From £19,0757
Revised diesel 1 Series packs a solid punch but lacks the compelling nature required to merit its premium

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series

A final facelift for the rear-wheel drive BMW 1 Series, as it aims to take class honours from the formidable Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class

  • First Drive

    2016 BMW M140i review

    Rear-drive balance, a smooth six-pot motor and a beautifully judged eight-speed gearbox: the M140i is as rewarding as the car it replaces
  • First Drive

    2015 BMW 1 Series 125d M Sport review

    Revised diesel 1 Series packs a solid punch but lacks the compelling nature required to merit its premium

What is it?

Quite expensive, that's what. This diesel version of the facelifted BMW 1 Series costs almost as much as the flagship M135i. Your £29,800 doesn’t bag you a melodious straight six, either; instead this 125d M Sport packs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel. 

Cylinder count isn’t always everything, however, and this engine is one of BMW’s latest. Its head and block are of weight-reducing aluminium and its specification sheet would satisfy any high-performance engine builder in the land. Forged con rods, a forged steel crank, lightweight pistons and multi-stage turbocharging are among the highlights. The net result is a hefty 221bhp and 332lb ft, sufficient to propel the 125d from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds. 

You can only get this range-topping diesel with the Sport version of the well-proven eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, which has been upgraded further. It now looks at the car’s navigation data, even when there’s no planned route, to help select the appropriate gear for the road ahead.

In addition to the new engine and the revisions to the gearbox, there have been some cosmetic updates. Externally, the 1 Series gets restyled bumpers and much sleeker rear light clusters. Inside, you’ll find some new chrome and gloss-black trims, which lift the cabin ambience slightly. Standard kit is adequate and includes single-zone climate control, a DAB radio and the iDrive system with 6.5in screen. As of September, sat-nav will also be standard across the BMW range.

It’s annoying to see that cruise control still remains a cost option, however. When a £20,000 diesel Volkswagen Golf gets adaptive cruise as standard, it’s a bit of a snub to find you’ll have to pay £550 for an upgrade pack to get conventional cruise control in your £30,000 BMW.

What's it like?

Very competent and unquestionably swift, but not especially engaging. This isn't an M135i with a sensible hat on, as you might have hopedThere are obvious similarities, such as the cabin architecture and slick steering, but it lacks its big brother's verve.

In part, this is due to the engine's unexciting sound. You may bemoan the absence of artificially created engine noise but this is one instance where it would be of benefit, since beyond a rising tachometer needle there’s very little to indicate much is going on. That growling, whistling, dump valve-huffing straight six adds masses of character to the M135i, and just a fraction of that is sorely needed in the 125d M Sport. It’s a shame because it can cause you to overlook the otherwise superb four-cylinder engine which is delightfully linear in its delivery, free from lag and eager to reach its redline.

Similarly impressive are the updates to the ZF gearbox. No longer will it simply base its shifts on speed and throttle input; it will now additionally use the car's sat-nav to look at the road ahead and select and hold a suitable ratio until you've dispensed with the oncoming corner. It works well, leaving the car feeling more poised and predictable than it would have done previously. In Sport mode its shifts are remarkably quick, almost to the extent that the transmission does a convincing impression of many a mainstream dual-clutch unit.

It's also quietly gratifying to drive a diesel hatch whose front wheels are freed from transmitting the engine's power to the road. The BMW's steering is consequently uncorrupted, as well as quick to act and precise. However, while the BMW turns in with vigour and, initially, feels like a keen handler, push harder and its lustre dulls a little. For example, catch a mid-corner bump at speed with the rear wheels and you’ll feel a pronounced hop. This slightly unsettling motion cools your enthusiasm a little, and gently persuades you to take a more restrained approach. So driven, it rides and cruises in a very cosseting, relaxed fashion, which is ideal for longer trips.

Inside, it's standard 1 Series fare: smartly presented, comfortable and quiet. It’s not the best packaged hatchback but there’s seating for four adults, a decent boot and a 52-litre tank that provides a range of some 660 miles – assuming you get anywhere near the official 61.4mpg. It would have been good if BMW had knocked 1g/km of CO2 from the 125d’s emissions figure, though, as it would grant it a VED cost of just £30. Unfortunately, since it’s 121g/km, it's £110. Considering what the car offers on the performance and economy front, it’s by no means a deal breaker.

Should I buy one?

No. If you're looking for a frugal hatchback with some dynamism, go for a Ford Focus ST diesel or a Volkswagen Golf GTD. They may not be as powerful but they're more rewarding to drive and less expensive.

If it's the badge and rear-drive nature of the 1 Series that appeals to you, then buy a 120d M Sport. You’ll save yourself over £3000, gain a few extra miles to the gallon and cut £80 off your annual VED costs. The 120d is also five insurance groups lower, which will knock a hefty chunk off your premium. 

More importantly, you’ll enjoy driving the 120d as much as you would the 125d. It’s only 0.7sec slower in the 0-62mph sprint and develops almost 300lb ft, so it isn’t a huge step down on the performance front.

2015 BMW 1 Series 125d M Sport 3dr

Location Wiltshire; On sale Now; Price £29,800; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 221bhp at 4400rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1500kg; Top speed 149mph; 0-62mph 6.3sec; Economy 61.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 121g/km, 22%

Join the debate

Comments
17

1 May 2015
Another overpriced, underwhelming and not particularly great 1 Series then. Or indeed, any other BMW of late. Having said that, the equally average Audi A3 TDi 184 S Line 3dr costs the same but has a less punch and performance so compared to the A3, perhaps this 1 Series doesn't look overpriced.

1 May 2015
Autocar wrote:

However, while the BMW turns in with vigour and, initially, feels like a keen handler, push harder and its lustre dulls a little. For example, catch a mid-corner bump at speed with the rear wheels and you’ll feel a pronounced hop...

I'm pretty sure most, if not all, hatches do the same, and it's nothing particular to the 1-series . Certainly when the Ford Focus, which we have several where I work, catches a mid-corner bump at speed, it hops.

In any case, how often is one liable to be travelling 'at speed' over a mid corner bump in day to day driving, to make an issue out of it?

1 May 2015
For only £1,200 more you can have the 4 wheel drive, leather, manual 300ps S3 (alot quicker to)

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 May 2015
The issue, as rightly stated, is that you get nothing extra for a lot more money. Save the £3k, get the 120d and you probably will never notice the difference. A lot of carmakers seem to do this and savvy buyers are already aware.

That said, getting upwards of 15% discount on a 1 Series is pretty straightforward, so price comparisons on list price are a little misleading. Audi and VW, for example, are less generous so the 1 Series is often decent value by comparison

1 May 2015
That's the opposite to the market that I've experienced, VW discount more than BMW so this 1 series, like other BMW's, is pretty bad value by comparision

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 May 2015
With the S3 at least you get an engine (rather than this parts bin special) that is no other A3.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 May 2015
I don't understand why BMW charge so much for this car, when it will sell you an M135i for hardly any more. After the bigger discount on petrols you'll probably get it for less net of discounts.

The M135i is also a lot better equipped with leather etc as standard. Yes it will be more expensive to run, and no good on tax if you are a company car user. However if you want a fast car (which I assume you are buying this over a 120d) then it would have to be the M135i every time.

1 May 2015
Trust Autocar to still think diesel is the way to go. The Supreme Court ruling on 28 Apr 15 means that the UK government needs to take tough action against diesels by coming up with a plan by 31 Dec 15. Expect fuel duty rises on diesel, road tax increases, punitive changes to company car taxation on diesels, charges to drives diesels into cities and increases in charges for parking permits (already in force in some London boroughs). Such measures are likely to damage used values of diesels and effectively make diesels more expensive to lease as a result. About time too. As for the S3 having unique engine not from a "parts bin" - nonsense. It is the same 2 litre four cylinder found in the VW Golf R/GTi, Seat Leon Cupra and Skoda Octavian vRS. A more parts bin special it is hard to imagine. Audi are just gussied up VW/Seat/Skodas not properly engineered rear wheel drive cars.

2 May 2015
spqr wrote:

Trust Autocar to still think diesel is the way to go. The Supreme Court ruling on 28 Apr 15 means that the UK government needs to take tough action against diesels by coming up with a plan by 31 Dec 15. Expect fuel duty rises on diesel, road tax increases, punitive changes to company car taxation on diesels, charges to drives diesels into cities and increases in charges for parking permits (already in force in some London boroughs). Such measures are likely to damage used values of diesels and effectively make diesels more expensive to lease as a result. About time too. As for the S3 having unique engine not from a "parts bin" - nonsense. It is the same 2 litre four cylinder found in the VW Golf R/GTi, Seat Leon Cupra and Skoda Octavian vRS. A more parts bin special it is hard to imagine. Audi are just gussied up VW/Seat/Skodas not properly engineered rear wheel drive cars.

For many of us, diesel IS still the way to go. Some of us actually have a long commute to work, where fuel economy is the deciding factor in a car purchase. Modern petrols still can't match a diesel's fuel economy - not by a long stretch. If these new rules and regulations come in, I'll have something to say.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

3 May 2015
spqr wrote:

Trust Autocar to still think diesel is the way to go. The Supreme Court ruling on 28 Apr 15 means that the UK government needs to take tough action against diesels by coming up with a plan by 31 Dec 15. Expect fuel duty rises on diesel, road tax increases, punitive changes to company car taxation on diesels, charges to drives diesels into cities and increases in charges for parking permits (already in force in some London boroughs). Such measures are likely to damage used values of diesels and effectively make diesels more expensive to lease as a result. About time too. As for the S3 having unique engine not from a "parts bin" - nonsense. It is the same 2 litre four cylinder found in the VW Golf R/GTi, Seat Leon Cupra and Skoda Octavian vRS. A more parts bin special it is hard to imagine. Audi are just gussied up VW/Seat/Skodas not properly engineered rear wheel drive cars.

Youre not very knowledgeable are you ? Diesel IS the way to go, its better for the environment because it puts out less CO2 and fitting a simple NOx trap removes any problems with nitrogen dioxide emissions. NOx traps should have been made mandatory years ago, like they are in California, where they have the strictest emissions regs in the world and diesel sales are INCREASING. The problems with diesel NOx emissions are the EU's fault for not insisting on stricter emissions regs for diesels, they are not the fault of the diesel engine despite the rubbish you may have heard in the press.

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