BMW 1 Series Review

The new BMW 1 Series is more practical than before and gets more tech, but the fact that it’s no longer rear-wheel-drive might upset those who loved the way the old car drove.


This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • High-tech infotainment
  • Spacious inside
  • Decent engine range

What's not so good

  • No longer rear-wheel drive
  • Alternatives are a bit cheaper
  • Divisive looks

BMW 1 Series: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The BMW 1 Series is a high-tech family hatchback with eye-catching looks and a posh cabin. Just like the Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3, it comes with front-wheel drive as standard – a first for BMW’s smallest car.

This new engine means the new BMW 1 Series doesn’t get a long, sweeping bonnet like the car it replaces, but it still packs plenty of angular creases to make sure it’s one of the sportiest-looking hatchbacks around in it sportier trims.

Things are a little tamer inside, but the BMW 1 Series’ minimalist dashboard and 9-inch infotainment display look more modern than the equivalents in the old car’s cabin. It’s easy to get the hang of and comes with plenty of bang-up-to-date equipment too, including Apple CarPlay, optional gesture controls and BMW’s personal assistant system. The latter is similar to the A-Class’ ‘Hey Mercedes’ feature.

Less impressive are BMW’s optional digital dials for the driver which are darker and not quite as appealing as an A3’s or A-Class’s. All-told, the Mercedes’ system is the most impressive to look at, but BMW’s iDrive has the edge for usability. The same goes for interior quality – the 1 Series and Audi A3 are now battling at the very top in terms of their plastics, trims and switches.

Sending power to the front, rather than the rear, wheels means BMW has been able to redesign the 1 Series’ cabin to maximise room for passengers. As a result, there’s more space in all five seats than in the old car so you should be able to carry tall adults in the back in reasonable comfort. The driver benefits with loads of seat and wheel adjustment too. The BMW 1 Series’ boot is also bigger than in the old car, and more spacious than the load bay you’ll find in a Mercedes A-Class.

The BMW 1 Series’ sporty styling might not be a looker, but it certainly stands out from the likes of the rather staid and sensible Audi A3 and VW Golf.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can get the BMW 1 Series with a range of petrol and diesel engines; from the entry-level 1.5-litre 118i three-cylinder petrol that’s ideally suited to town driving to the 2.0-litre 118d version that’ll lap up longer motorway trips with ease. There’s also a sportier M135i model in the works that’ll sprint from 0-60mph in less than 4.8 seconds – although we’ve reviewed that separately.

As with the previous BMW 1 Series, you’ll be able to have the new car with a manual or automatic gearbox, and with optional four-wheel drive for a little extra grip in slippery conditions. There’ll also be the option of some high-tech driver assistance systems to help keep you safe and take the stress out of long drives and trips in heavy traffic.

The good news is that whichever BMW 1 Series you buy, it remains comfortable over lumps and bumps in town. That even goes for M Sport models with stiffer, lower sports suspension, and while adaptive suspension is available as an option, it isn’t really necessary. The 1 Series also has light, precise steering and decent forward visibility for easy urban manoeuvres. Rearwards it isn’t so good, but then, front and rear parking sensors are standard on all cars.

Happily, the 1 Series is comfortable and quiet on the motorway, but importantly it’s still great fun to thread along a country road, despite its move from rear to front-wheel drive. For some, the 1 Series’ high levels of grip and keen steering will never replace the feel of rear-wheel-drive, but it’s definitely possible to enjoy covering ground quickly in this 1 Series.

So, the latest 1 Series is good to drive, comes with some great engines and is high-quality inside. If you like its new looks and aren’t outraged by its driven wheels then you’ll love it. It’s a little bit more expensive than rivals, but why not check out our deals pages to see how much you could save. 

BMW 1 Series
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