$35,600 – $64,900
Good: Fantastic driving position; excellent drivetrains – BMW EfficientDynamics is no mere marketing catchphrase; class leading handling; brilliant chassis.
Not so Good: Unusual exterior styling; tight rear leg room; firm ride; limited standard features on entry level grades.
Design and Engineering
Good : The second generation BMW 1-Series Hatch was, and still is the only model with rear wheel drive in the prestige small segment.
All grades feature EfficientDynamics which is a range of technologies to simultaneously reduce fuel consumption whilst maintaining or even increasing performance. The bold styling is pure BMW, it’s unlikely your neighbours will mistake the 1-Series for a run-of-the-mill Japanese/Korean small car.
Not so good : The 1-Series is no natural beauty – however it’s a design that can grow on you over time. To our subjective eyes the muscular stance, long bonnet and upright windscreen works much better on the 1-Series Coupe with its small booted rear end, rather than the chunky but undeniably more practical hatch bodystyle.
Interior and Styling
Good : The 1-Series provides a truly excellent driving position. The sports steering wheel feels just right and of course adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out); the standard seats are quite comfortable, offering decent support and, importantly height adjustment; the layout of all the controls and instruments is hard to fault – most major functions are accessed through an easy to use menu button with the more driving specific options displayed between the usual BMW dials in a smaller display in the cowled driver’s binnacle. The use of materials is impressive as is the overall fit and finish.
Access to the rear bench is made easy by wide opening doors and the cargo capacity can be increased from 330 litres to over 1,100 litres by folding down the 60/40 split bench.
Not so good : A price to pay for the segment unique rear wheel drive layout is less than class leading interior space. Whilst we have no complaints up front, the back seat is a little cramped, with not enough head and legroom for anyone over 6-feet tall. As a result it can’t match the interior flexibility of a Mercedes B-Class or even the Volkswagen Golf. A better buy for couples than families?
Good : There customers can choose from both petrol and diesel engines across five different variants.
To kick things off the 116i features a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque.
Next up is the 118i which also features a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo charged petrol engine, but this time amps things up with 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
The 125i features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo charged petrol engine that manages 160kW of power and 310Nm of torque.
Fastest of the bunch, the M135i features a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that pumps out 235kW of power and a massive 450Nm of torque.
And, rounding out the 1-Series lineup is the 118d featuring a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 105kW of power and 320Nm of torque.
The entire lineup comes with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard and there is also the optional eight-speed automatic transmission with Automatic Start/Stop function.
We had a drive of the 116i and had a blast. 100kW doesn’t sound like much for a turbocharged engine, but it sure had plenty of get-up-and-go. Unlike most turbo engine that suffer from ‘turbo lag’, the 116i delivers power in a linear and smooth fashion.
Not so good : Can’t really fault engine performance, BMW offer up a wide range of engines to best suit your needs. Our only gripe is with the Start/Stop function found on the automatic models feels a little intrusive – luckily it can be switched off.
Ride and Handling
Good : If you truly enjoy driving and occasionally (or regularly) wish your hatch could also double up as a sports car, then this could well be the car for you. Steering feel – tick yes to that box as the 1-Series steering feels beautifully connected to the road and remains pin-point sharp – perfect for driving across a favourite back-road.
Handling ticks another box as quite frankly it’s that much better than most of the competition, it’s not even funny. Across all grades body roll is kept to a minimum, grip levels are high and vehicle balance is reassuringly high.
Yep, the interior flexibility disadvantages caused by a rear wheel drive layout becomes less of an issue behind the wheel. The 1-Series chassis is brilliant!
Not so good : Over rougher surfaces the overly firm ride can become a touch irritating – especially if you opt for the sports suspension and larger sized wheels.
Buying and Owning
Good : The 1-Series achieves that rare balance between performance and economy – so in this case the saying ‘you can’t have your cake and and eat it too’ is not true. The rear wheel drive platform and the turbo charged line-up is so much fun.
Not so good : If you’re looking for a hatch that is versatile enough to carry adults in the back you might be hard pressed. Otherwise a great car.