It’s fair to say that the BMW 1 Series isn’t the maverick it used to be. Gone is the rear-wheel-drive layout and the option of a rorty straight-six engine. Instead, this third-generation model, introduced in 2019, features more conventional front- and four-wheel-drive set-ups and offers three- and four-cylinder engines only. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to like about this 1 Series, especially if you shop for a used one.
There’s plenty of performance on offer, for starters, even in base 118i form: it has a 1.5-litre turbo triple petrol with 138bhp. Diesel cars begin with the 113bhp 116d and work through from there to the 2.0-litre 118d with 148bhp and the 187bhp 120d, which has four-wheel drive.
In terms of fast 1 Series variants, there’s the 128ti, with a 261bhp 2.0-litre engine, and the M135i. The latter is the most powerful car in the current line-up. It has a 302bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine that sends its power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s quick, punchy and can do 0-62mph in only 4.8sec
Fuel economy isn’t an issue in any 1 Series. The 116d gets an impressive official average of 61.4mpg, while the 118i can boast 47.1mpg. Even the M135i achieves a decent 35.3mpg.
The trim levels are SE, Sport and M Sport. SE models have 16in alloys, LED headlights, climate control, front and rear parking sensors and an 8.8in infotainment screen.
Sport brings bigger, 17in wheels and more supportive sports seats in the front, along with dual-zone climate control.
M Sport gets you sharper exterior and interior styling touches, plus 18in alloys. M Sport Plus Pack models have upgraded 19in wheels, as well as adaptive suspension to stiffen or soften the ride accordingly.
The 1 Series gives a strong initial impression of its sportiness on the road, with quick steering and little body lean in corners. Grip is good and, with the M Sport Plus Pack’s excellent brakes, it stops keenly.
The interior is fantastic, with plush plastics and an easy-to-operate infotainment system. There is plenty of space up front, while rear passengers benefit massively compared with the older 1 Series. There’s more room to stretch out and the central tunnel is smaller, giving you a bigger area in which to place your feet. Practicality, encompassing boot space, is praiseworthy overall and about on par for the class.
Price-wise, you’re looking at upwards of £20,000 for a low-mileage 118i SE from 2019 or 2020, which is a good chunk off the price of a new one. You will have to spend between £23,500 and £27,000 to get a 2021 car, and if you want the M135i, you need at least £30,000.
Need to know
With no full-blown M car in the line-up, no 1 Series variant rivals the likes of the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and Audi RS3 Sportback. The M135i is in direct competition with the A35 and S3, while the 128ti goes against hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
In the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW ranked highly: ninth out of 31 manufacturers. The current 1 Series was too new to be featured, however.
As all third-generation 1 Series models will have been registered after April 2017, current road tax rates of £155 for petrol and diesel cars will apply. If the price of the car was more than £40,000 new, you will have to pay an additional £335 per year for years two to five.
118i: That’s right, the base petrol is our favourite. Its three-pot engine delivers more than enough power to get by yet also has relatively low running costs. It will also be the cheapest used 1 Series to buy, plus it’s very common on the market.
M135i: The 302bhp M135i is the craziest of the bunch. It looks modern, aggressive and sporty and offers the pace to match. For a driving experience that’s fast and fun, this is the 1 Series you will be looking at.