30 January 2012 by Lewis Kingston, Consumer Journalist

  • Tempted by a BMW 1 Series but not sure what to get?
  • We reveal the best engine and equipment choices
  • Save money and time when buying a new car

When it comes to buying a new car, you've several difficult decisions to make.

Firstly, you've got to spend time reading reviews, visiting dealers and talking to colleagues and friends to work out what you might want.

Once you've done that, you'll hopefully narrow down your potential new car choices to one model.

Then, just when you thought you'd made the hardest decision, and are set to purchase your new car, the dealer throws an array of spanners in the works - the options list.

The value or importance of some options may not be obvious, and making the wrong decisions can make your car harder to sell. You might even find that your car depreciates harder if it's missing certain important options, meaning you'd lose more money over time.

So, if you're considering purchasing a BMW 1 Series hatchback, read our buying guide to find out what you should really look for.

ES, SE, Sport or Urban?

The BMW 1 Series isn't fantastically well equipped in ES specification - buyers just get the usual air-con, alloy wheels, and a CD player.

As a result, it's well worth paying the marginal premium to upgrade to SE trim. This adds an upmarket-looking 6.5-inch display and iDrive controller, Bluetooth hands free, a USB connection, steering wheel controls and a speed limiter. It's a much more appropriate and desirable specification for a premium hatchback.

The two other trims, the identically priced Sport and Urban, don't really add much over SE specification. They consist mainly of cosmetic upgrades, such as bigger alloys and different interior trim. Unless you particularly like the look, spend the money on other options.

Petrol or diesel?

Buyers can pick from either both petrol and diesel engines.

The diesel option is a 2.0-litre engine producing either 116bhp or 143bhp. These are badged 116d or 118d respectively. The petrol option is a 1.6-litre engine with either 136bhp or 170bhp. These are badged 116i or 118i.

In either instance, go for the higher-powered option if you can. There's very little difference in fuel economy, if any at all, and they're no more expensive to tax. The top-specification engines will also be faster and more relaxing to drive, and more likely to return closer to their quoted economy figures.

Don't automatically discount the petrol options either. Depending on your mileage and usage, the petrol versions could prove just as cheap to run.

Which options should I really go for?

As with many BMWs, there's an option list as long as your arm. You can spend thousands on extras but, as is usually the case, there's only a handful that you should really pick if they aren't already standard: DAB digital radio, the BMW Professional radio, Bluetooth hands-free and USB connectivity, and steering wheel controls.

These are options that will future-proof your car, as well as making it more desirable to potential buyers later on. They will also make it easier to live with.

Buyers can pay a premium for a leather interior but we'd advise that you stick with the standard fabric interior. It'll be easier to look after and shouldn't wear as quickly. That's particularly important if you've got a small family or intend to do lots of miles.

Are any of the 'packages' worth considering?

Four option packs are on offer: sun protection, driver comfort, interior comfort and visibility. Some of the equipment included in these is standard on some models, which reduces the price of the pack. 

Those who are looking to cover long distances should pick the driver comfort pack. This includes cruise control and rear parking sensors, and will remove some of the hassle from day-to-day driving.

The interior comfort pack should also be on your list. This adds climate control, additional interior lighting and a few more storage options. Details like these will help sell the car to someone, when the time comes, as well as improving that 'premium' feel.

BMW's relatively inexpensive sun protection pack is also worth specifying. It adds an anti-glare windscreen band and tinted glass which helps keep the cabin cool and reduces glare. It does darken the glass though, so be wary of the cosmetic difference it may make.

The most expensive package, the visibility pack, adds a few nice touches but most buyers won't notice any major differences unless they're previously had a car with similar kit.

Do I need to look out for anything else?

Most of the available colours for the 1 Series are pretty conventional, but there is a particularly bright orange available. Try to stick to the less vivid choices.

The ideal combination?

A BMW 1 Series 118d or 118i, in SE specification with a cloth interior, the optional DAB digital radio, the sun protection pack and the driver and interior comfort pack. SE trim already includes several of the suggested options, so there's relatively little else to add.

Parkers Top Tip:

Thinking about buying a car? Check out the Parkers car buyer's toolkit for more advice and information.