BMW 1 series (E81/82/87/88)


History

The BMW 1 series was introduced in 2004 as new entry model. Although initially only available as four-door hatchback, it quickly replaced the unpopular E46 compact. A two-door hatchback and a coupé followed in 2007 (along with a facelift for the four-door hatch), the convertible in 2008. Coupé and convertible received a facelift in 2011. 2011 also saw the introduction of the 1M, the most powerful version.

Unlike Mercedes-Benz, who went to front-wheel drive with the A- and B-class, BMW decided to stick with the longitudinal front engine – rear-wheel drive layout, deliberately trading space for the traditional driving feel of a RWD car, a distinguishing feature in the crowded hatchback market.

The hatchback models were succeeded by the F20 in 2011. The coupé/convertible were succeeded in 2013 by the F22, which was now called 2 series.

Performance

Initial engine offerings were various four-cylinder engines.The N52 six-cylinders followed in 2005. BMW policy regarding engine availability was quite strange – the 125i 218hp version could be had only in the coupé/convertible, the 130i (around 260hp) only in the hatchback, the turbo-charged 135i once again only in the coupé/convertible.The 1M was only available as coupé. Luckily, the 125i engine is identical to the 130i engine in everything but ECU software and can easily be reprogrammed. The turbocharged 3.0l engine in the 135i was designed to fill the gap between the 330i and M3, and was also used as base engine for the 1M. This return to turbocharged gasoline engines was of course a sign of things to come.

The 1 series is a bit lighter than the contemporary E90 3 series, but certainly not a lightweight car – the 125i coupé is close to 1,500kg with a full tank of gas. This is of course compensated by the power. The 260hp models take around 6 seconds for the sprint to 100kph, the 1M around 5, the 135i is in between.

Pros

BMW performance and driving pleasure in a somewhat smaller and lighter package than the 3 series. Six-cylinder models with plenty of power.

Cons

Somewhat quirky Bangle-era styling (headlights, arch in the door). Not very roomy, forget about adults on the rear seats. Modern-car complexity, we’re talking engines with VANOS, Valvetronic, and direct injection starting in 2007.

My pick

125i coupé.

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