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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Good to drive; prestige badge; reliable

Against Limited leg- and headroom; firm ride

Verdict The sharpest-driving car in the class, but far from roomy

Go for… 118d ES

Avoid… 130i M Sport

BMW 1 Series Hatchback
  • 1. Don't be too put off if the gearbox feels sticky when cold and difficult to get into reverse. It's normal
  • 2. If the alloy wheels are badly kerbed, the tracking will almost certainly be out
  • 3. Be wary of high mileage 130i versions in M Sport trim
  • 4. Run-Flat tyres give a bouncy ride
  • 5. Legroom in the rear is very poor - rear seat occupants will feel cramped
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BMW 1 Series Hatchback full review with expert trade views

BMW first attempted to crack the hatchback market in 1994 with the 3 Series Compact, but it failed to bother rivals such as the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. However, the 1 Series has fared far better, thanks to its blend of class and practicality.

The rear-wheel-drive 1 Series has great balance when cornering and plenty of grip, while the steering is well weighted and accurate. The ride, however, is firm, and can jar on poor road surfaces, a problem not helped by its run-flat tyres.

Even the tallest drivers should have no problem making themselves comfortable, thanks to the multi-adjustable seat and steering wheel. Rear-seat passengers won't be so happy, because of limited head- and legroom.

Trade view

There are significantly more diesel models on the used market, but don’t automatically dismiss the smaller petrol engines.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The 1 Series was originally available as a five-door only, with the three-door version following in 2007. This coincided with a mild face-lift and the introduction of more powerful, yet economical engines, and BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technology.

The 113bhp 116i petrol model has just enough punch, but was greatly improved in 2007, when power was increased to 120bhp and is the petrol engine to go for. The 118i with 127bhp (later 141bhp) is punchier and the 148bhp 120i (later 168bhp) is better still. The pinnacle of the range is the 261bhp six-cylinder 130i.

There are far more diesel-powered cars on the used market, and the 118d with 120bhp (141bhp) is a great compromise of power versus economy. It's our favourite. From launch, there was also the 161bhp (later 175bhp) 120d, which is powerful yet smooth. In mid-2007, the performance-orientated 201bhp 123d was introduced, and in early 2009, the efficient 114bhp 116d went on sale.

The entry-level model comes with four electric windows and a CD player, but no alloy wheels or air-con. The ES gets those, but the SE also adds climate control and parking sensors making it the version to look out for. The M Sport gets firmer suspension and sporty a bodykit.

Trade view

A great car to drive, but the overly firm ride and the cramped back seat could put you off.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The 116i averages between 37.7mpg and 46.3mpg, and emits between 143g/km and 181g/km of CO2, while the 118i does from 37.7mpg to 46.3mpg and emits 140g/km to 176g/km. The120i averages from 38.1mpg to 44.1mpg, with emissions from 153g/km to 178g/km. However, the 130i is significantly more expensive to run at 30.7mpg to 34mpg and CO2 emissions between 197g/km and 221g/km.

The diesels are much more efficient, with the 116d the best at 64.2mpg and 118g/km, the 118d just behind with between 50.4mpg and 62.8mpg and emissions from 119g/km to 150g/km. The 120d averages 49.5mpg to 58.9mpg and 128g/km to 153g/km of CO2. The sporty 123d averages 54.3mpg and emits 138g/km of CO2.

The 1 Series doesn’t hold its value as well as the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. The BMW is cheaper to insure than an A3, though, with cars ranging from groups 19 to 32 – however, the Golf is even cheaper. When it comes to servicing costs, the Audi and BMW are evenly matched but the Golf is cheaper.

Trade view

There are significantly more diesel models on the used market, but don’t automatically dismiss the smaller petrol engines.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The BMW has proved very dependable, and is one of the few cars to earn top marks for reliability. However, that doesn’t mean it’s totally fault free.

Front tyres can wear quickly if the tracking is out and some cars have faulty steering racks. There are also some reports of faulty manual gearboxes and clutches, making it difficult or impossible to select a gear. However, the manual gearbox is a little stiff, anyway.

Other reported problems include petrol engine ECUs failing, windows seizing shut, airbag faults – generating a warning light on the dashboard – and an issue with the electronic stability control, causing it to shut down.

So far, the 1 Series has been the subject of just a handful of recalls: one concerning a rear axle problem, an issue with the power-assisted brakes and a possible fault with the front side airbags and seat belt tensioners.

Trade view

A great car to drive, but the overly firm ride and the cramped back seat could put you off.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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