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Why Lease The 1 Series?

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Donna Kelly has over 12 years of experience in the motoring industry, writing, test driving and tweeting about cars. Her weekends are spent trackside, covering racing events.

BMW 1 Series Review 2021

The 1 Series may be BMW's smallest car, but this premium family hatchback is amongst the best in its class.

Combining eye-catching good looks with impressive practicality, the 1 Series remains a popular lease choice with young professionals and growing families alike, thanks to its top-notch interior and excellent infotainment system. 

Rivals to the BMW 1 Series include the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class, Mazda 3, Skoda Octavia, and Volkswagen Golf.

Our BMW 1 Series review covers:

BMW 1 Series Key Features

  • Sporty exterior style with shorter bonnet and BMW’s trademark kidney grille
  • Plush interior with soft-touch materials and 10.3-inch iDrive infotainment system
  • 380-litre boot with 60/40 split folding rear seats
  • Choice of petrol and diesel engines with optional xDrive four-wheel drive
  • Three trim levels available including SE, Sport and M Sport

Design, Practicality and Boot Space

Redesigned from the ground up, the third-generation BMW 1 Series boasts a fresh look. A new shorter bonnet and less space between the front wheels and door help make it one of the sportiest hatchbacks on the market. Add in BMW's trademark kidney grille and angular creases, and the 1 Series is instantly recognisable on the road. 


Inside, the 1 Series' front-wheel drive means there's more space inside for passengers and their luggage than its predecessor. Head, leg, and elbow room better than its premium rivals, although six-footers may feel their heads just brushing the roof lining. 

There's also a good storage options include large door bins, a big glovebox, a tray at the front of the centre console and a generous cubby hole under the central armrest.

At the rear, the 1 Series' 380-litre boot is the same size as the Audi A3 and is bigger than the A-Class, with space enough for up to six carry-on suitcases. Its boxy shape also maximises the space available, allowing for easy loading and unloading. 

The only real disappointment is the 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard, which aren't as adaptable as the 40/20/40 arrangement in the Mercedes A-Class

Interior and Trims

The 1 Series' top-notch interior remains a key selling point. On par with the latest 3 Series in layout and build, the minimalist dashboard boasts a rock-solid build quality with soft-touch materials and plush plastics, trims, and switches. 

Every 1 Series also gets a 10.3-inch infotainment screen powered by BMW's iDrive system operated by touchscreen or via the rotary iDrive controller. Thanks to its easy-to-use functionality and up-to-date equipment, the iDrive system is one of the best interfaces on the market. It includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, DAB radio, Bluetooth, and BMW's personal assistant system.

Three trim levels are available, including the entry-level SE, which comes well equipped with automatic LED headlights, cruise control, cloth upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, and 16-inch alloy wheels. 

The mid-spec Sport trim adds sports seats in cloth and Sensatec faux leather, dual-zone climate control, exterior styling tweaks and 17-inch wheels.

The top-of-the-range M Sport trim adds leather upholstery, heated sports seats, M Sport suspension, larger alloy wheels and a sporty single-exit exhaust.

Power and Performance

Under the bonnet, the 1 Series comes with a choice of petrol and diesel engines with a six-speed manual transmission as standard or optional eight-speed automatic. All models are front-wheel-drive apart from the M135i, which comes with xDrive four-wheel drive as standard.


The petrol range kicks off with the 1.5-litre three-cylinder in the 118i that boasts 134bhp, making it ideal for town driving. The 2.0-litre engine in the 128ti offers more power at 265hp, while the sporty 2.0-litre 301bhp engine sprints from 0-60mph in less than 4.8 seconds. 

Diesel options include a 1.5-litre litre three-cylinder engine in the 114bhp 116d or a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in the 148bhp 118d and 187bhp 120d. Thanks to its punchy performance, the 118d remains the most popular engine in the range.

Out on the road, the BMW 1 Series feels most at home around town thanks to its light steering and decent visibility.

It is comfortable over lumps and bumps and is quiet to drive on the motorway. Yet, while the 1 Series is great fun to drive on twisty country roads, the Audi A3 offers better handling, more front-end grip, and more confidence-inspiring steering. 

Leasing vs Buying

Prices for the new BMW 1 Series start from £26,150.00 OTR* or to lease from £264.36 per month.

Fancy getting behind the wheel of the new BMW 1 Series? Nationwide Vehicle Contracts has some fantastic lease deals on the 1 Series with fixed monthly rentals, flexible mileage and term options, a low initial outlay and free delivery direct to your door. This could make leasing a BMW 1 Series cheaper than buying outright with a bank loan or dealer finance. 

*'On the road' price correct at time of publication and includes one year's road fund license, DVLA first registration fee and number plate fee. Prices are subject to change. Always check with your nearest retailer.  

Customer Reviews

BMW 1 Series
Average Rating Based on 40 reviews
4.1 out of 5

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.1 out of 5
Ricky BMW 1 Series 128ti Step Auto

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
5.0 out of 5
Andrew BMW 1 Series 118i (136) M Sport

All good

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.9 out of 5
Helen BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport Step Auto

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.6 out of 5
Helen BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport

The car doesn’t have the tech pack so it doesn’t have keyless entry or a wireless charge point. I wish I had properly understood the different specification packs before leasing the vehicle.

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
3.3 out of 5
Mark BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive Step Auto

Good performance, average interior and comfort

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.9 out of 5
David BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive Step Auto (tech 1/Plus pack)

Great car. We did our research beforehand so we knew what we were getting. There are some optional extras that we didn’t seem to have the option to order from Nationwide which would have made the car even more spectacular such as electric, memory seats and on cold mornings I wish we had opted for the heating steering wheel!

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.7 out of 5
Amanda BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) M Sport Shadow Ed Step Auto

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.9 out of 5
Alex BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) M Sport Shadow Edition

Great balance of performance, space and price!

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.6 out of 5
Natalie BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) Sport (Nav/Servotronic) *Incl. Sun Protection Glass*

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.9 out of 5
Rahul BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) M Sport Shadow Ed Step Auto

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.7 out of 5
Kate BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) M Sport Shadow Edition

Good value for money, one of the best cars I’ve had.

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
1.6 out of 5
Mark BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) M Sport Shadow Ed Step Auto

I had the Audi A3 previously and in comparison it outclasses the BMW M1. The build quality in the BMW is very poor (cheap windscreen wipers etc)

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.6 out of 5
Rohan BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) M Sport (Nav/Servotronic) Step Auto

Great car to drive and the automatic gearbox is excellent, has big car presence and far cheaper than local PCP deals through a dealership.

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.1 out of 5
Joanne BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) Sport (Nav/Servotronic) *Incl. Sun Protection Glass*

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
4.6 out of 5
Peter BMW 1 Series 118i (1.5) Sport (Nav/Servotronic) *Incl. Sun Protection Glass*

  • Practicality
  • Performance
  • Running Costs
  • Comfort
  • Value For Money
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