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There is a newer version of this car Read the latest BMW 1-Series Hatchback review here

BMW 1-Series Hatchback review

2004 - 2011 (change model)
” BMW's first 1 Series can make a cracking used buy - but choose carefully “

At a glance

Price new £15,845 - £31,600
Used prices £684 - £5,602
Road tax cost £35 - £675
Insurance group 17 - 34
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Fuel economy Not tested to latest standards
Range 350 - 718 miles
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types



Pros & cons

  • Great to drive
  • Excellent diesels
  • Later cars come with EfficientDynamics
  • Space in the rear is tight
  • Styling not to everyones taste
  • Plenty of poor examples around

Written by Parkers Experts Published: 8 February 2022 Updated: 8 February 2022


BMW launched the 1 Series back in 2004 to mixed reactions. But the doubters soon had their thoughts or comments dashed as this all-new range of hatches, coupes and cabriolets soon became fast selling cars and highly sought after in the used car trade.

Slotting in nicely beneath the 3 Series, the car offers a comprehensive range of trim levels and, as expected with a BMW of this era, a number of fuel injected four and six cylinder petrol power units, including some powerful turbocharged models. Diesel options came in three sizes, and all original 1 Series were rear wheel drive.

One initial concern with the 1 Series was the worry that it was going to be cut-price BMW. Customers had nothing to worry about in this area as the car was extremely well put together. Such an exacting level of interior and exterior build quality from new makes spotting a rogue one easy.

Panel fit, paint applications and interior finish were all streets ahead of lesser competition and the car was also blessed with very keen road manners. Small it may have been but as with most other BMW’s the 1 Series was big on fun, too, thanks to it being all the more compact.

Despite earliest examples now being nearly two decades old, in the right ownership these cars wear it well and still look fresh and modern. But beware of overpriced nails, trashed and abused M-Sport or ham-fistedly customised examples – there’s plenty out there to catch you out.

BMW 1 Series Mk1 known faults and common problems

1. Uneven rear tyre wear

Pay attention to the wear patterns on the rear tyres for outer or inner edge feathering. Some earlier cars had a defect in the rear axle at manufacture causing this, but most were sorted out under warranty. However, it could also point to something being bent or out of kilter so look carefully.

2. Damp under rear seats

Have a look where the rear seat belt buckles bolt through the floor for any sign of wetness or dampness. A floor-pan grommet may be missing that can also cause electric gremlins to damp control units or relays that are fitted in the boot.

3. Body panels

BMW built these things properly, so ensure all the panels align with exact precision. Flat or cloudy paint indicates previous bodyshop activity and check the spare wheel well for wonky sealer or buckled metal indication accident damage. Check the cabriolet roof raises and lowers smoothly without juddering.

4. Poor quality upgrades

If the car has a circus exhaust, gold painted brake callipers, 80% window tints and huge aftermarket alloy wheels fitted, ask yourself is this what you really want. Poorly specified wheel and tyre equipment make these normally sweet driving cars rather miserable to own.

5. Paperwork

Does the vendor have title to sell this vehicle? Check for outstanding finance, service history and bills of sale to prove previous work has been done. Walk away from vehicles with ‘Fast-Fit’ centre service history but take note that some unofficial BMW brand specialist garages are more thorough and quality orientated than a BMW main agent – do your research.

6. Random warning lights

Make sure the dashboard isn’t showing fault lights for items like the ABS or PDC (parking distance control. This may be related to water ingress mentioned earlier as it can cause havoc in the wiring system.

7. Blue rear brake discs

If the discs at the rear are showing signs of ‘blueing’ this points towards overheating brakes possibly caused by sticking callipers. Always replace these items in matching pairs, ideally from a reputable make if not using original BMW parts.

8. Ignition coil packs

When starting from cold, be aware of a smell of petrol with a distinct miss-fire or lumpiness when idling. Coil packs are a common issue, especially on four-cylinder cars. If left unresolved can terminally damage the catalytic convertor and is best cured by replacing all the packs in one sitting.

9. Turbocharger failure

If the engine makes a distinct crying noise on acceleration or notable smoke can be seen from the exhaust, budget for a new or reconditioned turbocharger.

10. Timing chain noise

On the 1.6 or 2.0 diesel units (N47 engine) there is a known issue with premature timing chain and / or guide wear. On cold start up listen for a brief clattering that fades after a second or two. Also, if the engine can be heard tapping or zinging from the chain area this indicates serious wear. Later engines and later replacement parts have cured this, but failure will destroy the engine completely.

BMW 1 Series 2004-2011 front view, blue, driving, used review
BMW 1 Series 2004-2011 front view, blue, driving, used review

Keep reading to find out much more about the original BMW 1 Series, including what they’re like to drive, more info about the interior and whether we think they make a good used buy.