BMW 1 Series (2011 – 2019) Review

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BMW 1 Series (2011 – 2019) At A Glance

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 75% 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. 


Looking for a BMW 1 Series (2011 - 2019)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

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

My car has been written off - can I challenge the valuation I've been given?
"I have recently had my 2015 BMW 1 Series deemed a total loss and have had an offer made to me by the insurance company which I think is far below what it should be due to the spec on it. Do I just accept it?"
You can challenge the valuation your insurer has placed on your vehicle. As a general rule, I'd always recommend rejecting the first offer. But you'll need to provide evidence, which backs up your argument that the insurer has placed an unrealistic value on your car. I would send examples of similar cars for sale. Our free online evaluation tool may also assist: If all of that fails, you can employ an independent assessor to value your car. You will need to pay for this out of your own pocket and there is no guarantee of a positive outcome. The assessor's decision will be final, which means you will not be able to challenge it.
Answered by Dan Powell
My insurer says my car is a total loss. Can I insist they repair it?
"My 2015 BMW 1 Series sustained damage in an accident so I need a new front bumper and bonnet. After a lot of pushing, my insurance firm said the value assigned to my car was £4950 (high mileage, perfect condition). My initial repair quote has been rejected (£4000) with Admiral saying my car is a Category N, total loss. I have submitted a second quote at £3300 from a different garage (I'm waiting to hear back on this) but suspect they will say it is a Category N again. The policy document says: ''We'll repair your vehicle if it's damaged due to an accident. If it's not economical to repair your vehicle, we'll pay out a sum not exceeding the market value.'' Am I within my rights to insist on my car being repaired? My understanding is that they should because the value of the repairs is less than the market value (£4950) they have given it. I'm finding it very difficult dealing with them. Do you have any advice for how to insist they repair if they are required to? Many thanks."
Car insurance doesn't work this way. If the cost of the repair exceeds 50 per cent of the car’s value then the insurer will usually consider it economically unviable to repair and write it off. You can dispute the payout level or offer to buy the car back. But the car will still be written-off and owning a Cat N vehicle will present costly problems when it comes to insurance.
Answered by Dan Powell
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 does a BMW 1 Series (2011 – 2019) cost?