The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The interior design of the 1 Series is top-drawer. For a start, there’s masses of height and reach adjustment to the steering wheel and plenty of movement to the driver's seat as well. The only fly in the ointment comes from having to pay extra for lumbar adjustment, but it's not too pricey and it's the same deal with most versions of the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
Fully-electric seat adjustment is also on the options list, and the seat is generally supportive although the flat cushions don't suit everyone. It’s worth checking you’re happy with it by taking a long-ish test drive.
As standard you get analogue instrument dials with a digital display between them, but if you upgrade to the Tech Pack II you get the fully digital instruments. It’s an upgrade that also adds a head-up display, so you'll always have plenty of driving information at your disposal without needing to take your eyes far from the road.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The forward view is as good as it is in an A3 or A-Class, thanks to slim windscreen pillars. And, with LED headlights standard, it's easy to see at night, too. You can upgrade these to Icon Adaptive LED units that can shape the light they cast to remain on full beam without dazzling other road users. That’s an option well-worth considering.
The chunky rear pillars restrict the view over your shoulder, but front and rear parking sensors are included across the range, and a rear-view camera is part of a relatively cheap option pack that adds semi-automatic parking assistance, too. This system can recognise a suitably sized space and help steer you into it.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every 1 Series gets an 8.8in infotainment screen, and this can be upped to 10.3in as an option on most trims (and comes as standard with the M135i hot hatch). Whichever setup you go for, the system can be operated by pressing icons on the touchscreen or via the rotary iDrive controller and physical shortcut buttons by the gear lever.
That’s the best medium to use while driving, because it’s significantly less distracting than a touchscreen; it’s why we prefer the 1 Series’ infotainment system to the Audi A3’s touchscreen-only set-up. It’s also easier to use than the Mercedes A-Class’s touchpad controller. You can also use BMW's natural speech voice recognition or even optional gesture control, but the latter’s a bit of a gimmick.
The infotainment system is full of features, but the simple menus make everything fairly easy to find and the software responds incredibly quickly. A DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay come as standard, but Android Auto currently isn’t available – there are plans to introduce it into all BMWs soon. The standard six-speaker, 100-watt stereo sounds reasonable, but audiophiles might want to try out the optional 16-speaker, 464-watt surround sound system produced by Harman Kardon.
While it doesn’t have the dramatic visual wow factor of the A-Class’s interior, there's no doubting the rock-solid build quality on display here. 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. It sits at the top of this class, feeling better made than the A-Class and A3, and only the Mazda 3 is on its level.
Hybrid engines offer exceptionally low running costs and, all-...
Good to drive, but let down by a fiddly infotainment syst...
The CT is unrefined, uncomfortable and outdated.
The Subaru Impreza is safe and great off road, but it trails i...