Come in, spinner
The 1 Series gave aspiring owners a propeller badge but costs mount with the miles
The blue-and-white spinner emblem of BMW has been one of the more desired badges on the Australian motoring landscape. With so many aspiring to own a BMW, the company expanded its model range so more could join the club.
The 3 Series, once the entry point, grew in size and the price increased so in 2004 out rolled the smaller, cheaper 1 Series, still packed with the features expected of a BMW.
Variants were numerous: practical hatches, sporty coupes and stylish convertibles powered by affordable fourcylinder petrol engines, economical diesels and sizzling sixes.
They all had the familiar and appealing dynamic style of the German brand with the bodies seemingly shrink-wrapped over the chassis. They looked fast standing still.
Engine options kicked off with a modest 1.6-litre, going up to more potent 1.8-litre and 2.0litre fours, punchy 2.0 turbo diesels and on to a 3.0-litre turbo six.
Transmission choices were five and six-speed manual and six-speed automatic.
BMW’s promise was a thrilling driving experience no matter the model, and the 1 Series was no different.
In common with BMWs of the time it was rear-wheel drive. Even the base four-cylinder models were sure-footed, agile and responsive, with the rangetopping six-cylinder models providing the excitement.
One downside for some was the firm ride attributed to fitment of the run-flat tyres.
As with any brand BMW is not immune from problems and breakdowns, particularly as the kilometres climb, and the early 1 Series odometers are now showing high readings.
Intending buyers should invest the time and cash to have a specialist in the brand thoroughly check a car.
The promise of a thrilling driving experience means that some BMWs are driven hard. They are well able to cope with that style of driving but it’s best to shop around for a well-caredfor example.
Look for oil leaks around the engine, they can cost quite a bit to repair. Check also for leaks from the radiator and cooling setup, as BMW’s plastic fittings break down over time and can be costly to replace.
Listen for clunks in the suspension when applying the brakes, or going over bumps, as these signify worn bushes.
Expect relatively high brake wear and, post purchase, regular replacement of brake pads and disc rotors.
Servicing is advised by an indicator on the dash — make sure it’s working correctly so you don’t inadvertently miss services.
The service record preferably should show the work was done by someone familiar with the brand and its foibles.
It’s worth befriending a BMW service specialist if you want to save on servicing and parts.
The run-flat tyres not only result in a firm ride that some people find uncomfortable but also are expensive to replace
Some owners fit conventional radials, which are more comfortable and more affordable. When they do they don’t always fit a spare, so if you find a car with radials, check the boot for a fifth wheel.
Carol Toal I bought a 118i in 2005. I loved the look, the handling, the “get up and go”. I didn’t like the finish inside, the armrests on the doors wore, there was a problem with the headlight switch and there was a rattle in the dash the dealer couldn’t fix. There was an oil leak after about 20,000km and the dealer “couldn’t find” the cause of that until after the warranty ran out. What I really disliked was being offered only $9000 trade-in on a X1 when the 118i was eight years old, immaculate and with only 68,000km on the clock. Andrew Collins I’ve had issues with headlights regularly blowing and oil leaks with my 2007 120i. It doesn’t leave a puddle on the ground but I had to put oil in it every few weeks. Robert Ingram The 116i handles well, is economical and cheap to run. I really like it. Sophie Anstey The 118i does the job for us but I don’t really like it. You feel all the bumps in the road and fixing the problems we’ve had with it has been expensive. John Jensen Terrible, poorly put together, costs heaps to service, and dealers don’t care.
Great driving experience but high mileage cars can be expensive.