BMW 1 Series long-term test review

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 test

The car BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport 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 4803 List price £28,580 Target Price £26,311 Price as tested £37,500 Test economy 32mpg Official economy 53.3mpg (combined) Dealer price now £23,198 Private price now £20,621 Trade-in price now £20,295 Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel £662

20 March 2020 – The Farewell Blues

1 Series goodbye in the warehouse


A class-leading family car needs to wear multiple hats. It must don the Trilby of feeling at home in the city as well as the open road, but be ready to rock the Balaclava of comfortably ferrying a full complement of passengers and their luggage, too. I reckon the 1 Series can pretty much wear either with equal confidence.

As a city car (my primary use), it offered a happy medium between usable space and compact dimensions, making it a better urban companion than the larger 3 Series, but not being so small as to entirely cripple its long-distance credentials.

1 Series width restrictor

Its iDrive infotainment system was sensational; simple to use, elegant and efficient. Combined with BMW’s ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ (the digital instrument cluster behind the wheel), I struggle to think of a better setup. As the automotive industry moves to standardise touch screen functions, BMW has stood firm on its use of physical buttons and should be praised for it.

The rest of the interior was all business – function over form, and all the better for it. It’s not as visually stimulating in the way the Mercedes A-Class’s is, but everything feels solidly built, with buttons that are clearly marked and considerately placed to make on-the-move adjustments to the sat nav and radio simple and safe.

1 Series soft touch

You might remember I went a bit crazy with the options on my 1 Series, knowing full well that some would be invaluable while others could probably be lived without. The M Sport package is a must, embellishing the exterior design with more aggressive styling and elevating the interior to the quality of a nicely-specced 3 Series. That comes in its uses of classier materials – pretty much everything you touch and even the surfaces you don’t are leather lined or soft to the fingertip, making the car feel exponentially more premium. 

The panoramic glass sunroof was another essential; almost spanning the length of the car, it helped to break up the anthracite headlining and flood the interior space with light. I should mention that it eats into the rear headroom slightly; I would caution against adding it if you regularly carry four or five adult passengers.

1 series long-term panoramic roof

Looking back, it's hard to justify the M Sport Plus package. As an avid driver, I appreciated the improved brakes and more focused steering on a nice b-road (and those wonderful M seatbelts), but I struggled to really appreciate the virtues of a hot hatch-style setup on a 138bhp family car, particularly at an extra cost of £1500.

The biggest point of contention with my 1 Series, though, was its fuel economy. As an urban dweller with a fairly short commute, I wasn’t expecting especially good results from my car’s 1.5-litre petrol engine, but an average of between 28.5mpg and 32mpg on a good day was a slightly worrying reality – particularly when you consider that I spend at least 25% of my journey on dual carriageways.

1 Series efficiency

No matter how dedicated I was to BMW’s Eco Pro driver training system, I never really improved on those numbers, and with a trigger-happy stop-start system, it could sometimes feel like the car was working against me. I should say, though, that on the motorway, a useful 45mpg-plus was achievable with a full load.

Compared with previous versions, the latest 1 Series has done things a little differently this time around and, in my opinion, is better for it. It’s more comfortable than its predecessor, more refined, slightly more spacious and even better to drive. In a class of fairly safe design, it also looks refreshingly different. Does it have the biggest boot? No. Does it have the most driver technology, no. But it is beyond sufficient in both of those areas and has lots to offer in every other area.

1 Series long-termer London tracking

Put it this way, I loved my time with the car, and there’s a good reason why it won its price point at this year’s Car of the Year Awards. For anyone looking for a family hatchback that straddles the fine line between sporty and sensible, I think the 1 Series should be at the top of your family car shortlist.

A special thank you to Castle Gibson for the use of MC Motors

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