BMW 1 Series (2015-2019) Review & Prices

The BMW 1 Series might be the cheapest, smallest BMW you can buy, but it’s still great fun to drive with a lovely interior. If you’re considering a used 1 Series, our guide will tell you everything you need to know before you buy

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Reviewed by Carwow after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Good to drive
  • Wide range of engine choices
  • Well-built, premium interior

What's not so good

  • Repair costs can be high
  • Not very practical
  • Pricier than less premium alternatives
At a glance
1 Series (2015-2019)
Body type
Available fuel types
Petrol, Diesel
Acceleration (0-60 mph)
7.1 - 10.5 s
Number of seats
Boot, seats up
360 litres - 3 Suitcases
Exterior dimensions (L x W x H)
4,329mm x 1,765mm x 1,421mm
CO₂ emissions
This refers to how much carbon dioxide a vehicle emits per kilometre – the lower the number, the less polluting the car.
99 - 179 g/km
Fuel economy
This measures how much fuel a car uses, according to official tests. It's measured in miles per gallon (MPG) and a higher number means the car is more fuel efficient.
36.7 - 74.3 mpg
Insurance group
A car's insurance group indicates how cheap or expensive it will be to insure – higher numbers will mean more expensive insurance.
21E, 19E, 18E, 20E, 25E, 16E
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Find out more about the BMW 1 Series (2015-2019)

Is a used BMW 1 Series a good car?

The 1 Series is the smallest BMW you can buy, and the least expensive entry to the brand’s cars, so it’s no surprise it has been so successful since its introduction in 2004. The first and second generation models were rear-wheel drive, making them a unique proposition.

The reason for doing this, and not front-wheel drive like most competitors, is that it helps deliver a more enjoyable driving experience. There are some compromises to be made – the 1 Series isn’t hugely practical, for example – but it’s definitely one of the more fun small cars behind the wheel.

Couple this with its premium image and it’s easy to see why they have been such a sales hit, with plenty to find on the used market.

The BMW 1 Series feels a bit more special than most alternatives, with better build-quality.

Premium car makers have found success in the small car market, with BMW's 1 Series, the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class, and arguably high-specification versions of the Volkswagen Golf flying off forecourts. As a result, the used market is full of these well-built hatchbacks with interiors that have largely stood the test of time (if you can look past the dated infotainment screens, of course).

We’re focusing on the second-generation BMW 1 Series here, particularly the much-improved update that was introduced in 2015. Improvements included an overhaul of the engine line-up and a reworked exterior design that fixed some of the gawkiness that gave its predecessors rather Marmite styling.

Refreshed cars received a redesigned kidney grille, larger air intakes and slimmer headlights up front, with the latter having a full LED upgrade available. At the rear, the lights were now LED-powered as standard.

Given its extra badge appeal, the 1 Series still commands a small price premium over more mainstream nameplates like the Ford Focus, so you should be able to find a better-equipped version of that car for the same money. However, the BMW feels a bit more special, with better build-quality.

What are the engine options?

There’s a good range of engines available, but when you start to look at the facts and figures, there aren’t too many differences in fuel economy between some units, which means you can broaden your search between various power outputs.

The 116hp 116d EfficientDynamics Edition diesel engine promised the best economy at 83mpg and CO2 emissions of just 89g/km, while the regular 116d claimed a still-impressive 76mpg. The 190hp 120d and 224hp 125d options offered 69mpg and 66mpg respectively. However, the mid-range 150hp 118d was the most popular diesel at the time, also offering up to 69mpg.

A 109hp 116i petrol had a claimed 56mpg, while the 136hp 118i came back with near identical economy claims, making it the more appealing of the two. In 2016, a 120i and 125i were introduced, offering 184hp and 224hp. With a bit more power, they’re less economical, both returning about 49mpg.

These fuel economy figures were recorded on the old NEDC testing cycle, so can’t be compared directly with figures on the newer, more accurate WLTP tests. They’re also likely to be a touch optimistic, meaning you’re unlikely to quite hit these numbers in real world driving.

Most engines came with rear-wheel drive and manual gearbox options, while some offered an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive ‘xDrive’ variant, though these tend to be a bit more expensive and offer reduced fuel economy.

At the top of the range was the M135i, the 1 Series’ go-faster hot hatch variant. It has 326hp feeding all four wheels and returns about 35mpg. However, BMW introduced a new generation of M Performance engines in 2016, which saw this model become the M140i. Power increased to 340hp without hitting fuel economy, which actually improved a fraction to 36mpg.

What trim levels are available?

BMW kept the 1 Series well-equipped, meaning even the SE trims have some decent equipment for an entry-level model, such as 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, keyless start and automatic wipers. Navigation was included as standard with a 6.5-inch display, but an 8.8-inch unit was available through the Professional Navigation upgrade, so this is worth keeping an eye out for.

Next up is Sport, which added 17-inch alloy wheels, gloss black interior trim, front fog lights, heated mirrors and sports seats with cloth upholstery. Above this, the popular M Sport package added 18-inch alloy wheels, a sporty styling package, sports suspension, Alcantara upholstery and LED headlights.

The pricier M135i and M140i had a sporty styling package and various technical upgrades to make the most of their increased power, including M Sport suspension that had been lowered by 10mm compared with the regular car, upgraded brakes, sports-tuned power steering and 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there are sports seats with cloth and Alcantara upholstery and an M-specific leather steering wheel.

How practical is it?

The BMW 1 Series isn’t totally impractical, but its rear-wheel drive layout means that boot space and rear passenger roominess aren’t the best. This generation is a big improvement on its predecessor, though, meaning it’s on the lower end of average rather than outright disappointing.

Coupe and convertible versions were available early in the second generation model’s life but were phased out into the then-new 2 Series, so post-2015 models only come as a hatchback. There are three- and five-door options, with the former looking a little sleeker and the latter being better for those who need to regularly access the rear seats.

A total volume of 360 litres means that boot space is within 20 litres of the five-door Audi A3 Sportback, but it does fare better than the 345-litre load bay in the Mercedes A-Class. There’s quite a large load lip, which can make lifting heavier items in and out quite awkward, while the 40:20:40 split-folding rear bench was an optional extra, so look out for this if you want more flexible access to the 1,200 litres of seats-down space.

Front-seat passengers will find things very comfortable because there is plenty of head and leg room. Rear-seat passengers will be slightly more cramped, though overall it is still roomier than the Mercedes A-Class. Because the BMW 1 Series is rear-wheel drive, there’s a transmission tunnel running to the rear wheels, which removes most of the leg room for anyone sitting in the middle rear seat.

The five-door model is the best choice if you’ll regularly carry back-seat passengers because it’s a bit of a faff squeezing behind the front seats in the three-door version.

Storage space is a little hit and miss. The BMW 1 Series’ front door bins are large and so is the glovebox, but the rear door pockets in the five-door car are small, and the space under the front-centre armrest will hold your phone and wallet, but not a bottle of water.

Interior quality is fantastic so you should have no worries about things falling apart, even on higher mileage models. The design isn’t particularly exciting, but its chunky buttons and logical layout make it easy to fiddle with the climate controls or radio on the move.

What’s it like to drive?

The BMW 1 Series is good fun to drive but it’s also decent at motorway speeds, due to the very impressive levels of refinement. The suspension is a bit on the firm side, especially on the M Sport models, but overall there is a suitable compromise between comfort and handling.

However, despite driving the rear wheels and aiming at being more fun on a twisty road, behind the wheel the 1 Series isn’t miles ahead of the pack. It’s one of the better-handling hatchbacks, but the front-wheel drive Ford Focus is still more fun on a country road.

If you’re a long-distance driver, we’d recommend opting for one of the diesel engines and avoiding the firmer M Sport. Do so, and you’ll find a comfortable cruiser that returns excellent fuel economy.

What to look out for

It’s worth noting that, as a premium brand, BMW repairs will tend to be pricier than more mainstream brands like Ford or Skoda. You typically get a lot more badge appeal and nicer, better-built interiors, but when things go wrong they probably won’t be cheap to repair.

Fortunately, the BMW 1 Series has a decent reliability record, but one thing to note is that the engine used across the 118d, 120d and 125d has been known to have timing chain issues. This is most noticeable on a cold startup, where you’ll want to listen out for a rattling or scraping sound.

Try to find out if the brake fluid cap has been replaced, because the original allowed water into the reservoir. Also check for leaves blocking the drains between the engine bay and windscreen. This is a common issue and when they get blocked it can send water onto the electrics.

As with many premium car makers, BMW offered a long list of optional extras when new, so before you buy a car take a look through its equipment list. Don’t disregard lower-spec cars out of hand, as they might have some appealing optional extras included.

BMW 1 Series recalls

Over the course of a model’s life, it will likely be faced with recall notices for various issues that have been spotted by either the manufacturer itself or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). These are common and usually require the owner to bring their vehicle into a dealer for inspection and potentially a repair.

Any recalls that have been issued should have been addressed before you buy the car, but you can check with your local dealership or type your car’s number plate into the Government’s website to see if there are any relevant recalls.

You can read more in our handy guide, or continue on to see what recalls affect the BMW 1 Series.

The first is a software fault with the crankshaft sensor, which generally leads to a small loss in power but has also been known to stall the engine. This relates to nearly 6,000 diesel-engined cars built between May and June 2018.

The exhaust gas recirculation cooler could leak in over 70,000 cars built between July 2014 and September 2017. This posed a small risk of fire.

Safety and security

Various driver assistance technologies have been fitted to the 1 Series, including a rear-view camera, lane departure warning and automatic high beam. Options include a parking assistance system and adaptive cruise control, while BMW also added a tyre pressure indicator as standard from 2015 onwards.

The BMW 1 Series was safety tested by independent specialists Euro NCAP in 2012, shortly after the second generation went on sale. Its rating has expired now as testing has become more stringent in the past decade, but it received the full five stars at the time. It excelled in the adult occupant safety sector, scoring 91%.

What else should I consider?

BMW is a premium brand so the 1 Series’ closest competitors will be the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. If practicality is key, the Mercedes loses out as its boot is smaller than the BMW’s, but the Audi A3 is an excellent all-rounder that’s worthy of a look.

The Volkswagen Golf is an obvious choice for anyone looking at a hatchback. It’s not quite as fancy as the brands above, but if you opt for a high-specification version (or the GTI hot hatch) you’ll find it pushes them close.

If you want value for money the Ford Focus is a good shout. It’s practical and looks smart, and while its interior lags behind the BMW’s it’s the only one that’s more fun to drive. You could also consider the Skoda Octavia, which gets a huge boot and spacious cabin – though it’s not one for badge snobs.

Looking to buy a used BMW 1 Series? You can check out the latest stock from a network of trusted dealers right here on carwow. And if you need to sell your car online, we can help with that too.

Buy or lease the BMW 1 Series (2015-2019) at a price you’ll love
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