The latest BMW 1 Series has been on sale for more than a year, but the car maker has only just got around to adding a three-door model to the line-up.
A rival to the latest Audi A3, it’s available with a wide range of petrol engines – everything from a 101bhp 1.6 to a 315bhp 3.0-litre turbo. However, it’s the diesels that are likely to account for the majority of sales. Here we’re testing the mid-level 118d, which uses a 141bhp 2.0-litre unit.
What’s the 2012 BMW 1 Series 3dr like to drive?
The mechanicals are identical to the five-door model’s, so it’s one of the most comfortable cars in the small family hatch class (as long as you avoid M Sport suspension).
This forgiving ride doesn’t come at the expense of agility, either, because the 1 Series turns into bends sharply and is far from wallowy. It’s just a pity the steering’s speed and lightness makes the car feel quite nervous on the motorway.
BMW has only just got around to adding a three-door model to the 1 Series line-up.
The 118d’s engine is harder to fault, feeling strong across the rev range, plus there’s little mechanical clatter.
Wind- and road noise are also pretty well controlled, but the manual gearshift is rather slow and notchy.
The steering’s speed and lightness makes the car feel nervous on the motorway
What’s the 2012 BMW 1 Series 3dr like inside
While rear access obviously isn’t as good as it is in the five-door, it’s not that much worse because the rear doors in the five-door are small and oddly shaped.
Getting into the back of the three-door is certainly no harder than it is in the rival A3, and once inside you’ll find there’s enough space for a six-footer to sit behind a similar-sized driver.
The cabin is well built, too, even if it doesn’t have the A3’s wow factor, and most functions are controlled through BMW’s intuitive iDrive infotainment system.
Access to the rear seats is not much harder than in the 5dr version
The only controls that disappoint are those for adjusting the front seats, because they’re unnecessarily fiddly.
Boot space is on a par with the best small family cars, although the opening is a little narrow.
Should I buy one?
Like all versions of the 1 Series, the three-door combines a comfortable ride with a smart cabin and low running costs. What’s more, a three-door 1 Series will cost you £530 less than the equivalent five-door.
Given that rear access is a 1 Series weakness, no matter which bodystyle you choose, we’d be tempted to save the money. However, you should definitely test drive an A3 as well, because it’s even classier and better to drive.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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