BMW 1 Series 130i M Sport 3dr

May 2007

picture of 1 Series on the road from front

Subtle improvements hide advances in fuel economy and CO2 reduction

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 6Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Excellent choice of engines, especially the diesels
  • Rear-drive compact hatch formula is unusual, and much loved by enthusiasts
  • In profile, three-door car looks more appealing than the five-door variant
  • 130i M Sport is a convincing, albeit expensive, hot hatch

Gripes

  • Rearward visibility is not great
  • Pop-up sat-nav screen isn't up to BMW's usual high quality standards
  • Base level cars could be better equipped as standard
  • Rear seats are for occasional use only - especially for adults

Partnering the five-door 1 Series, the three-door variant does much to flatter the car's often-criticised appearance. More balanced in profile thanks to the absence of those two extra doors, the car's arrival signalled the inclusion of some clever new technology and subtle exterior design tweak for the whole range.

If you look hard enough you might spot the improvements to the 1 Series. Incredibly subtle changes to the car's grille, bumpers and lights are the clues, although a more important change has occurred under the skin.

If you look hard enough you might spot the improvements to the 1 Series. Incredibly subtle changes to the car's grille, bumpers and lights are the clues, although a more important change has occurred under the skin.

For both petrol and diesel, although not the range-topping 130i, this development sees lower CO2 ratings and improvements to fuel economy. While not specific to the three-door, such a feature can only add to the car's already desirable status. You even get a clever gearshift indicator prompting you to change up or down to the optimum gear to further improve the potential savings.

Although a big deal, there is more to the 1 Series - the three-door in particular. The exterior styling is now more balanced and cabin quality is noticeably improved. Also, the 130i is a proper hot hatch in the old school sense thanks to its rear-drive layout, direct steering, rasping and rorty six cylinder engine and the optional and muscular must-have M Sport bodykit and handling tweaks.

Our verdict on the BMW 1 Series 130i M Sport 3dr

Far from being an indulgent compact hatch, the 1 Series has become a sensible, responsible small premium car. The inclusion of stop-start technology should silence the environmentalists, while it thankfully takes nothing away from the driving experience. And in three-door form the car is good to look at, fun to drive and exudes an air of superiority that not even cars from Audi and Honda can match.

Costs
Costs rating 8

Pound for pound the compact BMW costs more than you regular compact hatch. You could say the premium is down to the brand's image and desirability. However, opt for a diesel car, especially the 118d, and fuel consumption and road tax can be kept to a level more akin to that of a budget model from a Far Eastern manufacturer. You can also thanks the stop-start system for some of the savings, plus the low CO2 ratings of the various engines.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 6

Up front the cabin is just like that of the five-door variant, while in the rear the seating arrangement is better suited to transporting children. This car is not being marketed as family transport, so it would be foolish to expect too much. On a positive note, oddment space is good, with plenty of areas to store mobile phones, drinks bottles and maps. At the rear, the car's boot is a decent size - the boot aperture isn't huge, though - and can be made larger by folding the rear seats.

picture of a 1 series from the rear

The stubby tails hides a practical boot for what is a compact hatch

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

As we've come to expect from a BMW, the various controls in the 1 Series are both logically laid out and intuitive to use. Everything feels suitably expensive. Steering, gearshift and brakes all feel positive and don't require a lot of effort. Where fitted, the sat-nav is easy to read and programme.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

BMW is famous for offering firm, supportive seats and even in standard trim the 1 Series continues this trend. Away from the M Sport variants, the ride is pleasingly supple and, assuming you don't rev the engines hard, the cabin ambience is refined and quiet at speed. Space in the front is good, and there's little chance of you bashing elbows with your passenger. The rear seats will always be a compromise, although children are unlikely to complain.

Car security
Security Rating 7

Despite the car's potential attraction to thieves, it is well protected by a Thatcham approved anti-theft system. There's the obligatory visible VIN also. For added peace of mind a visible deterrent such as a steering lock would be a sound and inexpensive investment. Realistically only a fully optioned 130i would warrant the fitting of a tracking device due to its value and performance potential.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

All the safety kit you need is present in the 1 Series. Airbags, traction and stability control plus the knowledge that the car handles well in all conditions should help you feel confident and safe on the road.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

The trend for front-wheel drive cars is long established in the compact hatch market, so it's good to see BMW making the effort with its 1 Series. Mercedes doesn't have it all its own way with its rear-drive -Class Sports Coupe, but that's nowhere near as sporting as the BMW anyway. Powered by the firm's range of regular petrol and diesel units the 1 Series feels polished, brisk and engaging. Steering is direct and the manual gearshift is slick. As a premium priced rival to the hordes of hot hatches, the 130i complete with M Sport add-ons is a great car for the enthusiastic driver. The firm ride, responsive and tuneful engine and the all-important rear-drive layout succeed in putting run of the mill GTIs in the shade.

picture of 1 series interior

Cabin is spacious enough for two adults at the front, and quality is much improved since the five-door's launch

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 4

Neither 1 Series variant is an ideal family car, less so the three door. Strapping a child in the rear will be tricky, making it better suited to the role of second car in a growing family household.

First car appeal
First car Rating 6

If you've got the money, there's no reason why a 1 Series can't be your first car. Easy to drive, safe and predictable at sensible speeds, it's an interesting and more prestigious alternative then the offerings from Ford, Vauxhall and the like. You might pay a little more for insurance, but opt for a diesel and you'll probably end up paying less overall for fuel.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

As a company, BMW's image and reputation is one of the best in the premium sector. Its cars are extremely popular, and the arrival of the 1 Series ensured that a wider audience was able to buy into the BMW experience. Quality wise the first cars weren't that special in terms of cabin fit and finish, but more recently things have changed for the better. Now the 1 Series is a very convincing premium compact hatch.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

With the three-door 1 Series the focus is very much on the front seat occupants. The doors will open nice and wide, so long as you're not parked too close to someone in a car park. Although the seating position is lower and more sporting than most rivals, access and egress is straightforward. At the rear, the car's tailgate opens and closes with minimal effort. The load lip is a little high, though.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard fit is a modest radio and single CD player, which does the job but isn't special. Predictably there are better cost options, including a CD changer and satellite navigation. The latter makes good use of a screen that rises from the top of the car's fascia. Also good are the steering wheel remote controls.

picture of 1 Series in profile

Three-door 1 Series looks good in profile; the absence of those extra doors is very flattering

Colours and trim

You get the choice of the usual sombre BMW exterior colours plus a few brighter shades, which help to maintain the car's youthful aspirations. Inside, the cabin is dominated by dark plastics, although the quality is much improved since the launch of the five-door car.

Parking

The need for parking sensors shouldn't be underestimated, as rear visibility isn't great thanks to the car's small rear window and thick D-pillars. Fortunately, the car's power steering is light enough at low speeds to make that chore easy, along with the good size external rear view mirrors.

Spare wheel

Run-flat tyres come as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engines: 116i (116PS) for five-door only; 118i (143PS); 120i (170PS); 130i 256PS). Diesel engines: 118d (143PS); 120d (177PS). Six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range. Optional extra is a six-speed auto with manual override. 130i gains gearshift paddles behind the steering when selected with the auto gearbox. Trim levels: base, ES, SE, M Sport.

 

Alternative cars

Volkswagen Golf More upmarket than before and feels better built. Not the sharpest of drives

Audi A3 Close to BMW in terms of image. Sporting variants are convincing

Volvo C30 Bold Volvo drives well but base models also suffer from a lack of standard kit

Alfa Romeo 147 Offbeat Alfa boasts plenty of character. Questions remain over reliability and aftersales care



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May 2007