BMW 1 Series long-term test review: report 1

The latest 1 Series aims to offer everything a small family might want from their premium hatchback, but does it do a better job than its key rivals? We've got four months to find out...

BMW 1 Series long-term front tracking 2

The car BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport 5dr Step Auto Run by Louis Shaw, social media manager

Why it’s here The latest 1 Series is taking on the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class with bold looks inside and out, a switch to front-wheel drive and a raft of new technology – time to see if it fits a modern city-dweller

Needs to Be comfortable on a daily commute, offer good fuel economy – particularly in stop-start traffic – and be easy to park and navigate in the narrow streets of London

Mileage 1786 List price £28,580 Target Price £26,930 Price as tested £37,500 Options fitted Comfort Pack 2 (£1500) M Sport Plus package (£1800) Technology Pack 1 (£1500) Technology Pack 2 £1500) Misano Blue metallic paint (£560) Panoramic sunroof (£1000) Official economy 47.1mpg (WLTP) Test economy 35.5mpg 

21 November 2019 – The best of both worlds?

Like a lot of you, I’ve flirted with the idea of hot hatchback ownership for a very long time. I wanted something fast, noisy, exciting to drive and, if at all possible, usable everyday too. Then, something amazing happened; when the opportunity arose to get my new car, I actually used my head. As a resident of congested central London and with an urban commute of at least 100 miles per week (in stop-start traffic, I should add) I started to realise that a thirsty free-revving pocket rocket was about the last thing I needed, both for the environment and my wallet. ‘It’s time to get sensible’ I told myself, but hopefully not boring – and that’s a tall order in anyone’s book.

BMW 1 Series exhaust

So, what if I could find a car, that, relatively speaking, ‘did it all’? The looks and some of the charm of those spicier hatchbacks with the usability and economical benefits of a sensible daily driver? Introducing the all-new BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport. Sure, its 1.5-litre petrol engine produces ‘just’ 138bhp, but with a 0-62mph time of 8.5sec, it has enough poke to keep up with the Mercedes A-Class A200 and Audi A3 35 TFSI. It looks the part, at least to my eyes (although I'm not fully convinced by that nose) and crucially it shouldn’t be too expensive to run. Could it be the best of both worlds, then? Well, I now have four months to find out.

BMW 1 Series front tracking long-term test

Under the bonnet is the aforementioned three-cylinder engine – our favourite option in the current line-up and the entry-level petrol engine of the range. Performance so far is best described as honest more than exhilarating, but I suspect it’s more than enough for the average family. Part of the appeal of a family hatchback is flexibility, and I’m interested to see if this smallest BMW is as happy at motorway speeds as it is negotiating the urban sprawl.

The new 1 Series is marginally shorter than the outgoing model, but a little bit wider. Through the magic of clever engineering, there’s now more space inside for driver and passenger alike. And it’s immediately noticeable, with even my tallest friends able to sit behind my six-foot frame comfortably.

BMW 1 Series iDrive touchscreen long-termer

So what does this 1 Series come with? I must admit that I went a bit mad with the order form. I’ve opted for the Comfort Pack 2, which provides an electric tailgate, keyless entry and start and electric front Seats. The M Sport Plus package is a visual necessity in my opinion, bestowing the car with glorious M2 Competition-inspired 18" alloy wheels, uprated brakes and more direct steering. You’re also treated to the usual M styling inside the car. Technology Pack 1 and 2 gives the 1 Series technologies from larger, more expensive cars; a self-parking function, BMW’s digital display and a Harman Kardon sound system are among the list of notable features. I’m particularly interested to experience the Parking Assistant – hopefully making life easier when I find the only awkward space left on the street.

For all the visual glamour of the M Sport Plus package, I’m already finding the stiffer setup a bit firm. For a car spending 80% of its time in the city, I think it would benefit from a slightly softer ride, or at least the option for buyers to choose based on their needs. Despite the improved interior room, I’m also wondering how well the 380 litre boot will cope with five passengers worth of luggage. A road trip to Suffolk as part of my turning 30 should hopefully provide an answer to that question. For now, however, I return to a point made at the beginning of this report. Will the 1 Series, as Voltaire once said, “be the best of all possible worlds”? Or instead, remind us that nothing is good at everything? For now, at least, I am cautiously optimistic.

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