A history lesson…
In its second incarnation now, the BMW 1-Series is something of a Marmite car. When it first launched in the mid-2000s, some thought it was a design classic, while some thought it had the side-profile of a van. Whatever people thought, the BMW 1-Series was not a cheap car. It was built to compete with higher-end hatchbacks like the Volvo C30, and it had a price-tag to match.
Now, though, with its more visually appealing MK2 body, the BMW 1-Series, especially in coupe form, is a serious contender for your hard earned. It was the first proper hatchback for BMW, and for those who wanted that BMW-prestige, it was ideal.
Bang for your buck
Well, there’s no way to put it; the BMW 1-Series is an expensive car. The ridiculously over-priced 130i may be quick and exciting, but new, it cost over £30,000 – which, for a hatchback, is quite frankly laughable. Even used 1-Series are dear, so be careful with your pennies if you do fancy one.
If you can afford one, you are going to be getting a lot of car. Yes, it expensive, but it’s a BMW, and as a result, comes with superb build-quality, lovely finishes and your typical BMW dashboard.
The main USP of the 1-Series that it is rear-wheel-drive. Doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a world of difference to the driving experience. If you want fun out of your hatch, the 1-Series is the big dog on campus.
What you’ll pay
As much as we don’t want to say this, we have to; the BMW 1-Series hangs on to its value very well. So much so in fact, that even the basic 116i is still going for around the £7k mark. So you’re going to have to have rather deep pockets to afford the prestigious hatch.
One of the picks of the bunch would be the 118d. It’s a peach of a diesel engine and is effectively just a detuned 120d, but without the higher insurance and running costs. If you want the big 130i, you’ll probably have to re-mortgage.
What to check
It’s a BMW, so it’s well-built and as sturdy as a 19th century sideboard. Chances are, you’ll have worry-free motoring with the 1-Series, so basic checks of all the usual elements like paintwork, rust, alloy-wheel condition and interior quality is a must.
Be careful of the diesel cars, which can be ‘chipped’ or ‘remapped’ to extract extra power from the engine. This, while completely safe is done so by a reputable tuner, can damage the engine’s longevity.
German parts aren’t cheap, so if you want a 1-Series, be prepared for hefty bills if some parts do go wrong. Clutch assemblies are around £130 and a full exhaust is a sobering £360. So just make sure everything works if you’re buying used.
How it drives
This is the 1-Series’ trump card. Driving a 1 is just so much fun, thanks mainly to the rear-wheel-drive set-up. It’s lively, fun and, above all, well-balanced. There’s no other hatch on the market which feels like the 1-Series; it’s a very well-engineered car that will keep you happy even if you’re dog dies.
The driving position is excellent, and the steering feels light but with lots of feedback. Through the bends, it just laps up any punishment you give it. There’s very little understeer and, if you drive it properly, lots of oversteer.
Power, depending upon which variant you go for, is impressive – especially with the 130i – but the diesels are probably the ones to go for, as you get bags of torque and lots of miles per gallon.