We review the third-generation BMW 1 Series, a premium hatchback that promises improved efficiency, better looks and better value than its predecessors.
The BMW 1 Series is seemingly omnipresent in cities throughout the UK, vying constantly with the 3 Series as the firm’s most popular car. This new, third-generation model aims to continue that trend, with the promise of better, more efficient engine choices, a more attractive design and more standard equipment. We road tested the new, entry-level 116d ED Plus, which sports the smallest, most efficient engine of the bunch, to see how it fares.
“You’ll feel suitably smug about your purchase when sat inside.”It’s fair to say the original and 2nd-generation BMW 1 Series cars weren’t blessed with the gift of looks. We wouldn’t go as far as to say they fell out of the ugly tree, but they may have had a brush with a few low-hanging branches.
The new 1 Series, penned by BMW designer Calvin Luk, is a more attractive proposition. Whereas the original car sported a rather embarrassed look across its front, this latest iteration has a prouder, almost mischievous expression, with more focused lights and a tweaked kidney grille. Its lines are more sculpted in profile, while the rear benefits from L-shaped tail lights sat above new reflectors and an exhaust that’s 5mm larger then before.
The overall shape of the car remains a little questionable. It’s still a boxy hatchback, whose design heavily contradicts its sleek coupe or saloon stablemates. Still, if you hate it, there’s always the 2 Series.
Inside, the new 1 Series is virtually indistinguishable from any other current BMW model, unless you work for BMW’s design team, but that’s no bad thing. It’s well-put together and looks suitably high end. You’ll feel suitably smug about your purchase when sat inside.
“Up front, the door pockets are large enough for a small bottle of water and a decent-sized stash of sugary treats.”Don’t bother with the three-door car if you want to make regular use of the back seats, as getting in and out can be tricky. Once you’re in there’s adequate space regardless of the number of doors you’ve selected. The latest version of the 1 Series has more room than the previous cars and will happily accommodate six-footers – even with taller passengers sat up front.
Space for your stuff is a little limited in the back, with door pockets seemingly only large enough for a bag of M&Ms. That said, you do at least get cupholders in the fold-down centre compartment.
The new BMW 1 Series gets a slightly larger boot than the car it replaces. Boot space is up 30 litres to 360, rising to 1,200 litres with the 40-20-40 split seats folded flat. Its load bay has cargo nets to stop loose objects twanging about during spirited driving.
Up front, the door pockets are large enough for a small bottle of water and a decent-sized stash of sugary treats, the glove box is large, and the centre console has a space dedicated for storing mobile phones, with the requisite USB port making connectivity slightly easier.
Performance & Handling
“It’s certainly no slouch, and sounds reasonably refined.”BMW has upgraded the engines in its 1 Series to offer improved power and better fuel economy. Petrol options include the 118i, 120i, 125i and the bonkers M135i, which can give even sports cars a run for their money.
There are six diesel models, including a new 116d, and the even more frugal 116d ED Plus (Efficient Dynamics Plus), which we’ve tested. Both use BMW’s new 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel, which may appear weedy on paper, but it’s an adequate enough performer, generating 116hp and 270Nm of torque. It’s certainly no slouch, and sounds reasonably refined inside the car despite some slightly annoying vibration through the manual gear stick.
0-62mph takes 10.3 and 10.4 seconds in the 116d and 116d ED Plus, with the cars maxing out at 124mph and 121mph, respectively.
“the true advantages of rear-wheel-drive only begin to make themselves known in more powerful versions.”Neither of the 116d models will set the tarmac alight, but both models drive very well. Ride quality is impressive, and while there’s a little body roll, the car’s dampers manage to keep it within tolerable, predictable levels.
The 116d and 116d ED Plus are best suited to gently wafting. BMW fondly espouses the fact the 1 Series is the only rear-wheel-drive car in its class, and is more dynamic as a result. While this ultimately makes it a better drive than many of its rivals, the true advantages of rear-wheel-drive only begin to make themselves known in more powerful versions.
Economy & Environment
Despite providing improved power, BMW’s new engines offer up to 12 per cent better fuel consumption, according to the company. In the case of the 116d and 116d ED Plus, that equates to 78.5mpg and 83.1mpg – on paper, at least. In our hands, the 116d ED Plus managed an easy 50mpg on a mixture of B roads and around town.
CO2 emissions are impressively low, too, at just 94g/km and 89g/km, respectively.
Equipment & Value
The BMW 1 Series is priced from £20,775 for a 118i, though the more frugal 116d and 116d ED Plus are priced at £21,710 and £22,560, respectively.
All cars are now offered in just three trim levels – SE, Sport and M Sport. Given the generous spec of the SE car, many will question the value of upgrading to Sport or M Sport.
All versions come with navigation, remote central locking, push-button engine start, automatic air conditioning, rain-sensing, CD player, DAB radio and Bluetooth with audio streaming, plus BMW’s iDrive interface.
Sport trim, an extra £1,000, upgrades the alloy wheels from 16 to 17 inches, adds ambient lighting, black high gloss interior trim, a sportier exterior, sports seats and an excellent sports steering wheel.
For £2,700 more than the SE trim, you get M Sport, which adds 18 inch wheels, aluminium interior trim, M Sport suspension, Alcantara upholstery and LED headlights.
The previous BMW 1 Series scored an impressive five stars in Euro NCAP testing. We’d suggest this new car is safer still, as it comes with a host of high tech safety features that could get its occupants out of serious scrapes. All cars will tell you what speed limit you’re supposed to be doing and have a lane departure warning, collision warning and attention assistant. All cars also include accelerometers and a SIM card, enabling them to detect when an accident has occurred before calling for help on your behalf.
The new BMW 1 Series is better than ever, which is saying something because the previous model was pretty damn good. It’s prettier to look at, slightly more practical, has a wealth more technology and drives superbly. In 116d and 116d ED Plus forms, as tested here, it’s also very frugal. If you’re looking for a premium hatchback that sips fuel while still offering a brilliant drive, then the new 1 Series should be high up on your list.