With prices ranging from £3000 to £30,000 and engines in more capacities and outputs than you can shake a stick at, there’s probably a used BMW 1 Series for you. We’re talking about the generation built from 2011 to 2019, punctuated by a 2015 facelift that substantially raised the car’s game.
But first a word or two of warning: it’s not the best-packaged hatchback. Blame the fact that it’s rear-wheel drive, although from a driving perspective this should be a positive. It’s a classic rear-drive BMW; ergo, it should be a hoot, right? Sadly, it’s not, quite. A front-drive Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus are more agile more of the time.
Those quibbles aside, we can get on with appreciating the 1 Series’ abundant qualities. They include a range of great diesel engines (okay, they’re no longer fashionable but you’ll love their efficiency), a beautifully built cabin, generous kit levels and sporty good looks (post-facelift, at least). And on the right road, the M135i and M140i are giant-killers.
The model arrived in 2011 in five-door form first, powered by a choice of mid-size petrol and diesel engines. The following year, the three-door landed along with xDrive four-wheel-drive versions of the 120d. The 1.4i and, at the other extreme, the M135i also made their appearance.
The diesels, in particular the 118d, were the biggest sellers and M Sport the most popular trim. A 2013 118d M Sport auto with 44,000 miles costs around £10,700. It’s a well-rounded car with economy nudging 60mpg and 0-62mph in 8.9sec. On the petrol front, the three-pot 118i is a smooth, sprightly and economical engine shared with Mini. Around £11,000 snares a 2013-reg M Sport automatic five-door with 44,000 miles. Talking of autos, from 2014 cars equipped with sat-nav got the Proactive Drive system that tailors gearchanges more precisely. Throughout this time, trims were ES, SE, Urban, Sport and M Sport. Ignore base ES and even hard-riding M Sport, although it does look good, and go either for SE or the better-equipped Sport.
The 2015 facelift meant sharper looks inside and out, new engines with EfficientDynamics technologies, a tweaked chassis, more standard kit, including sat-nav for all, better infotainment… If you can afford it, stick your neck out for one of these later cars. How far? Well, a 2014 118i M Sport with 34,000 miles is £12,500 and a 2015-reg 120i M Sport with the same mileage around £1000 more.
A noteworthy version from this time is the super-efficient 116d ED Plus. One registered before 1 April 2017 attracts zero road tax, it’s that clean. We found a 2016-reg example with 47,000 miles, one owner and a full BMW service history for £9800. Expect at least 70mpg.