Looks the part, all the usual BMW credentials
Delivers the drive (unless you’re particularly handling-obsessed)
Decent fuel efficiency
Generally low running costs
Limited rear legroom and small boot
Not as dynamic as the larger BMWs
Entry-level trim is rather basic

BMW 1-Series (E87) review (2004-2011)

Could the 1 be The One?

More Info

bmw1 front

What is the BMW 1-series?

It has been the only rear-wheel-drive small five-door – if such mechanical esoterica matter to you – and the cheapest way into BMW ownership apart from buying a Bavarian banger. The first-generation (E87) 1-series, first launched back in 2004, was BMW’s attempt to steal some sales from the obvious-choice Volkswagen Golf and its upmarket sister the Audi A3. However, despite its five-door hatchback body style, qhich did make it more practical than the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLC-class, it is by no means the roomiest of small family cars – it’s more concerned with image than utility, though the oddly-angled styling isn’t to everyone’s taste.

Search for and buy a used BMW 1-series

Overall comfort and refinement were not class-leading, but the 1-series was a significant improvement on the old 3-series Compact. Three-door, coupe and convertible versions joined this range in the midlife makeover of 2007.

bmw1 rear

With its rear-drive layout so adored by BMW enthusiasts, the 1-series is plenty fun enough for everyday motoring. It also brings powerful yet efficient engines to the party, and the diesels are economical, too. If you’re unlikely to be doing high mileages, however, the entry-level 116i petrol will be cheaper to buy and to run in the longer term, and easier to find second-hand. The later 120bhp models are quicker and have six-speed manual gearboxes.

The 1-series scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, and the later models have stability control and traction control as standard, plus six airbags. Standard equipment levels are a bit stingy, so many new-car buyers splash out on optional extras when ordering their car.

bmw1 cabin

It’s not the most affordable option in this sector – even among “premium-brand” cars – but the 1-series holds its value well, and a good example should be easy to sell on. The stunning Alfa Romeo Giulietta offers a high-style alternative to the German models in this class, but if you can’t quite make the leap of faith that buying an Alfa entails, the 1-series remains a safe bet.

What to look out for when buying a used BMW 1-series

Owners appear to be happy overall with their cars’ reliability, and the 1-series has scored well in satisfaction surveys, although the first-generation car was recalled three times for problems with the braking, airbags and seatbelt pretensioners, as well as a fire risk with diesel models.

The One to Buy

BMW 116i ES


1599cc, four cylinders
120bhp @ 6000rpm
118lb ft lb ft @ 4250rpm
6-speed manual
0-62mph in 9.9sec
Top Speed:
48mpg combined
Road Tax Band:
L 4324mm W 1765mm H 1421mm

Or For Similar Money

Alfa Romeo Giulietta (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)
Audi A3 Sportback (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)
Volkswagen Golf (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)