BMW 1 Series vs 3 Series - which one is right for you?

If you’re looking to move into one of BMW’s more compact vehicles, then the decision between the newly launched 1 Series and 3 Series can throw up some interesting debates.

While traditionally they may seem starkly different vehicles, their lifestyle purposes may not be too dissimilar. Furthermore, with pricing being competitive for both, it’s worth standing back and comparing these vehicles to see what would be best for your next BMW.



bmw 1 series vs 3 series

As both of these models have received updates in 2019, both carry the latest aesthetic cues in BMW’s new design identity. Most noticeable are the imposing kidney grilles, these having evolved from previous models to further highlight the confidence that BMW vehicles have always exuded.

However, the body work between the two have obvious differences, mainly due to the hatchback body of the 1 Series compared to the saloon and estate shapes of the new 3 Series. Here you can see a more cosmopolitan and city inspired character to the 1 Series, with a focus on an efficient use of form and space.

Conversely, the new 3 Series is true to its executive styled ancestry and features longer and more horizontal flowing lines. Extended and more prominent features, such as headlights integrated into the imposing grille, give the 3 Series a more gracious exterior, while still appearing as dynamic as ever.

Conclusion: The design of both cars epitomizes classic BMW styling. If you prefer a smaller, sportier model, the 1 Series fits the bill, whereas the 3 Series is the answer if you’re after a larger, grander BMW.



bmw 1 series vs 3 series

The brand new design of the 1 Series means that while the car is still similar in size to the outgoing version, there is a marked improvement in rear space. By making the car front-wheel drive and mounting the engine differently, the 1 Series now has 280 litres available boot space, 20 more than before.

In the new 3 Series, boot space has not changed since the last generation and remains at 380 litres. This is still significantly more than the 1 Series, meaning the 3 Series is better suited for those looking for a larger capacity, be it for luggage or people. It is worth noting that the hybrid version of the 3 Series (330e) has reduced boot space to the tune of 105 litres, to make room for the hybrid tech.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly for those looking to maximize how much they can fit in their BMW, the 3 Series Touring can fit an impressive 500 litres in its boot. This is only 5 litres more than the previous iteration, however is still very competitive for its class.

Conclusion: The 3 Series is the larger of the two, so if space is very important to you, this model wins out. However, the more compact 1 Series still offers a very generous capacity.



bmw 1 series vs 3 series

Between both models there are similar engines, below are tables comparing a diesel and a petrol unit for each car.


1 Series 118d
3 Series 318d
Acceleration 0-62 (seconds)
Fuel Consumption (mpg)
57.6 – 60.1
56.5 – 60.1
Engine Power (hp)


1 Series 118i
3 Series 320i
Acceleration 0-62 (seconds)
Fuel Consumption (mpg)
45.6 – 47.1
42.2 – 44.1
Engine Power (hp)
Sport automatic transmission

Both models offer a wide range of power trains across all fuel types and transmissions. The 3 Series also boasts a cutting edge hybrid. This 330e has some startling figures which include a power rating of 292hp with consumption figures of only 188.3 – 201.8 mpg.

Performance options are also included for these two cars. For the 1 Series, the M135i xDrive is available, a next generation hot hatch with 306 hp driven by four wheels, capable of reaching 62 mph in just 4.8s. The 3 Series sees the return of the M340i with xDrive. Equipped with a 3.0 litre inline six-cylinder engine that kicks out 374 hp and 500 Nm torque, the vehicle launches to 62 mph in just 4.4 seconds.

Conclusion: Overall, in terms of engines, these cars are fairly evenly matched. However, although the 3 Series is the more powerful of the two, being larger than the 1 Series means its fuel economy isn’t quite as good.



bmw 1 series vs 3 series

BMW 1 Series owners can look forward to an 8.8 inch display for safer and more intuitive interaction with features such as high-end audio controls and climate control. Additionally, a 5.1 inch all digital instrument display enhances the BMW 1 Series impressive interior space.

The 3 Series retains similar features as standard, but comfort enhancing equipment such as acoustic windows (which reduce outside noise) help provide a more refined drive. A bigger dashboard also provides a more impressive 12.3 inch digital instrument display and a 10.25 inch control display.

Conclusion: As the 1 Series and 3 Series have both been updated for 2019, they include some of the newest and most impressive tech on the market. Although the 3 Series has more impressive displays, in both cars you’ll be on the cutting edge of technology.



bmw 1 series vs 3 series

Naturally, as these cars are updated they are compared to their predecessors. The new 1 Series has been under much more scrutiny as it has changed from rear wheel drive to front wheel drive, which many see as a depart from BMW tradition. However, this new set-up has allowed the car to achieve much higher levels of practicality for a hatchback. Furthermore, sporty engines and snappy gearboxes ensure that the 1 Series is still a classically dynamic BMW drive.

The BMW 3 Series continues to come in rear-wheel drive as standard, also upgradeable to four-wheel drive. Impressively, its reputation as one of the sportiest saloons on the market has been upheld and if anything, this reputation has improved. Weighing less than before and with more body rigidity, the new 3 Series promises a more exciting drive than ever before.

Conclusion: In any BMW you’re guaranteed an epic driving experience. Both the 1 Series and 3 Series have a sporty edge and powerful engines to deliver a great drive.



The 1 Series comes in at £24,430, while the 3 Series starts at £32,565 for the Saloon and £35,235 for the Touring.

Conclusion: These prices reflect the size and standard equipment advantage that the 3 Series possesses, however your individual needs are what is most important to consider.



BMW 1 Series

  • Compact but with plentiful interior space
  • Generously equipped with technology and safety features
  • Sporty and exciting M135i xDrive hot-hatch option
  • Perfect for city or town living

BMW 3 Series

  • More room and more refined
  • More powerful engines
  • One of the most exciting drives available in its segment
  • Available in both Saloon and Estate bodystyles

Even though on paper these cars may look far apart, they can both lend themselves to a variety of lifestyles and effectively step on each other’s toes. For example, the 1 Series can hold its own admirably on the long haul, while the 3 Series is useful around town due to its light weight and plentiful driving aids. Ultimately, the choice between these two fantastic cars is down to you.


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