The 1 Series has become one of BMW’s most popular cars since being first introduced back in 2003 by the German firm.
As with Audi’s and Mercedes’ offerings, it offers buyers a premium image at an ‘entry-level’ price point, meaning the 1 Series has been very successful– appearing several times in the top 10 UK car chart. It’s also one of the best hatchbacks there is to drive, too – remaining with BMW’s philosophy of being the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’.
The latest version is more of a facelift, though. LED daytime running lights are now fitted as standard, while there has been a general improvement in equipment levels, with climate control and a 6.5-inch infotainment display coming on every model, unless upgraded.
BMW offers a wide engine choice on the 1 Series, including three-, four- and six-cylinder variants.
The car we’ve tested here is the four-cylinder diesel 120d option paired with BMW’s all-wheel drive ‘xDrive’ system.
It’s hugely impressive to drive, with 187bhp and 400Nm of torque on tap, the performance is effortless and seamless. It allows for a top speed of 135mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds. The eight-speed automatic transmission is fitted in this case and provides great smooth gear changes.
For those wanting even more in the way of performance, there’s the addictive 340bhp M140i for that.
Ride and handling
The 1 Series remains one of the best hatches to drive.
Accurate and precise steering inspires confidence, while also feeling well-weighted both in the city and outside of it. The traction from the xDrive system is also very impressive.
The grip from the xDrive system is superb, though, with only really brutal treatment forcing it to step it out of line. Compare this to BMW’s tail-happy rear-wheel-drive cars, though, and it starts to make a lot more sense.
Even fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, the 1 Series still managed to be a fun and sharp car to drive, but when you want it to settle down on the motorway, it’s equally as good at cruising.
The ride is also good, absorbing potholes with suppleness, although it’s worth avoiding the sporty M Sport model and larger wheels if ride comfort is your priority.
Interior and equipment
The interior is very much still a BMW, with the firm’s instantly recognisable infotainment display and rotary dial to control the ‘iDrive’ system. It’s an intuitive system to use, it feels premium and well put together.
As with most BMWs the interior is centred towards the driver, with the centre console and displays tilted towards you.
Front space is impressive, with a good driving position, too. Rear legroom is a bit limited and a sloping roof line doesn’t offer as much room as the Volkswagen Golf, although two adults will still be able to be comfortable.
Spec changes to the 1 Series have added more kit as standard. Satellite navigation, climate control, alloy wheels, LED rear lights and daytime running lights as well as a 6.5-inch infotainment display and leather steering wheel being fitted to every model.
The BMW 1 Series is marketed as a premium hatchback, meaning it will cost considerably more than a Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, for example.
The range starts at £22,410, or £600 more if you want a five-door version. That makes it a bit more expensive than the Audi A3, but considerably cheaper than the Mercedes A-Class. This 120d xDrive model is priced at £31,160.
As for running costs , the 120d xDrive emits 138g/km of CO2 and managed 54.3mpg on the combined cycle. It’s worth noting that the xDrive system does compromise efficiency, though. If fuel costs are vitally important to you, it’s worth looking at the more efficient 118d model, which is a detuned version of the 120d, offering 90 per cent of the performance, and costing around £5,000 less.
The 1 Series is one of the best hatchbacks there is to drive. Even with a diesel engine under the bonnet, it’s still as great behind the wheel as some hot hatches.
While it might be a touch pricey and have compromised practicality, it’s a fine hatchback, with even further appeal when you consider the range of engines, fuel types and trims on offer.Save money on a new BMW today
Model (as tested): 120d xDrive
Price (as tested): £31,160
Engine: Four-cylinder diesel
Top speed: 135mph
0-60mph: 6.7 seconds