BMW 1 Series Hatchback Special Edition Leasing
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The only rear-wheel-drive hatch in the class scores with a strong combination of performance, economy and CO2 emissions. It handles well and rides comfortably, too.
Overly quick and light steering can make the 1 Series feel slightly nervous at speed. The pedals are offset to the right, so getting comfortable behind the wheel can be tricky.
The BMW 1 Series is one of the best small family cars you can buy because it’s hugely desirable, good to drive and surprisingly cheap to run.
The 118i petrol offers strong acceleration throughout the rev range, so it’s all most buyers will need. The 125i also pulls smoothly from virtually any revs, and has enough performance to rival most hot hatches, while the M135i will blow most of them away. The 118d diesel has plenty of low-rev shove, and even the 116d ED – the most efficient choice – is still capable of reasonable performance when you need it.
Ride & Handling
The 1 Series is the only small family car that’s driven by its rear wheels. This partly explains why it’s sharper to drive than many of its peers, with neutral handling and decent grip. However, the steering is overly quick and light, which can make the car feel rather nervous at times. The ride is impressive, though, being slick and sophisticated at all speeds.
This isn’t the quietest small family car. At low speeds you can hear the suspension thudding away as it soaks up bumps, and at low revs the diesel engines transmit vibrations through the pedals and gearknob. The petrol engines are generally hushed, though, and the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise.
Buying & Owning
The 1 Series is similar in price to most of its premium-badged rivals, but you have to pay extra for some equipment that you might expect to come as standard. On the plus side, decent discounts are available and the 1 Series retains its value well. Competitive fuel economy and CO2 emissions make it surprisingly cheap to run, too, especially if you pick the tax-efficient 116d ED version.
Quality & Reliability
Interior quality is generally impressive, although a few pieces of trim – such as the glovebox lid – feel hard and scratchy. The previous-generation 1 Series performed well in our most recent customer satisfaction survey, with few owners grumbling about mechanical problems.
Safety & Security
The 1 Series scored five out of five in its Euro NCAP crash test, and all models in the line-up get six airbags and stability control as standard. Every version also features deadlocks – which prevent a door being opened, even if the window is smashed – an alarm and an engine immobiliser to help deter thieves.
Behind The Wheel
The driving position isn’t the most comfortable, because the pedals and the steering wheel don’t line up properly. The high central partition also makes the driver feel a little hemmed in, while the small rear window limits over-the-shoulder visibility. The iDrive infotainment system is brilliant, though, because it’s a doddle to use and makes the dashboard layout nice and simple.
Space & Practicality
Six-footers will be able to get comfortable in both the front and the back. However, the small rear windows can make the cabin feel rather dark and claustrophobic, and you have to be quite flexible to get into the back in the first place, whether you choose the three-door or the five-door version. The boot is a bit narrow and shallow, but folding down the rear seats gives a large load bay.
Entry-level SE models get BMW’s iDrive controller and a 6.5in information screen, along with climate control, 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth, and audio controls on the steering wheel. Sport trim adds 17in alloys, sports seats and a sports steering wheel, while M Sport models have 18in alloys, LED headlights, sports suspension and a bodykit. The range-topping M135i gets leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and slightly different looks inside and out.