BMW 1-Series F20/F21 (2011-on): review, problems and specs

BMW 1-series is the entry-level model of the Bavarian family, one that reached second generation and has carved its previous shortcomings. It’s more spacious, more practical and comes with plenty of kit as standard. And things (especially its face) got even better with its 2015 mid-life facelift. As in the previous generation, it is available in both 3-door and 5-door bodies.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • Diesel engines are a gem on this body
  • It’s impressively fun to drive
  • The automatic transmission is a must have

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • Still doesn’t shine on practicality

Stay Away From
  • Too many optional equipment, which painfully raise the price tag
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • M135i / xDrive has been recalled over a potentially defective bolt in the VANOS variable valve timing system.
Car Details
Powertrain

The actual 1-series’ engine lineup manages to reach pretty much every type of driver — from the frugal 114d and 116i 1.5-liter three-pot units to the powerful 3.0-liter inline-six M135i.
One of its unique selling propositions is the drivetrain layout —it is the only rear-wheel-drive in the C-segment. There are all-wheel-drive versions, too: 118d, 120d and M135i come also in xDrive form.
There are five petrol and five diesel engines available (the UK market lacks the 116i and 114d entry-levels, though), with a power range from 94 hp to 322 hp.
The transmissions available for the 1-series are a six-speed manual and an optional 8-speed Steptronic (the latter comes as standard on M135i xDrive, 120d xDrive and 125d).


Handling

The rear-wheel-drive layout and the longitudinally-mounted inline engines make for a great ride — and unique in the segment, too. The previous generation wasn’t bad at all, but this is just brilliant.
The front track was extended with 51mm, while the rear axle was widened with 71mm, and the suspension has been enhanced.
The car is well-balanced, and the steering wheel manages to give you plenty of feedback from the front wheels. On the other hand, it’s not as stiff as the first generation — the suspension is more versed and manages to attenuate bump shocks.


Safety

Front airbags and head airbags for the driver and his passenger, along with side airbags for all four occupants — you get that as standard. And the safety features list offered as standard continues with DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) and DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) electronic aids, with runflat tires and tire pressure monitor.
As a result, it managed to score 5-star rating in EuroNCAP crash tests.

Comfort

BMW 1-series’ progress toward comfort is noticeable, but not quite par with the segment’s rivals. The back seats are still cramped, especially when there are three passengers in the back. The extended wheelbase makes leg room acceptable in the back, but again, the rivals have more to offer in this chapter.
The front seats are satisfactorily roomy and comfortable, with good side and back support. Without any surprise, the driving position is impeccable and the cabin is well-soundproofed, although the four-pot diesels’ noise is intrusive at low speed.


Quality

In terms of quality, the facelift slightly upgraded the cabin materials, making available a set of new ornaments. Otherwise, the changes overall are barely noticeable, and you can’t say that in a negative note when it comes to a BMW.
The fabrics, leather, aluminum or wood are top notch, and the cabin’s panels are satisfactorily lined up, with micro gaps in between. Better than that is only the A3.


Practicality

Well, the 1-series is the kind of live-and-learn kind of character. The first generation barely could boast any practicality attributes, and while the second generation met discernible improvement, it isn’t a benchmark in the segment in terms of space (and its usage).
The boot space grew to a decent 330 liters, 10 liters short of VW’s Golf and Mercedes’ A-Class hatchbacks. If you fold the 60:40 rear bench, the volume extends to a total of 1,200 liters.
While there are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin, their space is suitable for change and small objects.


Infotainment

The only reproach you can have is that the USB and Bluetooth connectivity is not offered as standard equipment. Otherwise, the start-up package is decent, with 6.5-inch flat screen and very intuitive iDrive controller, along with the 6-speaker audio system.

Efficiency

The new power unit family available for the 1-series hatchback made great improvement in terms of fuel efficiency — there’s even an EfficientDynamics version (dubbed 116d ED) capable of 69 mpg (3.4 l/100 km) in combined cycle, with emissions of 89 g/km CO2.
Otherwise, the average fuel consumption across the lineup has dropped no less that 12 percent, while simultaneously boasting more power. All the engines are EU6 compliant and have the Start/Stop technology implemented.
As long as you opt for the 8-speed revised Steptronic transmission (not available on the 116i, 118d xDrive), you will be more than satisfied with your engine choice — delivering comfort and efficiency altogether.


Equipment

The standard equipment level offered for the 1-series is comprehensive, with automatic air-conditioning, leather-covered steering wheel, automatic wipers — along with the safety and infotainment features early mentioned.
The options list is very generous, but you’ll have to prepare some non-negligible budget, if you want to upgrade your 1-series hatchback with LED adaptive headlights, 18” wheels, all-round parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, head-up display and such.


Acquisition

Depending on how much money you want to spend on it, 1-series is suitable both as a fleet car, and as an impressively-equipped daily-driver hatchback.
1-series is available in 3-door and 5-door guise, with less than €1,000 price tag difference.

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