Performance: The 1-series misses out on the silky 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's offered in the 3, 5, X1 and X3 range. That's not a bad thing however because you get the smooth 3-liter six-cylinders in both non-turbo and turbo forms. The base non-turbo form of the 1-series produces 230hp. While the mid-range and top of the range offer turbocharged forms of the six-cylinder producing 300hp and 320hp. The base trim is all you'll ever really need. It's quick and easy to drive around town and on the highway. The turbo forms command a higher price tag, but also add more to the fun department.
Ride & handling: The ride comfort is smooth most of the time. Patchy or uneven road surfaces will upset the ride. Steering and body control are excellent. You can push through in bends with confidence. If you option for the M-Sport package, you'll get a firmer suspension and larger alloys. This isn't always a good thing as the ride comfort gets overly firm to the point of unforgiving. The engines are smooth and quiet, even whem pushed hard. Some road noise can be heard at highway speed as well as wind noise around the door mirrors.
Practicality: There is plenty of head and legroom up front. Getting in and out of the back is a bit of a chore. Rear seat space isn't the greatest, but most who will buy this car won't really care too much about that. The dashboard has a BMW minimalistic approach in design. Some of the controls and dials feel a bit below BMW standards. At this price point that can be a deal breaker for some. Given the small size of the 1-series the boot offers decent amount of space.
Equipment: All trims are well equipped. The M-Sport models have body-kit, firmer suspension and larger alloys. Automatic headlights, windshield wipers and sports seats are standard across the range. You'll have to pay extra for comfort access and Xenon headlights.
Buying & Owning: Running costs should be reasonable if you stick with the base trim. The higher the trim you climb the more powerful the engine gets. Which has both positives and negatives. The 1-series will have rock solid resale value just like all other BMW models. Buying one won't be cheap though and discounts are hard to come by.
Reliability & Safety: Some bits and materials used in the cabin feel a bit cheap. This may be a deal breaker for those who are used to a higher standard from BMW. Then again this is a BMW that sits at the 'bottom' of the range. Reliability should be good seeing that BMW has been improving over the years. Six-airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control all come standard. Deadlocks and a theft deterrent come standard, while an anti-theft alarm is only optional.
The BMW 1-series is the entry level BMW, but offers the dynamics and fun to drive nature of a BMW. The engines are smooth and the handling is BMW sharp. However, some materials used in the cabin feel a bit below BMW standards. Plus the price gap between this and the 3-series isn't huge. There are better and cheaper rivals, but none offer the charm the 1-series offers and that's much better than it's rivals.
Devon's Pick: The 128i makes the most sense financially. It may seem like the watered down 1-series compared to the turbocharged 135i and 135is. If you are trying to get the 1-series at the most bargain price this is your best bet. Stay clear of the options list and you can get the 128i at a decent price.
Likes: Just as fun to drive as a 3-series coupe minus the price tag. BMW minimalistic approach to dashboard design.
Dislikes: Price can sky rocket quickly with options. Some cabin materials feel a bit below BMW standards.