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Arval's pick of the range: BMW 116D EfficientDynamics Plus 5dr
What is it? The 1 Series is BMW’s premium hatchback and the entry point to its range. Available as either a three-door or five-door (some versions also have four-wheel drive), much like the larger 3 Series, the 1 Series is great to drive and well-built, with no shortage of engine and transmission options.
The 1 Series has always been the drivers’ choice due to BMW’s trademark rear-wheel drive setup which makes for more engaging handling, faster steering and better acceleration. For those driving on windy roads or in challenging weather conditions, the xDrive four-wheel drive system offers additional confidence through corners, encouraging a safer journey. The 1 Series is quiet and comfortable, particularly in the excellent entry-level SE trim, and while cabin and road noise increases in M Sport models, styling and handling characteristics are sharpened even further. In terms of performance, BMW offers a 1 Series to suit almost every scenario – from the high-performance 125d,125i M Sport and M140i (the fastest in the range), through to the brisk, fuel efficient and very popular 116d diesel; there is an engine to match your driving profile.
Trim levels for the 1 Series start with Standard (SE) and rise through EfficientDynamics Plus for those wanting extra economy and lower CO2. If you’re looking for more athletic or dynamic styling, the Sport and M Sport models are well worth considering. If want the ultimate BMW 1 Series, then the M Sport should be at the top of the list as it offers larger 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension and upgraded brakes.
EfficientDynamics Plus (in addition to SE)
M Sport (in addition/replacement to SE)
The standard 1 Series SE trim level is a great starting point as the softer suspension makes for a comfortable ride. While the wide variety of optional extras can seem overwhelming, we recommend the Innovation Pack as it includes front and rear parking sensors, cruise control with a braking function, sports steering, upgraded Bluetooth with wireless charging and BMW’s Professional multimedia navigation system. At Arval we’re particularly fond of the fuel efficient 116d model as it offers the lowest emissions and best MPG in the range, whilst the 150hp available from the 118d offers an appealing blend of performance and economy.
As you’d expect from a BMW, the 1 Series’ cabin is solidly built and classy. The overall design is deliberately understated, containing subtle features that only become apparent the more time you spend driving, which is when you realise that the approach is to create as much synergy between driver and vehicle as possible. Controls are always where you expect them to be, there’s more legroom than ever before and the overall aesthetic is such that you instantly take for granted how well thought through the interior is. Surfaces offer a premium feel and clear instrument displays are intuitive. Climate control, Professional Radio and iDrive are standard. Boot space is a respectable 360 litres with rear seats that fold completely flat, increasing capacity to an ample 1,200 litres. Of its direct competitors only the Audi A3’s cargo area is slightly bigger at 380/1,220 litres. The many options to customise the interior, as well as the main model choices on offer, ensure that there are countless options to choose from when styling the 1 Series cabin.
Premium alternatives include the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Audi A3, DS4, Lexus CT-200h, Mercedes A-Class and Volvo V40. Mainstream alternatives are the Citroen C4, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia C’eed, Mazda3, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Toyota Auris, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.
Even with stiff competition, the 1 Series remains the best car to drive in the premium lower medium class, as rear-wheel drive (or four if you tick the option), crisp steering and powerful but efficient engines make for fun and fitting corporate transport.