This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW 1-Series Hatchback review.

Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Smallest engines are shared with MINI
  • Whole range is turbocharged for efficiency
  • Range-topping M140i is a fun hot hatch

There’s a turbocharged engine to suit most needs within the BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch range, from diesels that eke out every tankful to high-performance versions to sate those of an enthusiastic bent.

BMW 1 Series diesels – popular and strong

Entry-point to the diesel 1 Series line-up is the 116d, powered by a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged unit as seen in various MINIs. In this installation there’s 116hp and 270Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, resulting in a top speed of 124mph and a 10.5-second 0-62mph time, regardless of whether you go for the six-speed manual or the optional eight-speed automatic.

The remaining diesels all use the same basic four-cylinder 2.0-litre unit in various states of tune.

Producing 150hp and 330Nm of torque from 1,750rpm is the 118d, also available in manual and automatic forms. Both post a 132mph top speed, but the auto’s a little quicker 0-62mph with an 8.2-second time versus the manual’s 8.4.

Outputs are ramped up to 190hp and 400Nm of torque for the 120d, again with a choice of transmissions. Both can reach 142mph, but once more the auto’s the quicker accelerator: 7.1 seconds for the 0-62mph compared with the manual’s 7.2-second time. 

Performance-chasing turbo petrols 

There’s another three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine shared with the MINI Hatch (and BMW i8) in the 118i, a model that’s remarkably brisk considering it only conjures up 136hp and 220Nm of torque at 1,250rpm. 

The six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic gearbox choices are present, each with a 130mph top speed and not-too-shabby 0-62mph times of 8.5 and 8.7 seconds, respectively.

It’s a four-cylinder 2.0-litre motor under the 120i’s bonnet, again with a choice of transmissions acting as conduits to transmit 184hp and 290Nm of torque at 1,350rpm to the rear wheels. Both post 7.1-second 0-62mph times, but at 143mph the manual has a 3mph higher top speed than the auto.

Driven: BMW 118d 

Although it’s tuned for efficiency rather than performance, the 118d is sprightly enough to make quick progress through traffic, delivering a suitable dose of urgency to the rear wheels to make safe overtaking manoeuvres.

You’re required to work the slick six-speed manual gearbox to make the best progress though, but do so and it’ll propel the 118d Sport to 62mph from standstill in a not-too-shabby 8.4 seconds. For private buyers and company car drivers alike impressive fuel economy and low CO2 emissions are particularly pertinent.

 


 

Driven: BMW 120i

The BMW 120i is powerful, smooth and quick off the mark making pulling out of junctions and overtaking easy. It’s no ‘hot hatch’, but it is good fun to drive, especially when your journey involves a country lane or two. The six-speed manual gearbox well-matched to the engine and the car is comfortable on the motorway. 

Driven: BMW 140i

Breathed over by BMW’s M Division – but not a fully-blown M1 sister to the M2 Coupe – the M140i has a six-cylinder 3.0-litre engine shoehorned under its bonnet that boasts of 340hp and 500Nm of torque at 1,520rpm.

Both transmission types feature again, but while the pair share the somewhat academic 155mph electronically governed top speed, the automatic’s 4.6-second 0-62mph time trumps the (now discontinued) manual’s 4.8-second quote.

  • Balanced handling thanks to rear-wheel drive
  • Comfort hasn’t been sacrificed for agility
  • xDrive available – but do you need it?

It’s the only rear-wheel drive car in the compact family hatchback segments and the BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch is all the more enjoyable to drive because of it. 

Thanks to the inline engine layout and rear-wheel drive powertrain, the 1 Series has an equal weight distribution front to rear, which gives it intrinsic balance, rather than tail-happy waywardness.

BMW’s engineers have made this second-generation 1 Series 51mm wider at the front and 71mm at the rear compared with its predecessor, while the suspension has been enhanced to delivery increased levels of both agility and comfort.

Well-balanced and fun handling

It’s well-balanced, corners brilliantly and has good body control thanks to its sports suspension – you’ll experience very little lean when cornering here. The variable sports steering is excellent too - well weighted with good feedback.

Even in the wet there is a lot of grip from the tyres but traction can be improved further on the 120d with its xDrive all-wheel drive system. Think carefully before you buy one though: a rear-wheel drive 120d with winter tyres could well suffice.

BMW M140i handling

Where the M140i should shine is in steering and handling. If you're not looking for that rock-solid planted feel of a front- or four-wheel drive hot hatch, the M140i hits the mark. There's plenty of response, and for those who enjoy old-school thrills, you can get the rear end to slide if you're aggressive with the throttle in bends. Most of the time, stability control will look aftrer you, but put it in Sport+ mode, and that safety system is disabled.

Sadly, the steering lacks the fine road feel you associate with sporting BMWs, even if it's responsive, while the ride is never anything other than choppy. In Comfort mode, it's fine on smooth roads, but get it on a lumpy B-road, and the vertical suspension movement will rapidly tire you out. In Sport, it's firmer still, but there's not enough compensation in terms of grip and poise.