BMW 1 Series hatchback (2011 – ) expert review
Read the BMW 1 Series hatchback (2011 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.1
The BMW 1-series hatchback now has a class-leading interior to go with those fantastic driving dynamics, but it’s still a confused offering in the small family car market with controversial styling and poor rear packaging.
- Superb cabin quality
- Fantastic range of petrol and diesel engines
- Boot space now competitive
- Looks will (still) divide opinion
- Rear wheel drivetrain packaging eats into rear cabin space
- Pricey amongst rivals
Interested in buying a BMW 1 Series?
How good does it look?
When you call the Jaguar E-Type beautiful, you can suppose in others they get the same satisfaction. When you call the BMW 1-series ‘an ugger’ (technical term, obviously…) you can also assume a similar relationship. We are aware that the biggest talking point on the BMW 1-series, quite laughably, is a subjective one, but it’s safe to say this car wasn’t based on Leonardo da Vinci’s rules of proportion. That said, the subtle surface language on this second generation 1-series works far better in the metal than it does in pictures, so visit your local BMW showroom to make your own mind up.
What's the interior like?
If the exterior design is dubious, then there is no denying the supreme quality of the interior. The previous generation cabin used some very high quality plastics, but there’s now also metal or deep acrylic finishes dependent on spec, plus an attention to detail that’s unrivaled in this segment. The grain of the soft-moulded plastics, for example, has been matched to the grain of the natural leather seats to maintain a visual consistency. The window line is now 2cm lower to afford the cabin more light and improve visibility, but it still feels very sporty with a low set driving position and three-spoked wheel. Our only criticism would be that the seats aren’t as sumptuous as we’d like and do feel both firm and narrow.
How practical is it?
To improve on the first car’s poor packaging, the second generation BMW 1-series is 85mm longer and benefits from 21mm more rear legroom, which is noticeable. There are now loads of deep storage cubbies in the doors and centre console and at 360-litres, the boot is competitive too, offering 10-litres more than a Volkswagen Golf. Unfortunately the large transmission tunnel derived from this car’s rear wheel drive set-up does impede that middle rear seat.
What's it like to drive?
Enthusiasts will approve of the 1er’s rear wheel drivetrain for dynamic reasons and be pleased to hear that the car will go sideways under provocation. For everybody else – according to BMW, four out of five customers didn’t even know the last 1-series was rear-wheel drive – the car has a fluid driving manner and offers excellent body control. The ride quality is also much improved thanks in part to fully independent suspension, some UK-specific development as well as adopting the latest generation of run flat tyre technology. You can also specify adaptive dampers which gives you four programs from Sport+ which firms the dampers, increases the throttle response and allows less traction control interference, to Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro.
How powerful is it?
The engines on offer in the BMW 1-series really set the benchmark for performance, emissions and mechanical refinement in this sector. The entry-level 116i petrol is a very smooth unit that develops 135bhp and is coupled to BMW’s typically notchy six-speed manual gearbox. For added poke and refinement, try the 181bhp 120d that can be hooked up to BMW’s new eight-speed gearbox – yes you read correctly, eight speed. It may sound like an extravagance but when it’s in Drive mode, the shifts are near seamless enabling the car to accelerate from rest to 62mph in 7.2secs while still offering 62.8mpg.
How much will it cost me?
The BMW 1-series may be expensive to buy, but residuals are strong and that fantastic range of engines offers commendable running costs, too. An ultra-green 116d ED is coming soon, with claimed CO2 emissions of 99g/km and a combined average fuel consumption of 74mpg.
How reliable is it?
Although this is a new model, the previous generation BMW 1-series has performed well in our owner review scores so this car is looking good.
How safe is it?
The 1 Series scored a full five star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, and all models in the line-up get six airbags and stability control as standard. Optional safety equipment includes lane departure warning and radar assisted braking.
How much equipment do I get?
Climate control is standard on all models, as is Eco stop-start but you do have to pay for digital radio which is a bit stingy. Further options include sat-nav, a reversing camera as well as internet connectivity and applications for both Facebook and Twitter (although these can only be used when stationary).
The BMW 1-series hatchback offers a premium badge, fine range of engines, a beautiful cabin as well as remaining the driver’s choice in the small family hatchback sector.