This once hot hatch has become a plush, family-friendly car

The BMW 1 Series is a long-standing contender in the battle of the hot hatches, but times are changing. 

Competing with the Audi A3Mercedes-Benz A-Class or the Volkswagen Golf, it’s a class that has been ultra-competitive for many years.

With various petrol and diesel engine choices on offer, the 1 Series represents a premium option for anyone looking for a car lease in the hatchback sector.

To see how it compares to some of its rivals, we’re reviewing this 118i M Sport in Mineral Grey, testing its performance, space, technology and more.

What did we drive?

Model: 118i M Sport

Transmission: Automatic

Power: Petrol

Colour: Storm Bay

Wheels: 18" Orbit Grey V-spoke style 554 M alloy wheels

OTR from: £26,450

Price of model driven: from £31,235

*Prices correct at the time of publication

BMW 1 Series M Sport front


Prices for the BMW 1 Series can start from a very reasonable £26,450 for the entry-level SE spec, rising to around £40,000 for the more powerful engines.

Audi offer more affordable routes into the A3 with prices for entry-level models starting from just over £24,000. Meanwhile, both the 3 Series and the A-Class start from a similar price point, between £25,000 and £26,000. 

One of the most cost-effective methods of getting behind the wheel of a brand new vehicle is by taking out a BMW 1 Series lease, where you benefit from flexible terms and fixed monthly payments.

BMW 1 Series 118i detailing

Engine Options 

There is a generous list of engine options throughout the 1 Series line-up. It is available with manual and automatic gearbox options and you have the luxury of opting for an all-wheel drive xDrive engine if that’s what you’re after.

The 118i petrol engine that we were testing is one of the smaller options available in the M Sport trim, so it’s by no means the most powerful option out there.

It was punchy enough for your typical family hatchback, but I don’t think it would be pulling many punches in the ‘hot hatch’ sector. If you feel like you'll need more power, you could consider the 128ti or the BMW M135i, both of which are fantastic models in their own right.

A full breakdown of the engine options available on the 1 Series is as follows:



118i SE - from £26,450 – 136hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)


116d SE - from £27,595 – 116hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)

118d SE - from £30,375 – 150hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)



118i Sport – from £27,490 – 136hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)


116d Sport – from £28,595 – 116hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)

118d Sport – from £31,373 - 150hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)

120d Sport – from £33,240 – 190hp (Automatic DTC)

120d xDrive Sport – from £34,780 – 190hp (Automatic DTC)

M Sport


118i M Sport – from £29,290 – 136hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)


116d M Sport – from £30,395 – 116hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)

118d M Sport – from £33,175 - 150hp (Manual & Automatic DTC)

120d M Sport – from £35,080 – 190hp (Automatic DTC)

120d xDrive M Sport – from £36,580 – 190hp (Automatic DTC)



128ti – from £34,550 – 265hp - (Automatic DTC)



M135i xDrive – from £38,440 – 306hp (Automatic DTC)


The biggest change in the way that the 1 Series drives is the shift to a front-wheel drive system.

Traditionally, the 1 Series has predominantly been a rear-wheel drive but that’s no longer the case.

Unfortunately, what this does mean is it's no longer the most engaging or dynamic car to drive, but to be honest, I never felt the need for it to be that. It was comfortable, easy to drive and reflects what this family-friendly hatchback should be used for.

The 118i, 136 horsepower engine comes with obvious limitations in terms of power, but there’s enough there for your typical day-to-day journeys. Dropping the car into Sport mode does enhance your experience, which is a nice option to have.

The gearbox is good, but there is a noticeable delay in the power kicking in if you do need to put your foot down.

You can still ‘drive’ it if that’s what you’re after. The steering is incredibly precise and agile, which comes into its own on a tight and twisty road.

Arguably where it was at its best was in Eco mode, where we found we could really eke out that mileage for greater fuel economy.

BMW 1 Series series rear

Design & Interior 

The 1 Series has what I would describe as a Marmite design and largely, I think it will come down to personal preference. 

The best way to take in the design is to view in two parts; the front and the rear of the vehicle. 

The rear is the far more imposing end of the vehicle. It provides all the presence with the air vents and curves in the rear bumper giving it a muscular edge. 

The spoiler is a nice touch to give it a sportier feel and from behind, it did give me 3 Series Touring vibes. 

If I was taking out my own BMW lease, I would consider adding the high-gloss Shadow Line finish, which is included in the M Sport Pro package. The silver chrome finish on the grille looked a little out of place compared to the rest of the design.

As ever with BMW, the attention to detail is phenomenal and being an M Sport version, you have nice touches throughout that elevate the cabin. 

Inside, comfort levels are high and you could comfortably rack up the miles in this versatile hatchback. The extra lumbar support (currently available as an optional extra) would’ve been nice as standard and is a worthwhile upgrade – but that would be our only complaint from a comfort perspective. 

BMW 1 Series boot space

Space & Practicality 

I was very impressed by the space on offer throughout the 118i. If its just yourself and a passenger, you're going to enjoy a fantastic amount of room.

Conversely, if you do want to use it for family life, it's one of the better hatchbacks available for carrying multiple people at once. 

The space in the rear passenger seats allows for two adults to comfortably travel in style, thanks to a generous amount of head and legroom. 

You have two ISOFIX points in the outer rear seats and another handy feature is a set of ISOFIX hooks in the front passenger seat. Factor in the wide door openings and you’ll find getting in things in and out of the 1 Series very easy. 

The boot space is competitive for this class at 380L, which matches rivals like the Audi A3 or the Volkswagen Golf. If you’re considering a Mercedes lease, it’s worthwhile noting that the A-Class does come with a marginally smaller boot (370L).

The exterior gives off the impression that the 118i is quite big in comparison to your typical hatchback - which it is. I think BMW have missed a trick here with the black felt material that lines the cabin roof. It looks very smart, but the darker shade does close the space in. 


BMW’s systems are first-class, purely because they are so versatile. They may not look the most modern and rivals like the Mercedes A-Class will offer something that looks more contemporary, but you can’t question the usability of the former.

Whether this is your first BMW or if you’ve driven 10 before, it will take you no time to get familiar with how they operate. They’re incredibly easy to use and can be controlled through the touchscreen, shortcut buttons, physical dials, voice commands or even gesture control – it has something for everyone. 

Your connectivity options include a USB and USB C sockets in the centre console and armrest, a 12V socket and another USB C port in the rear for passengers.

Apple and Android connectivity are both available as standard on all models and with a Bluetooth connection, you can enjoy wireless Apple CarPlay.

We've driven a handful of BMWs in recent months and it's hard to ever find a fault with their technology. If modern design is what you're after, you may want to look elsewhere but as an overall system, it just works. 


If you do plan on using the 1 Series as a family hatchback, then you’ll be delighted to hear it comes with various safety and technology features to keep you and your loved ones safe on the move.

In the case of the 118i M Sport edition that we were driving, this includes front LED foglights, front and rear parking sensors, active guard plus and LED headlights.

It also has a five-star Euro NCAP rating with an 87% score for child occupants, which is higher than the Audi A3 (81%) and only marginally less than what the Volkswagen Golf (89%) scored. 

BMW 1 Series badge

Model Lines & Equipment


  • 16" 517 Star-spoke style Alloy Wheels
  • Grid Cloth Upholstery
  • Multifunctional Controls on Steering Wheel
  • Single-zone Automatic Air Conditioning
  • Sport Leather Steering Wheel
  • Quartz Silver Interior Trim
  • Active Guard Plus
  • Cruise Control
  • Front and Rear Parking Sensors
  • Front LED Foglights
  • LED Headlights
  • Bluetooth Audio Streaming
  • Bluetooth with USB
  • DAB
  • ConnectedPackage Pro (including Android Auto & Apple CarPlay)

Sport (In addition to SE)

  • 17" 549 Double-spoke style Alloy Wheels
  • Sport designed front and rear body-coloured bumpers
  • High-gloss Shadowline Exterior Trim
  • Front Sport Seats
  • Illuminated Berlin Interior Trim
  • Nivala Cloth/Sensatec Upholstery
  • Two-zone Automatic Air Conditioning
  • Larger Fuel Tank Capacity - increased by 8 litres (120d/xDrive)
  • Performance Control

M Sport (In addition to Sport)

  • 18" 819 M Double-spoke Bi-colour Alloy Wheels
  • Folding Side Mirrors with Auto-dimming
  • M Sport Exterior Styling
  • Anthracite Headlining
  • M Sport Leather Steering Wheel
  • Trigon Cloth/Sensatec Upholstery
  • Front Heated Seats
  • M Sport Suspension
  • Sport Automatic Transmission (120d/120d xDrive models)

128ti (In addition to M Sport)

  • 18" 553 M Y-spoke Bi-colour Orbit Grey Alloy Wheels
  • M Rear Spoiler
  • Red Air Inlets
  • Red Side Sill Inlay with ‘ti’ logo foliation
  • Additional Interior Lighting
  • Floor Mats with Red Binding
  • Illuminated Boston Interior Trim
  • M Sport Multi-function Leather Steering Wheel with Red Stitching
  • M Sport Seat Belts
  • Nivala Cloth/Sensatec Upholstery with unique Red Contrast Stitching
  • BMW TwinPower twin-scroll Turbo four-cylinder Petrol Engine
  • Eight-speed Sport Automatic Transmission with electronic selector lever
  • M Sport Brakes with Red Calipers
  • M Sport Suspension with 128ti specific settings
  • Torsen Limited Slip Differential

M135i (In addition to 128ti)

  • 18" 556 M Double-spoke Bi-colour Alloy Wheels
  • Exclusive features in Cerium Grey
  • M135i Front Door Sills
  • Trigon Cloth/Alcantara Anthracite Upholstery
  • M Sport Brakes with Blue Calipers
  • M Sport Steering with M135i xDrive-specific settings
  • M Sport Suspension with M135i xDrive-specific settings
  • Larger Fuel Tank Capacity
BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport


Rightly or wrongly, I’ve always perceived the 1 Series as a more performance-focused hot hatch, aimed at a younger profile of driver.

This may have been a huge oversight on my part, but what I experienced in the 118i M Sport was a car that was far more mature and if anything, grown up. The term ‘hot hatch’ couldn’t be further from the truth.

It feels more befitting of what you see higher up in the BMW line-up, with premium underpinnings that prioritise style and comfort over performance.

It has smashed any preconceptions I had, as a practical, spacious and relaxing hatchback. What’s not to like? 

Interested in BMW leasing? Check out our latest lease deals for both personal and business customers

Ryan Darby

Ryan Darby

Ryan takes the lead on all things 'wordy'. With a sports media background, a true passion for cars, and a LOT of driving experience under his belt, he'll make sure you have all the information you need, when you need it.