    Steers and corners incredibly well and it feels smooth at all speeds

  • Inside

    Off-set driving position and some scratchy plastics are the only problems

  • Safety

    Even the basic cars keep you safe, with six airbags and stability control fitted as standard

  • Reliability

    Parts of the interior look and feel cheap but the engine won't let you down in the long-run

  • Space

    Tall types need not apply: passengers and luggage will both be jostling for space

  • Standard and extras

    Base models miss out on Bluetooth

  • What's it like to drive?

    The 1 Series is a lot more fun to drive than it is to squeeze a family into, but if you don't mind sacrificing some practicality then there's a lot to enjoy here. It has near-perfect poise when it comes to steering and cornering, and the fact that it's driven by the rear wheels rather than the front ones makes it sharper to drive than its rivals.
    The suspension is firm but smooth, although it does make itself heard as you ride the speed bumps. The 116i petrol engine is strong and smooth, the 116D Efficient Dynamics is the most economical but still punchy enough, although it comes with lowered suspension which makes the ride a tad firmer.

  • What's it like inside?

    The 1 Series puts the 'small' into 'small family car'. Front legroom is good, but there's less headroom and rear legroom than you'd find in an Audi A3 or VW Golf. The boot is slightly larger than a Golf's but it's shallow and narrow - at least folding the rear seats leaves a flat floor.
    A high transmission tunnel boxes the driver in, while the offset seat and pedal layout is irritating. The chunky windscreen pillars and small rear window make seeing over your shoulder a bit tricky, too. At least managing the controls is easy - if you go for an SE model with the snazzy but easy-to-use iDrive infotainment system.
    All versions get alloy wheels, air-con and electric windows as well as an MP3-friendly stereo, while only base models do without Bluetooth  which is slightly more generous than the A3's kit.

  • How reliable is it?

    The old 1 Series was rated 'above average' for mechanical reliability in the latest JD Power owner satisfaction survey. Hopefully this latest model will prove just as dependable.
    Every 1 Series has six airbags and stability control fitted as standard, helping the BMW achieve 91% for adult protection and 83% for child protection in Euro NCAP crash tests. That's not as good as a VW Golf, but is a still a very respectable score.

  • Should I buy one?

    The 1 Series costs more than a comparable VW Golf or Audi A3, but the 116D Efficient Dynamics version makes a very compelling case as a company car - its low CO2 emissions qualify it for attractive Benefit in Kind (BiK) tax rates.