Review: BMW 1 Series (2011)

Rating:

Great range of diesel and petrol engines. High-tech yet intuitive nav and media system. Slick ride and handling.

There are more practical family hatchbacks. Mean standard equipment levels. No hybrid or electric models. Most advanced safety systems are optional.

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BMW 1 Series (2011): At A Glance

The BMW 1 Series is about as ubiquitous a hatchback as the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, these days, yet it still offers a sheen of plushness and desirability that only alternative posh hatches – notably the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class – can match. Which is all the more remarkable given that this rear-wheel drive hatch is something of a geriatric; it’s been around since 2011.

In practice, however, the 1 Series looks and feels anything but old. In fact, it really lives up to BMW’s reputation for being fun to drive, while also feeling very modern provided you’ve added the necessary options.

And here is an apex problem with the BMW. Even if you go for one of the more expensive trim levels, such as the ever-popular M Sport, there’s a multitude of extras that you’ll still want to add including fairly everyday stuff like Apple CarPlay phone connectivity and dual-zone climate control. These should really be standard on a car of this price; they certainly are on most rivals.

Another disappointment is that there’s no electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain option in the 1 Series range; you’ll have to look to the brilliant if rather more divisive BMW i3  if you want an electric hatchback from BMW’s stable.

The final blow to the 1 Series is its practicality levels, which will be just fine for most hatchback buyers but a Civic, or even an Audi A3 or Golf, offer more space and better visibility.

For all that, it’s not hard to see why the 1 Series is such a staple in the family hatch class. As long as you’re not fussed about having an electric powertrain, there’s an engine for every lifestyle. The 120d is hard to fault for high mileage drivers, or the fizzy 118i is fun yet affordable if petrol power is preferable. There are, of course, faster or more efficient engines to choose from, as well as one of the best automatic gearboxes available, and even four-wheel drive for the 120d if that takes your fancy.  

Overall, the BMW 1 Series does have some areas that need improvement, namely the standard equipment list and its middling practicality, yet it offers an undeniably appealing blend of precise handling lustre and executive-schmooze. And while the transaction price can rise to frankly shocking heights when you start analysing the options list, at least competitive company car costs and competitive monthly finance plans go a long way to keeping the 1 Series in relatively affordable territory for many buyers.

BMW 125d M Sport Road Test

BMW 120d xDrive Road Test

BMW 118d 2015 Facelift Road Test

What does a BMW 1 Series (2011) cost?

List Price from £24,425
Buy new from £21,511
Contract hire from £219.59 per month
Get a finance quote with CarMoney

BMW 1 Series (2011): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4324–4329 mm
Width 1984 mm
Height 1411–1440 mm
Wheelbase 2690 mm

Full specifications

The BMW 1 Series is one of very few family hatchbacks that’s still offered with three- or five-doors, but it barely needs pointing out that you’ll want the five-door if practicality is any kind of priority. Even on the five-door, the rear door aperture is pretty narrow, and there’s less legroom in the back than in rivals like the Audi A3.

The boot is adequate but is a fraction too narrow to lie a standard lightweight child's buggy across the boot floor, and the shape of the boot opening makes it tricky to load bulky stuff, too. So, while you will get four adults and a couple of chunky suitcases in the 1 Series with relative ease, this is still one of the less practical alternatives in the class.

Up front, the 1 Series is spacious and feels seriously plush and high-tech, provided you’re willing to pay for that finish. In terms of infotainment, every car gets a 6.5-inch screen complete with rotary-controlled navigation, DAB radio and CD player, but most buyers will also want the Professional Media pack, which brings a wider touchscreen system, voice control and upgraded nav, but Apple CarPlay is still a further optional extra.

Two-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, adjustable lumbar support and cruise control are also fairly ordinary conveniences that BMW charges extra for on most of the range. On top of all that, electric seats are worth considering since the manual seat adjustment is pretty clunky.

Ultimately, the BMW 1 Series can have one of the most lavish and high-tech interiors in the class, but only if you’re willing to pay for the privilege. A basic Sport model with cloth seats and standard nav screen will have less equipment, and will likely feel barely any more ‘premium’ than cheaper rivals like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

Standard equipment:

SE gets 16-inch alloys, 6.5-inch screen with rotary-controlled ‘iDrive’ sat-nav and media system, Bluetooth, DAB radio, multi-function steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, and single-zone climate control.

SE Business is a no brainer for company car users, as it gets everything that SE does plus rear parking sensors, LED headlights and rear parking sensors. Retail customers might struggle to get good finance deals on this trim.

Sport adds variable drive modes (switchable steering, throttle and – if you’ve got an auto’ – gearbox settings), 17-inch alloys, interior ambient lighting and various style tweaks including gloss black highlights inside and out.

M Sport looks much burlier thanks to 18-inch alloys, M Sport bodykit and LED foglights, while inside there’s leather seats with contrast blue stitching, sports seats, a too-chunky M steering wheel, chrome door sill finishers. Firmer M Sport suspension is standard but can be deleted at no cost.

Shadow Edition is the range topper for the ‘standard’ 1-Series range, and adds rear parking sensors, uprated brakes, rear parking sensors, cruise control, LED headlights and rear light signatures, and an (excellent) harman/kardon sound system. You’ll still pay extra for BMW Professional media system, Apple CarPlay, two-zone climate control, adjustable lumbar support, keyless entry and a reversing camera.

M140i is a trim in its own right, and it gets 18-inch alloys, adaptive M Sport suspension and two-zone air-conditioning. Given the performance on offer, this is an unlikely candidate for being the best value 1 Series model and is priced very well next to its rivals.

M140i Shadow Edition adds rear parking sensors, cruise control, LED lights and harman/kardon sound system.

Child seats that fit a BMW 1 Series (2011)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

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What's the BMW 1 Series (2011) like to drive?

The BMW 1 Series has long had a reputation for being the enthusiast’s choice in the family hatchback class, and it deserves that accolade. It’s the only rear-wheel drive option, and there’s a real fluidity and bite to the way it steers that makes even the more mundane models feel more invigorating than equivalent rivals.

Even more impressive is that the ride comfort is easy to live with – even on the 120d M Sport model (which has stiffer suspension) - it’s a bit lumpy at times but it does take the sting out of the most bumps and is very well damped. Adding optional adaptive M Sport suspension will further improve both the handling and ride comfort, but it’s not essential to enjoy the car.

If thrills are your top priority then you should fast forward straight to the wickedly brilliant 140i, but most buyers will settle for something a bit more mid-range, and if you want economy and pace then the 190PS 120d is where it’s at. This four-cylinder diesel is generally ideal for the two-faced nature of many people’s motoring needs, serving up 50mpg+ motorway runs and then jinking through town traffic or down a B road or with hot hatch-bothering pace. You really don’t need to spend the extra on the more potent 125d version; the 120d feels fast enough by any measure.

Add the eight-speed auto and it’ll do all of that while feeling just as effortless as any director-level saloon, and is usefully nicer to live with than the springy-feeling manual ‘box regardless of which engine you’re considering. The 120d is also the only 1 Series you can get complete with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive, if you’re after all-weather peace of mind.

Company car buyers in particular would do well to look at the merits of the cheaper and more efficient diesels, but bear in mind that there’s a difference in performance and character between the three-cylinder, 116PS 116d and the four-cylinder 150PS 118d, yet official CO2 emissions and economy are quite close.

Petrol options start with our favourite (short of the 140i) - the 118i. This model shares its 136PS turbocharged three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine with the MINI Cooper, and the energetic little engine is a great option if you want economy and a fun but easy-going petrol car.

It’s good enough, in fact, that we’d question the need to go for one of the more expensive petrol models, although the 2.0-litre 184PS 120i and 224PS 125i both strike a semi-hot hatch feel, bridging the gap to the full-on 140i.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
114d 1.6 66–69 mpg 12.2 s 109–112 g/km
114i 1.6 50–51 mpg 11.2 s 127–132 g/km
116d 1.5 66–79 mpg 10.3 s 94–106 g/km
116d 1.5 Automatic 63–79 mpg 10.3 s 96–107 g/km
116d 1.5 EfficientDynamics 83 mpg 10.4 s 89 g/km
116d 2.0 66–69 mpg 10.3 s 109–114 g/km
116d 2.0 Automatic 64–69 mpg 10.7 s 109–115 g/km
116d 2.0 EfficientDynamics 74 mpg 10.5 s 99 g/km
116i 1.6 50–52 mpg 8.5 s 125–131 g/km
116i 1.6 Automatic 49–50 mpg 8.7 s 129–134 g/km
118d 2.0 61–71 mpg 8.3–8.9 s 104–115 g/km
118d 2.0 Automatic 63–74 mpg 8.1–8.9 s 99–116 g/km
118i 1.5 47–57 mpg 8.5 s 116–134 g/km
118i 1.5 Automatic 49–59 mpg 8.7 s 112–128 g/km
118i 1.6 47–52 mpg 7.4–8.5 s 125–137 g/km
118i 1.6 Automatic 48–50 mpg 7.2–8.7 s 129–137 g/km
120d 2.0 58–66 mpg 6.5–7.2 s 114–128 g/km
120d 2.0 Automatic 54–69 mpg 6.8–7.3 s 109–124 g/km
120d 2.0 xDrive 59–60 mpg 7.2 s 123–126 g/km
120d 2.0 xDrive Automatic 54–63 mpg 6.8 s 119–124 g/km
120i 1.6 47–49 mpg 7.4 s 136–140 g/km
120i 1.6 Automatic 48–50 mpg 7.2 s 133–138 g/km
120i 2.0 46–49 mpg 7.1 s 135–140 g/km
120i 2.0 Automatic 47–49 mpg 7.1 s 135 g/km
125d 2.0 58 mpg 6.5 s 128 g/km
125d 2.0 Automatic 59–61 mpg 6.3–6.5 s 121–124 g/km
125i 2.0 42–43 mpg 6.4 s 154–157 g/km
125i 2.0 Automatic 44–48 mpg 6.1–6.2 s 134–151 g/km
125i Automatic 48 mpg 6.1 s 134 g/km
135i 35–38 mpg 4.9–5.1 s 175–188 g/km
140i 36–38 mpg 4.6–4.8 s 179 g/km
140i Automatic 38–40 mpg 4.6 s 163 g/km
M135i 35 mpg 5.1 s 188 g/km
M135i Automatic 38 mpg 4.9 s 175 g/km

Real MPG average for a BMW 1 Series (2011)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

76%

Real MPG

23–72 mpg

MPGs submitted

1676

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the BMW 1 Series (2011)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What fun car with four seats can I get for around £17,000?

I am looking to buy a car between £15k and £17k that's fun to drive, sporty, good looking and practical with four seats. Any suggestions?
A BMW 3 Series might be a good option. It's great to drive and there's a strong range of engines available. Your budget will get you a 320i from 2016, or a slightly older more powerful model. Alternatively, consider a hot hatch like a BMW M135i or Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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