BMW 1 Series Review 2023
BMW 1 Series At A Glance
The BMW 1 Series has always been a popular premium hatchback, but its rear-wheel drive layout brought as many drawbacks as positives. Now the latest model is front or four-wheel drive has it lost that sporting edge? Our 2022 BMW 1 Series review will find out.
The BMW 1 Series always had a unique selling point in the hatchback class: it was rear-wheel drive, like a sports car or one of BMW's executive saloons. That was supposed to give it a real feeling of balance and poise, and a level of driver appeal above and beyond the competition.
In reality, though, it was only on the limit that you noticed this. Small wonder then that, when quizzed, the vast majority of BMW 1 Series owners had no clue their car was rear-wheel drive. It brought compromises, too; the car's packaging meant it wasn't roomy in the back, while in normal driving front-wheel drive rivals felt more secure and less likely to suddenly lose traction and spin.
BMW changed tack with the third-generation 1 Series, launched in 2019 and reviewed here. Sharing a platform with the X1, X2 and MINI Countryman, it became front-wheel drive in standard form, with four-wheel drive as an option.
While that meant you couldn't engage in any oversteer antics with the latest car, it made for a much better all-rounder. The driving experience is actually more composed than before, with agile and sharp handling matched with stability and decent ride comfort.
Enthusiasts might also bemoan the removal of six-cylinder engine options, but the BMW 1 Series still has a strong range of efficient yet powerful three or four-cylinder turbo petrols and diesels. While there's no weak link in the range, we're surprised BMW hasn't seen fit to offer a business-friendly hybrid model yet.
The range-topping BMW M135i has 306PS and four-wheel drive, but we reckon the less powerful, front-wheel drive BMW 128ti is actually a more fun hot hatch, more of the time.
What's more, the BMW 1 Series looks and feels almost as posh inside as its bigger, more expensive siblings. Fit and finish is just as good as the Audi A3 and better than the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, while BMW's iDrive infotainment system is easier to use than both.
Moving to a front-wheel drive base also means greatly improved cabin space. Sure, it still isn't the roomiest hatchback around, but four adults get a decent level of comfort, while the 380-litre boot is very competitive.
Like its key German competitors, you pay a premium to buy or lease a BMW 1 Series. That's the same on the used market due to strong residuals, while in terms of spec we'd recommend stepping above the basic SE model to get more desirable equipment. But that's the price you pay (literally) to go premium, and if you can afford to you'll be getting a superb all-rounder in the 2019-on 1 Series.
Looking for the older model? You'll want our BMW 1 Series (2011-2019) review.