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BMW 1 Series: Which version is best?

  • Thinking of buying a BMW 1 Series?
  • Which trim offers the best value for money?
  • Everything you need to know in our buyers’ guide

A hugely popular car here in the UK - with both company car drivers and retail buyers alike - nearly two million BMW 1 Series models have been sold since it first went on sale 10 years ago.

Deciding that you want a BMW 1 Series as your next new car is only half the battle. With numerous versions and engines to pick, plus some special editions, it can be pretty daunting trying to choose which version is best for you.

Here we take a closer look at the different trims and engines available plus the variety of options on offer. Don't forget to read our full review of the BMW 1 Series and check out our Cars for Sale section for local deals.

BMW 1 Series - SE, Sport or M Sport trim?

You can currently buy the BMW 1 Series in three trims; SE, Sport and M Sport. Following a facelift in 2015, standard kit is very reasonable indeed.

BMW 1 Series: Which version is best?

Entry-level SE trim includes equipment like sat-nav, keyless start, electrically heated door mirrors, air-con, automatic lights and wipers, DAB radio, six loudspeakers, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloy wheels and fog lights.

For £1,000 extra you can move up to Sport trim, which upgrades the wheels to 17-inch alloys and adds ambient lighting, sports seats and sporty exterior styling touches.

To reach the top-of-the range M Sport you’ll be looking at a further £1,700 which upgrades the alloys to 18-inch, adds M Aerodynamic body styling, M Sport suspension, LED headlights and Alcantara upholstery.

BMW 1 Series engine range

You have a wide range of choice when it comes to engines in the BMW 1 Series, and except for the 120D xDrive model, there are no exclusions for choosing either three- or five-door models.

BMW 1 Series: Which version is best?

If running costs are at the top of your priority list, the new 116d EfficientDynamics Plus engine is the one to pick offering an impressive combined fuel consumption figure of 83.1mpg, with CO2 emissions at just 89g/km meaning tax bills will be free until April 2017.

Despite the low running costs, performance figures are pretty good too with its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine generating 114bhp and 270Nm of torque, an increase of 10Nm compared to its predecessor, capable of accelerating the car from 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds.

Other diesel choices include the 118d, 120d and 125d, all of which use the same four-cylinder diesel engine in three different tuning set ups, ranging from 148bhp to 221bhp.

The 118d offers a good mix of running costs with performance, the 148bhp and 330Nm of torque can get you from 0-62mph in around eight seconds while still offering a combined fuel economy figure over 70mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 99g/km (also tax-free for now).

BMW 1 Series: Which version is best?

If that’s not enough performance for you then the higher powered diesels could suit you better; beware, though, as it can start getting very expensive, the 125d particularly.

BMW 1 Series - petrol or diesel?

If you prefer the refinement of a petrol engine and plan to travel shorter trips in a more urban environment, you’ve got two 1.6-litre engines in 118i and 120i guise and a 2-litre for the 125i to choose from, with power ranging from 134bhp to 215bhp.

The four-cylinder engine in the 125i can accelerate from 0-62mph in just over six seconds, making it just as quick as the 125d, yet almost £3,500 cheaper.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard for most new 1 Series cars, except the 125d which features an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters and launch control. This box is offered as an option in the 125i, M135i, 120d and BMW 120d xDrive models.

BMW 1 Series: Which version is best?

BMW 1 Series - the hot hatch option

The BMW 1 Series is the only car in its segment to come with rear-wheel drive and as a result it’s dynamically more rewarding to drive. This is only heightened further with its performance model, the M135i.

Fitted with a turbocharged straight-six engine there’s a staggering 322bhp available with peak torque of 450Nm, enabling a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds.

Despite the sporty handling and quick performance, running costs are not as bad as you may think with a combined fuel economy of 35mpg, it’s not cheap to buy though with prices starting at £31,200 for the three-door model.

BMW 1 Series - options worth considering

Although standard kit has greatly improved over the past ten years, the 1 Series still doesn’t offer cruise control or parking sensors as standard unlike many of its rivals, they form part of a comfort pack for £550.

For those winter months we would definitely consider the heated seats for £295 and a heated steering wheel for £160.

BMW 1 Series: Which version is best?

We are big fans of BMW’s LED headlamps and although they are a little on the pricey side at £645, they are a great edition if you can afford it. We would also consider the High Beam Assist system which only costs £110.

If you like your music then consider upgrading the sound system to the Harman Kardon system; for £600 you get 12 loudspeakers, an external amplifier and two subwoofers.

One of the most popular options to add is leather interior for £1,150. Although pricey (leather upgrades always are), it should add to the resale value when you come to sell.

Which BMW 1 Series would Parkers buy?

Buying with our heads and hitting the right balance of performance, low running costs and value for money we would go for the 118d Sport.

That said, we would probably end up letting our hearts take over and buy the M135i anyway.

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