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BMW 1 Series interior, tech and practicality

Comfort and visibility

Broadly speaking, the 1 Series’ cabin is comfortable. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to get comfortable and, once you’re in place, you’ll find many of the controls are very subtly pointed towards you, for a cockpit-like experience. BMW includes adjustable under-thigh support on its front seats, which makes it a little easier for passengers with very long legs to find a comfortable position.

The dashboard is simple and sensibly laid out. We’re always pleased to see a car that keeps important audio and climate control functions as physical knobs and buttons, rather than the touchscreen-only setups you’ll find in some rivals – these are easier to use on the move. That said, the graphics on the entry-level 8.8-inch screen can be a little cluttered when several functions are active at once.

Front and side visibility is on par with other cars in this class. You get a good view out thanks to fairly slim front pillars and you won’t find yourself craning your neck to see around awkward T-junctions. Over-the-shoulder visibility, like so many rivals, is mediocre thanks to thick rear pillars, but this is somewhat mitigated by the fact all versions get front and rear parking sensors as standard.

Standard equipment

The range opens with SE trim. This gets a host of key features including climate control, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and all-round parking sensors. The standard infotainment system includes DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. This trim includes pretty much everything you need so the higher-end versions mainly bring visual upgrades.

Sport trim brings larger 17-inch alloy wheels and gloss black styling details on the bumpers while, inside, there's sport seats and contrast stitching for the upholstery. You also upgrade to dual-zone climate control.

M Sport echoes the look of BMW’s full-fat M performance cars without the high price or fuel consumption. You get 18-inch alloy wheels and an aggressive M Sport body kit featuring more dark-coloured styling elements. In the cabin, you'll find heated front seats and plush leather upholstery.

The first of the fast options, the 128ti, gets unique alloy wheels, red accents and a special body kit to stand out from the rest. Inside, there’s unique stitching on the leather surfaces to lift them above standard M Sport versions.

At the top of the range, M135i cars get a unique body kit and wheels to match their red-eyed performance levels. You also get uprated suspension and brakes to cope with the extra forces this car can generate. All M135i cars get the upgraded 10.25-inch infotainment screen – even prior to the 2022 model year, when it was still an option on lesser 1 Series cars.

Infotainment and audio

Before 2022, the standard infotainment screen on 1 Series cars was an 8.8-inch display. Compared to a typical tablet computer, this screen is short and wide and, while it looks nice, information does tend to get crushed together on screen if you’re using the sat nav at the same time as the audio. The sat nav’s coloured routes can be a little confusing to follow, too.

The larger 10.25-inch screen was part of the Tech Pack II offered on 1 Series cars before 2022 and became standard across the range after that point. This screen is much easier to read, with the majority of the extra space being devoted to screen height – that means there’s more space for graphics and what’s on screen is easier to read at a glance.

Both versions are based around a touchscreen and respond quickly to inputs. However, we have to award BMW extra marks for retaining the rotary controller on the centre console. This makes it easy for the driver to navigate around menus without taking their eyes off the road like they’d have to in a touchscreen-only setup.

There’s just the one standard stereo across the range. It’s nothing special but you’re unlikely to be upset by the sound quality unless you’re a true audiophile. If that’s the case, consider upgrading to the optional Harman/Kardon stereo, which has a much more balanced sound.

Rear seat space

The back seats are a lot more spacious than previous 1 Series models, but it’s still a little more cramped than an Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf. You physically can seat adults in the back row but they’ll have almost no spare legroom if taller passengers are sat up front. Rear headroom is also pretty poor, especially on cars with the optional sunroof, so taller adults might have to slouch to avoid bumping their heads.

You’ll find Isofix mounts on the two rear-outer seats, but cars like the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA make better baby-carrying vehicles. These SUVs are larger and higher off the ground – the 1 Series’ lower hatchback body style means you have to bend down quite far to reach the rear seats.

Boot space

The boot is a claimed 380 litres, which is almost exactly on par with the cargo area in the Audi A3 and larger on paper than the A-Class. However, in practice, the BMW’s boot feels a little less spacious because of the higher floor level. Loading items, at least, is easy thanks to the wide boot opening with minimal intrusion from the brake light units.

There’s no plug-in hybrid option, either, so all models have the same cargo area. PHEV rivals like the Mercedes A250e sacrifice some cargo area for a large battery pack.

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