Come in, spin­ner

The 1 Se­ries gave as­pir­ing own­ers a pro­pel­ler badge but costs mount with the miles

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Used Car -


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.


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.

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.

The 116i han­dles well, is eco­nom­i­cal and cheap to run. I re­ally like it.

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.

Ter­ri­ble, poorly put to­gether, costs heaps to ser­vice, and deal­ers don’t care.


Great driv­ing experience but high mileage cars can be ex­pen­sive.

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