The driver’s seat is mounted low, so tall drivers will have plenty of head room, and the standard seats have a reasonable amount of adjustment.
However, the 1 Series is not the easiest family hatch to get comfortable in. You have to pull a plastic lever to shift the backrest, and the clunky movement can make small adjustments quite tricky. More frustrating is the height adjustment, which requires you to pull a lever and either lift your weight off the seat to allow it to rise, or put more pressure on it to drop it. The pedals are offset to the right, too, forcing you to sit at an awkward angle. It’s also frustrating that adjustable lumbar costs extra on most models.
Still, the centre console is tilted towards the driver, making the minimal array of buttons easier to reach, and the iDrive controller is next to the gearlever, where your hand naturally rests.
BMW 1 Series visibility
The view out of the front of the 1 Series is excellent, and, although the bonnet drops away, it’s easy enough to judge where the front wheels are when you’re threading it through traffic.
A small rear window and relatively thick pillars mean that the over-the-shoulder view is a bit restricted, though, particularly when joining the motorway. It’s not as bad as in the Mercedes A-Class, but all-round visibility is not as good as in the boxier Audi A3, or Volkswagen Golf. Parking sensors and a reversing camera are both on the options list and are reasonably priced.
BMW 1 Series infotainment
Every car in the 1 Series range has a standard 6.5in colour screen, mounted on top of the centre console. It’s controlled via the iDrive system, which is one of the most intuitive and user-friendly interfaces around. There is a large rotary control wheel near the gearstick, with simple shortcut buttons for all the major functions. The graphics are slick and the menus only take a moment to get your head around.
Bluetooth and audio streaming, a single CD player, a DAB digital radio, multifunction steering wheel and USB connection are also standard across the range, with the option to upgrade to an excellent Harman Kardon stereo, or even a larger display screen and sat-nav with real time traffic information and mobile internet services, plus a 12GB music hard drive, as part of the BMW Professional package. Only the 116d ED Plus model gets sat-nav as standard.
BMW 1 Series build quality
Fit and finish in the BMW 1 Series is well above average, although a few pieces of trim - especially the door pockets and the glovebox lid – feel quite hard and scratchy. There’s a nice mixture of brushed metal and gloss black surfaces in higher spec cars, but they can also be fitted as options on entry-level models.
All the major controls are solidly built and robust, although the indicator stalks and stereo controls are made from harder, flimsier plastics. In terms of its rivals, the Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Golf feel plusher, but only by a narrow margin.