BMW 1 Series Review & Prices
The 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
Find out more about the BMW 1 Series
The BMW 1 Series is a high-tech family hatchback with eye-catching looks and a posh cabin. Just like the Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3, it comes with front-wheel drive as standard – a first for BMW’s smallest car.
BMW ditched its historical preference for rear-wheel drive to make the 1 Series more practical, upsetting BMW fans despite most people who buy the car not caring either way. It's a bit like when McDonald's changed the way it fried its French fries – people complained for a while but they continued being popular.
Because of this switch to front-wheel drive, the new 1 Series doesn’t have 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. Well, at the back and sides at least, because the front is more snort than sport – unless it’s just us seeing a pig’s snout?
Things are a little tamer inside, but the BMW 1 Series’ minimalist dashboard and 10.3-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 and Android Auto, 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.
Watch: Audi A3 v BMW 1 Series v Mercedes A-Class v Volkswagen Golf
Sending power to the front wheels, rather than the rear, 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.
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 a 265hp 128ti, which is front-wheel drive with an automatic gearbox and is a hoot. Finally, there’s a sporty M135i model 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 BMW 1 Series might not be a looker, but it certainly stands out from the likes of the rather staid and sensible Audi A3 and VW Golf
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 BMW 1 Series deals pages to see how much you could save? Or find a great used example on our used page.
The BMW 1 Series has a RRP range of £28,290 to £41,570. However, with carwow you can save on average £2,622. Prices start at £26,807 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £289. The price of a used BMW 1 Series on carwow starts at £13,750.
Our most popular versions of the BMW 1 Series are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|118i  SE 5dr [Live Cockpit Professional]||£26,807||Compare offers|
The BMW 1 Series range kicks off with the SE trim which comes in slightly above the base Audi A3 Technik. Both have comparable equipment levels, but the BMW is quicker thanks to an extra 26bhp.
The Mercedes A-Class is the priciest of the lot, and it matches the BMW on power, but it is better equipped in its base Sport trim. There are a number of desirable options you may want to add, such as keyless entry (Comfort Access) and a parking assistant, but try not to get too carried away as you soon get a very expensive 1 Series.
It may be front-wheel-drive, but this little BMW still handles with precision and even the sportier trims offer a comfortable ride
The new 1 Series is a pleasure to drive around town, the steering is light and the expansive windscreen and front side windows make placing the car into tight spaces no problem at all.
The shallow rear window and wide pillars on either side mean that you may have to rely on the standard parking sensors when reversing into a parking bay. The driver’s seat can be adjusted to suit all shapes and sizes, and all controls fall easily to hand. The standard manual transmission feels slick to use, but you may want to pay a bit extra for the smooth eight-speed auto – especially if you spend much of your commute in the traffic.
On the motorway
It may be the smallest BMW, but the 1 Series feels just as solid and planted at higher speeds as its bigger stablemates. It is quiet, refined and even the base 1.5-litre engine is responsive and energetic at motorway speeds.
On a twisty road
BMW fans will bemoan the fact that this new 1 Series is front-wheel drive, but you would be hard-pressed to tell after a spirited run down a challenging piece of road. It offers high grip levels, absorbs bumps with ease yet doesn’t wallow about in the corners, just like a 3 series.
The 150bhp diesel engine has a surprising amount of shove out of slow bends, but you will want the punchy 265bhp 128ti for its standard limited-slip diff (this limits wheelspin out of corners) and sportier suspension setup for the most fun.
With more interior space than ever before and plenty of practical touches, the 1 Series makes for a great compact family car. Although adults won’t find much spare space in the rear
The new BMW 1 Series is more spacious than the preceding model, in fact it feels hardly any smaller than the 3 Series from behind the wheel. The seats feel comfortable, with plenty of adjustability and the controls are all logically laid out and within arm’s reach. The centrally located starter button is just where you need it, but you may initially be pawing at the dashboard until you get used to its new location.
However, electrical seat adjustment comes only with the pricey Comfort Pack 2 option, and if you want to keep your derriere warm in winter in the lower spec SE and Sport trims, you’ll need to add the Comfort Pack 1 package as well.
You get two centrally mounted cupholders, with space for two large water bottles in the door pockets and there’s a generous covered storage compartment between the front seats. Ahead of the cupholders there is a place for your mobile (with optional wireless charging and infotainment connectivity) and the glovebox is spacious enough for a few smaller items.
Space in the back seats
All 1 Series models come with rear doors which makes getting into the back seats a breeze, unfortunately this is one area where the 3 Series is far more spacious, although the 1 Series compares reasonably well with more natural alternatives like the A-Class and A3.
While the rear seats aren’t quite as supportive as the front pair, they will still accommodate three adults – even taller ones – and easily accessible ISOFIX mounts make slotting in a baby seat a simple affair. Two decently sized door pockets and a handy little storage compartment in the back of the centre console are provided for bottles and other smaller items. When you aren’t using the central rear seat, you can use the folding armrest which offers a set of cupholders as well.
With 380 litres of boot space with the rear seats up, the 1 Series matches the Audi A3 and shades the A-Class for load lugging ability. Fold the back seats down and you get 1,200 litres of additional space.
Folding rear seats are standard, but you’ll need to pay a little extra for the flexibility of a 40:20:40 split. The parcel shelf can be stored beneath the luggage compartment and in addition to some bag hooks on either side of the luggage compartment, you can also add two luggage nets which can be used with the rear seats up or down.
The BMW 1 Series has a decidedly posh looking and feeling interior and you get a decent amount of standard kit, too, although there’s not a great deal of personalisation
The cabin of the new 1 Series is superbly finished, with soft touch plastics and high quality materials on even the base models, and a pleasing solidity to the minor controls and. Cloth seats are standard, with leather available on higher trims. You don’t get a lot of personalisation here and are limited to a handful of leather colours on the Sport and M Sport trims, and an interior lighting package to spruce up the interior. The top 128ti trim adds some sporty red stitching and sports seats to the mix.
The dashboard layout mimics that of the 3 Series, it now even gets the 10.3-inch digital driver display (Live Cockpit Professional in BMW speak) as standard. The infotainment system is also 10.3 inches (the 8.8-inch touchscreen has been dropped) and comes standard with DAB radio, WiFi hotspot and BMW’s online assistance services. It may lack the visual pizzaz of the unit in the Mercedes, but it’s arguably the most user-friendly system around.
Optional extras range include enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, a 750-watt Harman Kardon sound system and the always-useful parking assistant. The active guard plus driver assistance system comes as standard, but for a more comprehensive active safety system you will need the optional Driving Assistant. It includes blind spot detection, a city brake function and rear collision prevention.
For the last word in frugality, the 116bhp 116d is the one to get. It can manage up to 61.4mpg in mixed driving, although we would stretch to the 150bhp 118d which is appreciably sprightlier and still manages 60.1mpg. The 116d has a company car Benefit In Kind tax rating of 29-30% while the 118d is 30-31% for the 2022/23 tax year.
The entry-level 136bhp 1.5-litre petrol-powered 118i matches the Mercedes A-Class in power and performance while being slightly more frugal at 49.6mpg overall vs the Merc’s 47.1mpg. The base Audi makes do with just 110bhp, but there is also a 150bhp model which is more comparable in performance and fuel economy. In essence, these German rivals are very evenly matched when it comes to entry-level models.
However, whereas both Audi’s and Mercedes’s most powerful diesel offerings top out at 150bhp, BMW’s 120d packs 190bhp and is paired solely with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It can be had with all-wheel-drive which gives it a quick 7.0-second 0-62mph sprint time.
Aside from the M models (reviewed separately), the 128ti is the range-topper of the 1 Series offerings. It comes with a 265bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and will sprint to 62mpg in just 6.1 seconds. Its combined fuel economy rating of 40.9mpg is commendable but inevitably trails the rest of the 1 Series range. Its BIK rating falls between 36-37%.
The BMW 1 Series achieved a full five-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP crash test. Adult occupants received an 83% safety rating while child occupants scored an even higher 87%. These results show that it is one of the safest small cars on the road, especially when it comes to rear occupant safety.
LED headlights, cruise control and front and rear parking sensors are all standard, although keyless entry and some advanced active driving aids cost extra. You do get lane departure warning and front collision warning as standard.
The previous generation 1 Series was rated highly for reliability in numerous surveys during its production run, and the new model has continued this trend and has regularly outscored other compact premium offerings in its class.
It comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, which can be extended for up to 100,000 miles after the initial three-year period. There are three levels of cover from fully comprehensive to a basic driveline option which covers the main engine and driveline components for work up to £5,000. You also get a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty as standard.
Configure your own 1 Series on carwow
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.