Fun to drive but doesn’t major on practicality
- Engaging to drive
- Superb diesel economy
- M140i an accomplished hot hatch
- Impressive material quality
- Cramped, especially in the rear
- On the pricey side to buy
- Styling is divisive
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but you would have to be a bit of a fan to believe the BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch is a good-looking hatchback.
In fact its long bonnet and rounded rear-end make it look as though it had been prodded a little with the ugly stick, but at its reward-biased stance is a visual clue to the range being predominantly rear-wheel drive – and unusual choice in this class.
This puts a clear emphasis on driving fun over outright practicality, giving it a distinct advantage over its core Germanic rivals – the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and higher-spec versions of the Volkswagen Golf, let alone more individualistic choices such as the Lexus CT, Infiniti Q30 and Volvo V40.
Unlike the first-generation 1 Series range that also featured Coupe and Convertible alternatives, those have been separated out into the BMW 2 Series range for the second iterations.
Comprehensive engine line-up
There's the ever-impressive line of efficient and clean turbocharged engines for the 1 Series that inevitably appear across the BMW and MINI ranges.
You’ll have to ignore the boot badges as if they match the capacity of the engine it’s more by accident than design – the excellent mid-range 120i and 120d have 2.0-litre motors, but then so do the 118d, 125i and 125d.
At the lower end of the range, three-cylinder 1.5-litre motors can be found in the 116d and 118i models while the high-performance M140i (there’s no M1 sister car to the M2 Coupe) utilises a six-cylinder 3.0-litre unit, capable of sprinting from a standstill to 62mph in 4.6 seconds.
Unlike other ranges in the BMW line-up, there are now plug-in hybrid versions of the 1 Series Sports Hatch, making the 116d EfficientDynamics the most efficient with claims of up to 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 89g/km.
Choose the 120d and you can also specify xDrive all-wheel drive. There’s a small efficiency penalty due to the extra weight of the system, but that extra traction makes it marginally quicker than the rear-wheel drive alternative.
High BMW 1 Series equipment levels
Long gone are the days when German-made premium-priced cars were well-engineered and poorly equipped. While the engineering legacy remains, there’s a wealth of standard kit on the 1 Series even if you plump for the entry-level SE.
Even here alloy wheels, climate control, keyless start and automatic wipers are part of the package. Most people tend to upgrade to Sport and M Sport, though, with M140i appearing as a standalone spec at the range’s pinnacle.
The trim offering was further bolstered in summer 2017 with the arrival of the M Sport Shadow Edition featuring darkened exterior elements to make it look a tad racier.
There’s a wealth of extras to choose from, many of which carry hefty price tags, so if you fancy a Harman/Kardon speaker upgrade or a Professional Navigation system expect to pay for the privilege.
BMW 1 Series facelift in 2015
Making the styling less divisive in 2015, the BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch received a mild mid-life facelift, with particularly emphasis on making the nose and tail look more like other models in the range.
The original triangular headlamps gave way to more horizontal units closer to the look of the 2 Series Coupe and Convertible, while the tail lights switched from being vertically orientated to being wider lenses bisected by the tailgate opening.
Interior tweaks were more restrained with detail changes to the dashboard and a range of new seat fabrics.
The Parkers Verdict
In a segment where practicality and family-friendly flexibility tend to dominate buyers’ choices, the BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch is a much more individual proposition: it’s a driver’s car with a degree of functionality built-in, so consider your priorities carefully before ordering one.
Read the full review to find out all you need to know about the BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch
What owners say about this car
The car is a joy to drive, the driving position and seat adjustment allows anyone to find their optimum seat... Read owner review
Fast, discrete, practical, everything I ever needed. Daily commute of 60 miles no problem, comfortable on A roads, fun on... Read owner review
Has been a pleasure to own. Bought from main dealer with 9K miles. Routine servicing every 16000 miles,... Read owner review