BMW 1 Series review

Category: Family car

Section: Costs & verdict

Available fuel types:petrol, diesel
Available colours:
BMW 1 Series 2021 interior infotainment
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RRP £25,915What Car? Target Price from£24,425
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Costs & verdict

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The 1 Series sits towards the more expensive end of the family car class, closely mirroring the price of the Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3. Over three years, the 1 Series will hold onto a higher percentage of its cash price than an equivalent A-Class, but the A3 has even stronger resale values.

BMW tends to offer some generous discounts, so make sure you check out the BMW 1 Series deals on the What Car? New Car Buying service. It will provide you with PCP finance quotes, which will include any manufacturer bonuses. Depending on what deals are available at the time, the 1 Series is often a lot cheaper than the A-Class per month. 

Official fuel economy broadly matches what the A-Class and A3 will achieve, although we managed to eke out a few more MPG from an A200d than a 118d during our testing, while the 118i petrol was quite a bit juicier in our tests than the A3 35 TFSI or A200. If you’re a company car driver and want to stick with diesel they're all RDE2 emissions compliant, so you don't have to pay the 4% diesel surcharge on your company car tax bill.

Equipment, options and extras

There are three main trim levels Entry-level SE covers the basics, and makes sense if saving cash is at the forefront of your mind, but it's not exactly full of features: 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights/ wipers and cruise control are about your lot. Sport adds sports seats and exterior styling tweaks, including 17in wheels, as well as dual-zone climate control. 

But we’d recommend M Sport, mainly for the way it drives on M Sport suspension (see the handling section) but you also get more distinctive styling and a few more luxuries thrown in, such as power-folding door mirrors, heated front seats and leather trim.

On top of those, the 128ti and M135i hot hatches effectively get their own separate trims. The 128ti, for example, gets a bespoke body-kit, black rather than chrome exterior trim, red interior accents, an M Sport steering wheel and a plethora of go-faster goodies such as a limited-slip differential, beefier brakes and tweaked suspension.

BMW 1 Series 2021 interior infotainment

Reliability

In the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW finished a fair way above Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen, in joint (with Mazda) 9th place out of the 31 manufacturers sampled. And the 1 Series itself also proved to be one of the more reliable cars in the family car class.

The 1 Series is covered by a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, which matches the cover offered by Mercedes for the A-Class and betters Audi’s three-year warranty, which is limited to 60,000 miles.

Safety and security

When it was tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP, the 1 Series received a five-star rating. However, it should be noted that the A-Class is the safer car, because if you look at the categories tested it scores higher for adult occupant and pedestrian protection.

You do get lots of safety equipment with the 1 Series, though, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, speed limit assist and a system that will warn you if you get too close to the car in front.

On top of that you can select the optional Driving Assistant package (available on all trim levels) to get an upgraded AEB that looks out for pedestrians, blindspot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic alert.

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Overview

In the ultra-competitive arena of the premium family car, the BMW 1 Series is right up there, but not the best –that's the Audi A3. It delivers a good blend of driver appeal with decent ride comfort, along with fine practicality, but its main strengths are a top-notch interior and a brilliant infotainment system.

  • Superb build quality
  • Sporty handling
  • Class-leading infotainment system
  • Mercedes A-Class is safer
  • SE trim not that well equipped
  • Road noise at speed

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