4.1 out of 5 4.1
Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

BMW's smallest model is a brilliant all-rounder

BMW 1-Series Hatchback Review Video
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At a glance

New price £25,360 - £40,685
Lease from new From £231 p/m View lease deals
Used price £15,300 - £32,780
Used monthly cost From £382 per month
Fuel Economy 35.3 - 62.8 mpg
Road tax cost £150 - £475
Insurance group 16 - 36 How much is it to insure?


  • Superb refinement
  • Improved practicality
  • Loads of gadgets
  • Strong performance


  • Rear-seat headroom could still be better
  • Disappointing digital dashboard
  • M135i xDrive should be more exciting
  • M Sport adds little standard equipment

BMW 1-Series Hatchback rivals

Written by James Dennison on

The BMW 1 Series - the German company's smallest and cheapest model in the range - is now in its third generation, and remains a slightly controversial car. When it first debuted, some struggled to get on with the way it looks, and this latest model is no different. That clearly hasn't mattered too much, as the 1 Series has been a sales hit for BMW, and there's little reason to suggest it won't continue that way. 

This new car has also become front-wheel drive (the older models were rear-wheel drive), which enthusiasts may not be happy about, but this is a change that's unlikely to dent the appeal too much, and most buyers won't notice any difference in the way the car drives. This change has come because underneath the new body, the 1 Series sits on mechanical components and a chassis that's shared with other models in the BMW Group. 

New underpinnings have also enabled BMW to cut down the length of the car while boosting interior space compared with the older model, a win-win for small families and those using the car in town, surely. 

BMW hopes that all of the above will be enough to bring the 1 Series back on par with the consistently excellent Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, as well as cheaper (yet still highly accomplished rivals) such as the Ford Focus, Mazda 3 and Kia Ceed.

We've tested this model back to back with the Audi and Mercedes, in our premium hatch group test.

Premium hatchback grouptest

Three diesel engines and two petrols – including M135i xDrive

The 1 Series is available with five engines and three gearbox options. If you want petrol then it’s a straight choice between the 1.5-litre 118i (also the cheapest in the range) and the M135i xDrive hot hatchback (the most expensive version on offer). The latter is priced as such because it packs 306hp and 450Nm of torque from a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, good for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. It’s the closest like-for-like replacement to the M140i, despite BMW ditching the popular 3.0-litre straight-six cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive layout.

For those who want the fuel economy of a diesel model the 116d doesn’t disappoint, returning a claimed average figure of 61.4mpg and producing as little as 100g/km of CO2. A 2.0-litre 118d and 120d xDrive version are also available. Gearbox options vary depending on model, with some available with both a six-speed manual or seven/eight-speed automatic, while others are auto-only. 

How big is it? 

Based on the same platform as the X1 and X2 BMW SUVs, the 1 Series is actually 5mm shorter than its predecessor owing, in part, to a rejigged engine and gearbox layout. This hasn’t saved any space with regards to height or width however, where the 1 Series has grown by 13 and 34mm respectively. It actually looks more squat in real life than in the pictures, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it looks a bit higher up compared with the previous model that looked particularly low to the ground. 

The end result is a car that feels more spacious in the cabin and luggage compartment (even if rear headroom is a little tight) yet doesn’t feel any more cumbersome when parking. It’s worth checking your garage size, however, as the increased height and width could be troublesome if you’re swapping out of a previous generation 1 Series.

Four trim levels including popular M Sport 

The 1 Series is available with four trim levels – SE, Sport, M Sport and M135i xDrive. All models come as standard with air-con, Bluetooth, BMW Live Cockpit Plus, Apple CarPlay, cruise control, LED headlights and front and rear parking sensors. As is often the case with BMW, upgrading to one of the sportier specs brings little in the way of additional equipment, with the changes more focused on styling and design tweaks. That doesn't seem an issue for many buyers - M Sport is usually the most popular in the UK.

Upgrade to the M135i xDrive, however, and features such as BMW Live Cockpit Professional (with a 10.25-inch digital dashboard), BMW Operating System 7.0 infotainment system and Connected Package Professional are included on top of/in replacement to other features.

How comfortable is it?

The 1 Series is available with five different suspension types – namely standard suspension, M Sport (lowered by 10mm), M Sport M135i xDrive, adaptive regular dampers and adaptive dampers tuned for M135i xDrive. Quite the selection, and during our test drives with the latter two, we found it erring towards the firmer end of the scale yet stopping short of feeling uncomfortable.

Aside from the suspension, all-round refinement is excellent thanks to low engine, wind and tyre noise, plus a polished feel to the cabin and seats. Even when worked hard, the 118d unit proved hushed and well-mannered, settling down to barely a whisper on the motorway.

Dealwatch special

Our leasing partner, ZenAuto is offering the BMW 1 Series for £231 per month. The usual terms and conditions apply.

View deal

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the BMW 1 Series including its practicality, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

BMW 1 Series (2020) rear view

BMW 1-Series Hatchback rivals

Other BMW 1-Series models: