What's the used BMW 1 Series hatchback like?
BMW first attempted to crack the hatchback market in 1994 with the 3 Series Compact, but this model failed to bother the likes of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. The 1 Series, on the other hand, has fared far better, thanks to its blend of class and driving fun.
While other hatchbacks are front or four wheel drive, the BMW 1 Series sends its power to the rear, which helps to give it greater balance when cornering and ensures higher powered versions steer more accurately than their rivals.
The ride, however, is firm, and the 1 Series can thud over poor road surfaces, a problem that’s not helped by the standard run-flat tyres, which have stiff sidewalls so that you can get home after a puncture without stopping to change the tyre.
There’s enough seat and steering wheel adjustment to let most people find a comfortable driving position, although the manual seat controls are a bit fiddly, so if two people of different sizes will regularly drive the car, it’s worth looking for an example with electric adjustment.
Rear-seat passengers won't thanks you for choosing a 1 Series, because head and leg room are limited, and the boot is rather shallow.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used BMW 1 Series hatchback?
Check the paperwork to make sure the car you’re interested in has been regularly serviced, and have a good look around the body for knocks and scratches. Likewise, check the wheels, which are easy to kerb, particularly on M Sport models.
Also, make sure the door handles return to the correct position when you release them – if they stick out you will need to replace both the handle and the catch to fix the problem.
If you’re buying a petrol 1 Series, listen for signs of rough running or the engine temperature suddenly rising and falling. These could suggest ignition coil pack failure, as could a smell of petrol inside the car.
What are the most common problems with a used BMW 1 Series hatchback?
Front tyres can wear quickly if the tracking is out and some cars have faulty steering racks, which exacerbate the problem.
There are also some reports of faulty manual gearboxes and clutches, on which it is difficult or impossible to select a gear. However, the manual gearbox is quite stiff, anyway; this isn’t a sign that it’s on its way out.
Other reported problems include petrol engine ECUs failing, windows seizing shut, airbag faults – generating a warning light on the dashboard – and an issue with the electronic stability control, causing it to shut down.
The 1 Series has been the subject of a few recalls: for a rear axle problem, an issue with the power-assisted brakes, a possible fault with the side airbags and seat belt tensioners, and a risk of some diesels catching fire. However, in each case the number of cars involved was small, and the various fixes should have been carried out by now.
Is a used BMW 1 Series hatchback reliable?
Data from CAP Derwent – a scheme which pools repair information from some of the UK’s biggest vehicle leasing firms to predict when parts will need to be replaced – shows that the 1 Series is harder on its brakes than the average family hatchback.
However, it suffers less electrical problems than average and you’ll be unlucky if any major engine, gearbox or suspension work is needed within the first 100,000 miles.
What used BMW 1 Series hatchback will I get for my budget?
Despite wearing a BMW badge, the 1 Series doesn’t hold its value as well as an Audi A3, which is obviously good news for those buying used.
Early examples of the 116i with mega miles are available for about £2000, while a 2011 car in excellent condition shouldn’t cost you more than £12,000.
How much does it cost to run a BMW 1 Series hatchback?
The 130i will get through a lot of fuel, but all the other petrol models should achieve more than 30mpg without really trying.
The diesels, meanwhile, offer the same sort of economy as key rivals in official tests: between 50mpg (for early examples of the 118d) and 64mpg (for the 116d). Mid-40s to mid-50s are realistic in the real world.
Cars can go up to two years between services, but one is needed typically every 15,000-20,000 miles, and it’s worth changing the oil and fuel filter every year if you want to minimise the chances of expensive engine repairs.
You’re likely to pay more than £1000 for a major service, with these needed every 40,000 miles.
Which used BMW 1 Series hatchback should I buy?
The BMW 1 Series was originally available as a five-door only, with the three-door version following in 2007. This coincided with a mild facelift and the introduction of more powerful, yet more economical, engines.
The 113bhp 116i petrol model has just enough oomph, but was greatly improved in 2007, when power was increased to 120bhp. The 118i with 127bhp (later 141bhp) is much punchier, though, and the 120i is better still. The pinnacle of the range is the 261bhp six-cylinder 130i.
There are far more diesel-powered cars on the used market, and the 118d with 120bhp (then 141bhp) is a great compromise of power versus economy. In fact, it's our favourite 1 Series.
From launch, there was also the 161bhp (later 175bhp) 120d, which is powerful yet smooth. In mid-2007, the performance-orientated 201bhp 123d was introduced, and in early 2009, the super-efficient 114bhp 116d went on sale.
The entry-level specification comes with four electric windows and a CD player, but no alloy wheels or air-con. The ES gets those, but the SE also adds climate control and parking sensors making it the version to look out for. The M Sport has a sporty bodykit, but it also has sport suspension that makes the ride even firmer, so it’s best avoided.
Our favourite used BMW 1 Series: 118d SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used BMW 1 Series hatchback?
The 1 Series was designed to take on the Volkswagen Golf, but VW’s finest is a very different car, putting comfort before handling. The Golf is also more practical than the 1 Series, offering superior visibility and a lot more space for those in the back.
Audi’s A3 is based on the Golf. However, it has a slightly sportier feel, is less forgiving over bumps and costs more to buy. The reward for paying the extra is a classier feeling interior, although the design of this is looking a little dated now.
The joker in the pack is the second-generation Mercedes A-Class. It’s much shorter than its rivals, which makes it easier to park, and yet thanks to clever packaging it’s also more spacious inside. On the downside, it looks quite frumpy and has a firm ride.
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