BMW 1 Series 120d xDrive M Sport Review

Strong engine gives plentiful performance for all routes

November 2011

picture of car from the front picture of car from the rear picture of car interior picture of car detail

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5 stars


  • Strong diesel engine gives plentiful performance for suburban and country routes
  • Interior trim fit and finish is to a high standard
  • Seamless gear changes from eight-speed gearbox
  • Seemingly improved ride quality


  • Rear view could be better
  • Large wheels and sports suspension combination can struggle on urban roads
  • Loses its sparkle when in eco driving mode
  • Exterior design will still split opinion
A controversial car when it was first launched, its looks didn't appeal to everyone. Crucially, though, the 1 Series was BMW's first foray in recent years into the compact car market. At this semi-premium level BMW was keen to complete against Audi and Mercedes. This second generation car aims to attract a broader customer base with its toned down looks and greater focus on economy and emissions performance.

This second generation 1 Series has grown slightly over its predecessor but BMW's use of lightweight construction materials has ensured that it's lost, not gained, weight. This helps to further the car's eco-themed cause, as does its enhanced range of petrol and diesel engines.

In recent years BMW has become well known for its frugal and clean engines -petrol and diesel. 1 Series buyers can choose from an expanding range of units, and their low CO2 performance should make them especially attractive to company car drivers. Furthering the car's green credentials is a switchable driving mode offering an eco mode to conserve energy along with regular modes and an engine stop-start function.

As a five-door hatch this second-gen 1 Series offers buyers a credible alternative to a family hatch if you want o move up the premium ladder. You'll pay more for the experience but for others, notably downsizers, the car's cabin ambience and overall look and feel is similar to a larger and more expensive BMW. As such, the move shouldn't be viewed as a compromise.

The car's slight increase in size solves one of the age old 1 Series issues - a lack of space. This time around the car is more accommodating, and there's now a genuine prospect of rear seat occupants feeling comfortable on longer journeys. Boot space is also reasonable, although it's good to see that the car still boasts a relatively compact footprint - it's important that it remains city friendly for the many urban motorists the previous model was popular with.

Our verdict on the BMW 1 Series 116i Sport
As a mature evolution of the 1 Series concept, this second-gen car boast s a number of significant and welcome improvements. A little bigger to better accommodate its occupants, it's also more economical and boasts lower emissions across the range. Looks-wise it's now easier on the eye, and the design shares details with BMWs further up the range.