Driving position and dashboard
The driving position is top-drawer. For a start, there’s masses of height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel and plenty of movement in the driver's seat, which is comfortable and supportive as well. The only fly in the ointment is that you have to pay extra for lumbar adjustment, but that's not too pricey, and it's the same deal with the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. Fully-electric seat adjustment is also on the options list.
As standard, you get analogue dials with a digital display between them, but if you upgrade to the Tech Pack II you get full digital dials. That upgrade also gets you a head-up display, so you'll always have plenty of driving information at your disposal without ever taking your eyes far from the road.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The view out of the front is as good past the slim windscreen pillars as it is from within an A-Class or A3. And, with LED headlights as standard, it’ll be easy to see at night, too. The chunky pillars at the rear mean the view over your shoulder is slightly restricted, though.
Fortunately, front and rear parking sensors are standard across the range, with a camera optional. For a very reasonable sum you can get the Park Assist pack, which includes a couple of very helpful parking aids: Parking Assistant, which can park the car for you, and Reversing Assistant, which will remember your steering inputs when you drive nose-first into a space, so it can automatically reverse the car back out again.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every 1 Series has an 8.8in infotainment touchscreen, and this can be upped to 10.3in as an option on most trims – the M135i is fitted with that bigger setup as standard. It's operated either as a touchscreen, or via the rotary dial controller and physical shortcut buttons by the gearlever. The latter's less distracting while driving than trying to find screen icons, which is why we prefer this system to touchscreen-only systems (or the A-Class's fiddlier mouse pad controller). The fact that you can use BMW's natural speech voice recognition or option gesture control is a bonus.
There are a lot of features but the menus make them fairly easy to find, and, because the system responds quickly, it's one of the best in the class. The usual features, such as a DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay come as standard, but the latter only gives you a one-year subscription, after which you’ll have to foot the bill to continue. And there’s no Android Auto available at all.
The only issue we have noticed on a few models is that the system occasionally drops the connection with your mobile phone. Hopefully that's something that can be fixed with a software update.
While it certainly doesn’t have the dramatic wow factor of the A-Class’s interior, there's no doubting its rock-solid build quality. It's plush, too, especially with the upgrades that come with M Sport trim. There are plenty of soft-touch materials in those places where your fingers will roam, and all the switches impart a real feeling of quality. Arguably, the Audi A3 is a smidge better in some areas, but the 1 Series is right up there and deserves top marks.