- 1 Series range has plenty of company car-friendly models
- 116d Performance Edition is our pick with low tax costs
- Great handling, solid interior with low fuel bills and low CO2
Following its refresh in 2011 the BMW 1 Series was the second best-selling BMW in the fleet arena.
In the past there were a few issues with the 1 Series. The ride wasn’t great; it wasn’t as practical as rivals and many bemoaned the ‘only a mother could love’ styling.
However, the latest iteration goes some way to addressing these issues. BMW states that it developed this model on bumpy UK roads, and it certainly shows in the way rough surfaces and imperfections in the road are absorbed through the chassis. It remains the only rear-wheel-drive car in its sector, meaning cornering is excellent and the car feel balanced even when right on the ragged edge.
Practicality wise BMW has done some work to bring the 1 Series up to speed with the competition. An extra 30 litres of boot space is available, slotting it into the hatchback hierarchy above the VW Golf – which has 10 litres less. The shape of the boot opening isn’t as cumbersome as before either, which means loading bigger objects is a little easier.
It isn’t all good news in this arena though. Although the new model has an extended wheel-base, the extra room available in the back is a miserly 2cm. In a car that never offered much in the way of space in the rear, more room is required to allow the 1 Series to seat fully-grown adults in some semblance of comfort.
Aesthetically the 1 Series benefits from a long and wider silhouette, adding some sportiness into the mix and balancing out the brave long bonnet, short boot styling that attracted so much criticism in the previous model.
So which version should a company car driver choose?
The first question you need to ask yourself is which body style should you go for? The 1 Series is available as both a three- and a five-door hatchback, or as a coupe. The best mix of practicality - thanks to the generous boot – and affordability is probably the three-door hatch.
There’s another reason too; you can buy the three-door in ‘Performance Edition’ trim. This means you’re less likely to raid the options list since you get a lot of extra kit included for only a reasonable hike of £1,500 in the P11d value of the car.
On top of the ES specification, Performance Edition includes: an ‘M’ aerodynamic bodykit, 18-inch alloy wheels, ‘M Sport’ suspension, sports seats, darker rear lights and some chrome tailpipe trims. You also get some ‘M’ badging and a covering for the steering wheel and handbrake in ‘Walknappa’ leather.
Unusually for a European hatchback, you can order a 1 Series with a choice of petrol or diesel engines that offer favourable Benefit-in-Kind costs but the Performance Edition in 116d guise is especially low. Thanks to CO2 emissions of 118g/km you’ll be in for 13% BIK liability. The P11d cost of the 116d Performance Edition is £20,685, and this works out to a monthly cost of roughly £90 per month on the 40% pay scale.
ES spec will set you back around £7 less per month using the same parameters, so for the amount of extra equipment you get it seems like a no-brainer to plump for the slightly more expensive option.
Many see the Golf as the stalwart hatchback in the class. Its combination of refined engines, excellent build quality and tactile, stylish interiors appeal to many company car drivers.
The Focus has been one of the top-selling models in the UK for many years thanks to its extensive range of efficient engines, excellent levels of equipment and seriously attractive P11d costing, making it a very popular company car.
Although slightly more expensive, the Audi is the undisputed king of car park chic. It's a fashionable car to be seen in and offers a simple, refined drive with nicely crafted interiors and - if you can afford them - some extremely desirable options too.