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BMW 1-series: Test Drive Review

Date: 18 August 2011   |   Author: Rachel Burgess

Category: Lower medium
P11D price: £24,915
Key rival: Audi A3 Sportback

Following the success of the first-generation 1-series, which has recorded 170,000 sales across its three-door, five-door, coupe and convertible derivatives since going on sale in 2004, BMW's ambitions are high for the second generation car.

The latest 1-series has been built to address criticisms of its predecessor, including interior space and ride quality. The car is 83mm longer overall, with 20mm more leg room for rear passengers, and 14mm wider than the outgoing model.?It also features wider doors for easier access, notably more head space throughout and a boot that is 30 litres larger at 360 litres, meaning it beats its ubiquitous Volkswagen Golf rival by 10 litres.

To improve ride quality BMW says it signed off the car after rare testing on UK roads. The 1-series also features the carmaker's adaptive suspension system, which includes Sport+ (without traction control), Sport, Comfort and a new Eco Pro mode. On German roads, undoubtedly better than the UK's, the ride in Comfort was far less hard than formerly, but change to Sport and you become far more aware of a road's unevenness.

BMW is offering five engines at launch - two petrol and three diesel. The 118d, with 118g/km CO2 and 62.8mpg, will be the biggest selling - it represented 42% of sales last year. A super-efficient 116d ED, a younger sibling to the successful 320d ED launched earlier this year, will join the range from March 2012, offering emissions of 99g/km. It's expected to make up 15% of fleet sales. The 120d, as tested here, has emissions of 116g/km and official economy figures of 64.2mpg with the eight-speed auto gearbox.

The mid-range trim SE will be the biggest seller and includes Bluetooth, USB connectivity and a speed-limiter. Two new trims, Sport and Urban, are also expected to be popular. Sport will rival the SE to become the most common while Urban allows owners to customise their cars, in a similar way to sister brand Mini, says UK products operations manager James Morrison.

The new 1-series continues to compete brilliantly in its class as a good all-rounder. For instance, the 120d SE beats its premium rivals on whole-life costs at 52.0 pence per mile compared with 53.4ppm for the Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI 170 SE. It also beats the Golf (61.7ppm), although the equivalent-powered VW derivative only offers the top-spec GT so has a notably higher starting price.

The 1-series shows that not only does BMW take on-board criticisms and improve models suitably, but with attention to emissions and fuel consumption, is making the premium brand accessible to a far wider audience. It's definitely a car to keep both drivers and fleet managers happy.

BMW 1-series 120d SE auto
P11D price£24,915
Model price range£19,375-£26,160
National Insurance£1650
Cost per mile52.0p
Fuel consumption64.2mpg
CO2 (tax) 116g/km/(13%)
BIK 20/40% per month£54/£108
Service intervalvariable mls
Insurancegroup 26
Warranty3yrs/variable mls
Boot space (min/max)360/1200 litres
Engine size/power1997cc/184hp
Top speed/0-62mph142mph/7.2secs
On sale September 2011
VerdictAll round improvements
make this even more
worth fleet car


All round improvements make this even more worth fleet car