It’s no secret that we like a BMW here at Not2Grand. And why wouldn’t we? We’re all about getting the most for your money here, and buying a luxury German marque for peanuts is one surefire way to do just that. You might still live with your mum, or you might only work 3 hours per week at Pets at Home but that doesn’t mean you’re relegated to drive a Citroen Saxo. No sir, you can join the motoring elite. Though in the case of the 1-Series it’ll probably diesel, but still, think of the badge.
We got the BMW 1-Series in 2004. It was the replacement for the E36 BMW Compact, which was essentially a 3-Series coupe, but with its arse lopped off. It was a strange looking car, but it did okay on the sales front. Crucially, it did well enough to grease the wheels for the development of the 1-Series, which would be an all-new car and sit as an entry point within the BMW range.
BMW was quietly confident that a new car, rather than an altered 3-Series, would be a hit. It would bring in younger buyers and would elevate the brand even further in the process. And BMW was right, because once people adjusted their eyeballs to the dubious styling of the 1-Series, they ate it up.
So yeah, before we get into the nuts and bolts of it, we have to address the looks. It’s not a conventionally pretty car. In fact, it’s not pretty at all. It was designed at the same time as the E90 3-Series by professional car doodler, Chris Chapman. It seems the 3 got more of the love while the 1, um, didn’t.
Curiously though, it’s one of those cars that has become so ubiquitous we don’t actually question it. In fact, the opposite happens by way of us actually wanting one. Weird. But then again, the landscape of car design has moved on a bit since 2004, so the 1-Series doesn’t seem quite so out of place. Good.
Inside the 1-Series it’s BMW business as usual. And by that, we mean that everything is an optional extra. You want air con, best find a car that had that box ticked. Or get yourself a ES model or higher. Want electric windows in the back? That was an option on the base models too. Leather? Same story. Typical BMW we’re afraid. Thankfully though, plenty of the cars on the market under £2,000 have plenty of options, so you should end up with a car that is slightly better equipped than a portaloo.
On the flip side of all this optional nonsense, the 1-Series interior is well screwed together. The plastics certainly don’t feel cheap, and the seats are comfy while being hard wearing. Even now, in 2017, a well looked-after 2004/5 1-Series can look the part. It’s not got the best passenger space in the back so adults may struggle, but it’s good for kids. Plus, the rear seats fold 60/40 so you can finally take that old wardrobe to the tip.
As for propulsion, the BMW 1-Series came with about four hundred engine choices. in reality, your budget will only leave you worrying about three. You’ll have two petrols in 1.6 and 1.8 four-cylinder guise, along with a 2.0 diesel. All are good engines providing they have been looked after. The 1.6 has to be screwed hard to get the most out of it though, and as such, that hurts economy.
The diesel is a good bet. There’s plenty of torque which helps ensure you get the most out of the car. Being a BMW, you have 50/50 weight distribution and of course, rear-wheel drive. Your sub £2,000 1-Series isn’t going to be a tyre shredder, but it will be good fun with a bit of momentum behind it.
The 1-Series is a great performer on the road. It was praised for its suspension that offers both comfort and precision, along with its direct and characterful steering that keeps the driver central to the experience. Or some other motoring rhetoric.
There is of course, the issue of abundance. The 1-series is cheap because there are thirty billionty of them. Thankfully, a lot have been fitted with various levels of trim options that help give some originality. However, to really make your 1-Series stand out, you’d need to go down the modified route.
While it’s not really what we’d normally advocate, we have to admit that the 1-Series is just one of those cars that responds well to some well considered modifications. And they needn’t cost the earth thanks to a massive aftersales industry centered around the BMW brand. Look, we’re not saying you have to paint it yellow and put a fish tank in the boot.
Well sick. And you want to be sick, right?
Seriously though, the 1-Series is a belter. It’s safe (EuroNCAP five star) it’s economical, it’s by far the best car in its class to drive. Furthermore, with a few choice modifications, it can look absolutely killer. This could be the kind of car you find yourself looking back at as you walk away from where it’s parked. And as a petrolhead, that’s one of the best feelings.