Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Our favourite engine for the BMW 1 Series is the 118i petrol. It's a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder with 134bhp that’ll get you from 0-62mph in 8.9sec. That’s slightly slower than the 35 TFSI Audi A3 but quicker than the A180 Mercedes A-Class. It's certainly brisk enough, and pulls well from low down in the rev range, making it an easy and relaxing companion for everyday driving.
If you're looking for a diesel, the 116d is the entry point, but the 118d is more popular and we can see why. It feels punchier and more eager, and makes a fine all-rounder. That said, all its shove is concentrated in a narrower band of revs than the Mercedes A200d, so its performance isn’t quite as accessible. The more powerful 187bhp 120d is quicker still, and comes with an automatic gearbox. Its 0-62mph time is 7.3sec, or 7.0sec dead if you opt for the BMW four-wheel-drive system (xDrive).
Next up is the stiffer set-up fitted to the M Sport versions. It does exaggerate any initial jolts, but it's never crashy and manages to stay on the right side of comfortable. The equivalent A3 S line is marginally less jarring, though. The 128ti gets a bespoke M Sport set-up that's firmer than that of the equivalent Volkswagen Golf GTI but has enough give not to thump harshly over bumps.
You can opt for adaptive suspension on M Sport versions of the 118d, 120d and M135i but the improvements they deliver doesn't justify the extra cost.