BMW 1 Series (2011 – 2019) Review

BMW 1 Series (2011 – 2019) At A Glance

4/5
Honest John Overall Rating
It’s not perfect, and there are more well-rounded choices, but in terms of putting a smile on your face, no posh family hatch does it better than the BMW 1 Series.

+A very entertaining car to drive, efficient yet powerful engines, superb infotainment.

-Not very practical, a few cheap plastics inside, you have to pay a premium for the most desirable ones.

Insurance Groups are between 12–41
On average it achieves 76% of the official MPG figure

A ‘real’ BMW with rear-wheel drive, this iteration of 1 Series, for enthusiasts, marks the end of an era. Its successor – the current model – switched to front-wheel drive. BMW’s posh alternative to a Volkswagen Golf, the 1 Series clearly hit the mark in the UK, becoming a fairly regular entrant into the top 10 best-sellers list.

This means there’s plenty of choice on the second-hand market – and as BMW also offered many different trims and engine options, there are plenty to pick and choose from. We prefer the facelifted cars from 2015 onwards, as they have a better-looking front and rear, but there’s little difference inside – and they’re all as good to drive as one another. The all-new BMW 1 Series is here, but the 2011-2019 version is still worth a look. 

 

The idea behind the 1 Series was simple: make a smaller, cheaper, hatchback version of the BMW 3 Series. BMW picked the perfect set of tools to achieve that, too – the architecture of the 3 Series itself, no less. This means 1 Series buyers really were getting a premium-grade car at a (slightly) more mainstream price.

Retaining the rear-wheel-drive setup was good news for handling, making the 1 Series a rarity in this sector – both Audi and Mercedes-Benz use front-wheel drive (with all three also building all-wheel drive versions as well). The extra balance and purity this endowed the BMW with was obvious from the first turn of the wheel.

The trouble is, rear-wheel-drive cars are not as space-efficient as their front-driven counterparts. That’s less of a problem in a larger car such as the 3 Series, but it did lead to compromises with the 1 Series. Most notably, in terms of rear-seat space. It’s pretty cramped back there, with the boot being similarly compromised.

There were fewer complaints up front. The driver-focused layout feels good, with seats that drop nice and low, a chunky steering wheel and a nice high-mounted gearlever. That this is backed up by such an entertaining drive makes it easy to see why the 1 Series appealed.

Most engines, even by today’s standards, are very good on fuel. The diesels are real misers and the four-cylinder petrol versions aren’t bad either. That’s despite nearly every engine serving up a surprising amount of pulling power, making even a mainstream 1 Series hatch a swift car.

The most driver-pleasing version of all is the M135i, later improved to M140i guise. Both have a wonderful 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo engine, and suspension breathed upon by the experts in BMW’s M performance car division. It’s great fun to drive, with superb sound effects, plus performance and handling more akin to a sports car than a hatchback.

Early BMW 1 Series of this era did have slightly ‘difficult’ front-end styling from launch. The headlights were too big and the rear lights too weedy. An extensive overhaul from 2015 fixed it at both ends – this was the better-looking model that began its ascent up the sales charts.

BMW also continually improved onboard infotainment systems, maintaining its leadership over rivals in this area. The best became ever-better, and it’s well worth your while to keep an eye out for second-hand models featuring the ‘widescreen’ premium navigation upgrade.

With the latest 1 Series becoming that bit more mainstream in its focus, this model is likely to remain sought after by a core of loyal buyers for some time to come, particularly in M135i and M140i guises. 

Ask Honest John

Can you recommend some run flat tyres?
"I have a 2015 BMW 1 Series that needs all four tyres replacing. I'm unable to find a particular make/model on the internet that stands out. Can you help? Currently, I have Bridgestone Potenza that seem very good - is there anything that better? Many thanks."
Your current Potenza are summer tyres designed for performance. I say if you like them, then it's a good bet to stick with something familiar that you know you like. If you do want to browse other choices, we hear good things about Bridgestone Driveguard and Michelin Pilot Sport 4. The Michelins also offer some protection from kerbing.
Answered by Georgia Petrie
Why are diesel models much cheaper than petrol models?
"It seems that a used diesel BMW X3 is considerably cheaper than a comparablyy aged petrol version and that the bigger engines are only available as diesels. I'm looking to trade in my M140i I'm a bit puzzled by the seeming anomaly. Is this due to the fact that diesels are not selling now and their prices are therefore lower? Thanks."
Yes. The market is swamped with diesels as, a few years ago, there were lots of incentives to buy diesel cars. These no longer exist and people have realised that diesel cars don't suit everyone - so used prices have dropped. You need to decide whether a petrol or diesel car suits your use best. If you cover a lot of miles (particularly on the motorway) and/or need to tow a heavy trailer or caravan, a diesel X3 is the best option. For lower annual mileages (less than 12k a year) or regular short journeys, you should buy a petrol model.
Answered by Andrew Brady
What are our rights after buying an unroadworthy car in a private sale?
"My son bought a BMW 1 Series this week from a private seller for £2500. He has had it five days and only driven it 25 miles. Yesterday, it failed to start. It would turn over but not fire up. When we got it looked at, the boot where the battery is located was soaking wet - hence causing electrical shorts. I feel this car was sold in an unroadworthy condition as the buyer had replaced the battery three days prior and had the car valeted when we picked it up (by the looks of it, to disguise the wetness in the boot carpet). My son may now be needing to spend a lot to get this sorted. What are your thoughts? In her sales description, she had put great condition - but also put sold as seen on her receipt. Thanks."
When you buy a car privately, you do not get the same level of legal protection as you would from a dealer or trader. You could argue that the car wasn't accurately described and demand a refund or part-payment for the cost of the repair. However, if the seller refuses, you'll need to seek legal advice and take action via the small claims court. This can be expensive and there's no guarantee that you'll win.
Answered by Dan Powell
I've been missold an accident-damaged, remapped car. What are my options?
"I need some legal advice. I bought a 2018 BMW M140i in February from a used car garage (not BMW). Car was sold as having BMW warranty until 2021 and no mentions of any accidents. After I bought the car I noticed a few interior niggles and a minor vibration felt from under the car from 30mph onwards. I didn’t think too much of them and decided I’d get BMW to look at them when I had the time, then lockdown happened. Fast forward 4 months, car went into BMW last week to have the niggles sorted. BMW identified that the car has previously been in a crash and repaired. Plus, it's been remapped and the engine and gearbox warranty is now void. I’ve since found a video on YouTube of the previous owner having it remapped, and the pictures on the original listing by this garage also show the rear lights not perfectly aligned (I didn’t notice at the time). What are my rights in regards to demanding a refund? After an initial call with the garage they’re trying to get me to bring it up to them to assess and repair, and don’t care for a proper report done by BMW which I suggested. I don’t want a crash-damaged, repaired, tuned car -which wasn’t what it was sold as being. What are my options?"
You are entitled to a full refund. Reject the repair and tell the dealer to collect the car and give you your money back. Do not use the vehicle in the meantime - your insurance might be invalid due to the modification. The dealer should have disclosed both the accident damage and the remap at the time of sale. It's been a legal requirement for years. For your legal rights, see: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/how-to-reject-a-car-your-consumer-rights
Answered by Dan Powell

What does a BMW 1 Series (2011 – 2019) cost?


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