The BMW 1-Series is the smallest and most affordable BMW on the market, serving as an enticing draw for consumers that might not ordinarily feel they can afford a BMW to consider splurging on that badge. The German-based BMW is one of the three biggest, most successful luxury carmakers in the world, even serving as the parent company for other deluxe brands like Rolls-Royce. Offering a small entry-level model served as a way to attract people who were not otherwise financially able to consider a BMW, as well as attracted traditional luxury vehicle customers who wanted something smaller without sacrificing quality and options.
Originally launched in 2004, the BMW 1-Series is a successor to the BMW Compact and the BMW 2002, and it resides in the small family car class. The BMW 1-Series has seen two generations, with the first lasting from 2004 to 2011, and the second from 2011 onward. In many ways, it’s like a smaller cousin to the BMW 3-Series, sharing aspects like the chassis, powertrain, and electronics. The main impetus for a BMW 1-Series was the up-market migration of the BMW 3-Series, which left a hole for something more affordable.
The first available model of the BMW 1-Series was a 2004 five-door hatchback, but a two-door coupe and a soft-top convertible joined it in 2008. They all featured a variety of ranges and trim levels, particularly when it came to options for the various available engines. They included both petrol and turbo-diesel varieties. After 2011, the second-generation BMW 1-Series hatch proved to be a significant upgrade, being cheaper, faster, better equipped, and more comfortable than the previous models.
As for the coupe and convertible models, they’re based on the same F20 platform as the hatchback, but they will be migrated to the BMW 2-Series in 2014.
The original 2004 BMW 1-Series five-door hatchback offered plenty of performance to love in a car of its size and class. In fact, there was very little like it at its price point. The hatchback featured engines from a 1.6L with four cylinders up to a 3L with six cylinders. The base level engine in the original entry-level 116i BMW 1-Series featured power of 85kW and torque of 150Nm, plus fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km.
The base 114i model of the second-generation 2011 hatch featured a 1.6L petrol engine with 76kW of power and 180Nm of torque, plus fuel consumption of just 5.9L/100km. On the other end of the spectrum, the powerful M135i xDrive 2012 hatch had a 3L turbo engine with 238kW of power and 450Nm of torque, plus fuel consumption of 6.9L/100km. No matter what choice a BMW enthusiast chooses, it’s going to pack a lot of power into the compact chassis.
Initially, the BMW 1-Series offered most of its luxuries as optional kit rather than standard, and the options weren’t cheap. By the time a buyer added in the options, it might make more sense to buy another car in that higher price range. Fortunately, BMW included some improvements on this for the second generation.
All 2011 and later hatch models include air conditioning, engine start-stop, and BMW’s Drive Performance Control. Many of the higher trims for the BMW 1-Series include an 8.8in flat-screen monitor and hands-free Bluetooth. Other options to distinguish the sub-models include differences in alloy wheels, grilles, and other features related to its appearance.
The Drive Performance Control is a noteworthy feature, allowing for better fuel economy by choosing different modes that change the car’s use of air conditioning, acceleration, and other intensive features. As a nice touch, it even displays the increased fuel economy.
The BMW 1-Series has a lot to distinguish it from the competition. For one thing, it’s the only one in its class to offer rear-wheel drive in a hatchback. It also has the unique Drive Performance Control and a wide range of technological gadgets. Its main competition includes the cheaper, well-featured Volkswagen Golf, the Mazda3, and the Audi A3.
The BMW 1-Series doesn’t pretend to be cheap, but it packs value and a top of the line reputation. Whether it’s worth the extra money over its worthy rivals depends on personal taste.