BMW 1 Series review


What is?

The third generation 1 Series, and that’s important because now it’s just front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Yes, this latest generation said goodbye to RWD in 2019. Like every other hatch now, too. But the good news is that it’s roomier than ever, weighs less, and is also more efficient to use.

That’s not bad either, right? BMW has certainly fared worse recently. The sides are defined by two “character” lines that look a bit like your first ironed shirt. Meanwhile, the Hofmeister twist (a 1950s BMW signature) carries over to the C-pillar. No more three doors, this time it’s all five doors.

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Front wheel drive, you say?

Yes. Only one in 20 of the old Series 1s sold was a six-cylinder. And really, only those who saw a lot of dynamic benefits from rear-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the other 19, the 95 percent centers, had to suffer from the reduced space and added weight.

BMW knew that the switch to FWD would cause a stir, so it had to make sure the latest 1 Series did the job. What it largely does: It has some clever traction control tweaks and additional chassis bracing. It also comes with a multi-link rear suspension on every model, while Mercedes, Ford and VW put simpler torsion beams under the lower-powered versions of their hatches.

The lower powered petrol (118i) and diesel (116d) engines are three-cylinder, while the 118d and above are four-cylinder. The 120d and 135i are the all-wheel drive variants, while the quickest of the new hatchbacks is the M135i, a 300bhp all-wheel drive rival to the Mercedes AMG A35 and VW Golf R.

How is the inside?

It’s essentially BMW up front, with an instrument cluster directly in the line of sight and a central touchscreen angled toward the driver. BMW hasn’t avoided the trap of bundling the heating and air conditioning controls with the infotainment, either: they’re located just below the touchscreen. The Start/Stop button, gear selector lever and iDrive touch controller are grouped in the center console.

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It’s a proven method, and as the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Cough cough, VW.

But it was in the back where the major reconditioning made the difference. Compared to the previous Series 1, access is easier and there is more room for knees, head and elbows throughout. The boot has also increased by 20 liters to 380 litres, or 1,200 liters with the rear seat folded down.

How much will it cost me?

Prices start above the £26,000 mark for the 118i, with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine producing 138 bhp and 162 lb-ft of torque (and achieving 0-100 acceleration). km/h in 8.5 seconds) in the SE version. Then it goes through Sport and finally reaches the top of the range M135i xDrive, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 302 hp and 258 lb-ft. Good for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, before you ask. But it’s a tough sell at £38.5,000, especially when the 128ti rival front-wheel drive Golf GTI starts at £4,000 less.

The Series 1 is a good car from the bottom up. We’d be tempted by the entry-level 118i or 118d and then spend the extra money on an upgraded trim level and more luxury. Head to the buy tab to see the full breakdown.

What’s the verdict?

BMW may have switched to front-wheel drive, but the 1 Series doesn’t suffer (too much)

It would still be a question of when, not if, the 1 Series would go front-wheel drive, and three generations later we have our answer. The best news? He doesn’t suffer from it, remaining as competent as ever in his category. It is now a more generic product than before.

The entry-level variants are arguably stronger than the more performance-focused models, but in all specs they handle impressively and ride even better. Especially for rear-seat passengers, who benefited most from the Series 1’s switch to transverse engines and front-wheel drive.

Every 1 Series now also comes with BMW’s excellent Live Cockpit Professional system, with a dual 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and infotainment screen, as standard, plus a separate climate control panel. That’s a good reason to buy one instead of the Golf Mk8 like any other.

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