BMW 1 Series long-term test review

The latest 1 Series aims to offer everything a small family might want from their premium hatchback, but does it do a better job than its key rivals? We've got four months to find out...

BMW 1 Series long-term test
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What Car? team
9 Jan 2020 12:30

The car BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport 5dr Step Aut0 Run by Louis Shaw, social media manager

Why it’s here The latest 1 Series is taking on the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class with bold looks inside and out, a switch to front-wheel drive and a raft of new technology – time to see if it fits a modern city-dweller

Needs to Be comfortable on a daily commute, offer good fuel economy – particularly in stop-start traffic – and be easy to park and navigate in the narrow streets of London


Mileage 3967 List price £28,580 Target Price £26,792 Price as tested £37,500 Test economy 32.0mpg


9 January 2020 – Age before beauty?

I couldn't drive a BMW 1 Series every day for four months and not talk about the styling. Here at What Car?, we don’t consider aesthetics in the review process. But in the case of this car, the styling is perhaps as controversial as its move from rear to front-wheel drive.

Truth is, while I'm still undecided over the chrome kidney grille, I’ve grown to quite like the overall design – particularly the sharp, aggressive-looking tail-lights, the angular creases and the imposing cutouts in the front splitter. There’s an angle to catch the eye no matter where you look. Gone is the sleek, low-slung silhouette of the previous 1 Series, in its place a more daring shape to stand out from the Mercedes A-Class and upcoming new Audi A3.

BMW 1 Series long-term report details

There are real benefits to these styling choices, too. The higher roofline means better head room and the wider, boxier shape means more interior space, particularly in the rear. It’s also worth remembering that the designers were as influenced by the new architecture (underneath, the 1 Series is essentially the same as the Mini Countryman) as they were by the obvious desire to retain the sportiness of the previous model, and so this design is as much about functionality as it is about aesthetics.

BMW 1 Series long-term rear 3/4 static

The Misano Blue paintwork (a £560 option) is a real highlight for me, highlighting the sharp details of the M Sport bodykit (standard on M Sport trim). In a city of silver, grey and black, a punch of colour turns the head of even the most passive passers-by; I’ve lost count of how many drivers have asked me about my car in standing traffic.

BMW 1 Series long-term report 3 old car with new car

The true genius of contentious design is that it will divide opinion but, crucially, get people talking. There are those avid 1 Series fans who wish the new car looked more like the old one, but for those of you looking for a premium-badged family hatchback with a bit of flare, BMW's junior model could be a great choice.

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