As entry-level motoring goes, the BMW 1-Series isn’t the least bit shabby — au contraire, it’s rather dashing. It replaced the 3-Series in the aspirational ‘become-a-BMW-driver-you-lucky-person’ role back in 2004, allowing that popular line to ascend one rung up BMW’s lengthy model ladder. The first offering was the E87, a five-door hatchback on its own platform. After becoming an instant bestseller, this was facelifted and joined by a sporty E81 three-door hot time, the stars of the 1-Series show swaggered onto the stage.
The 1-Series E82 Coupe and its E88 Convertible twin were, in truth, fairly impressive as entry-level models go, though it seems cavalier to describe such refined and powerful cars thus. The E82/88 offered a range of 2 to 3 litre petrol and diesel engines and enjoyed the benefit of 1-Series upgrades introduced in 2007 — including an innovative stop-start system, electric power steering, brake energy regeneration and various drivetrain modifications designed to increase performance, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.
BMW called this package EfficientDynamics and planned to roll it out across the entire range. At its heart is the stop-start system —pioneering mild-hybrid technology that is nothing to do with an extra electric motor, but a clever system that automatically turns off the engine when the car is coasting, braking or stationary, instantly restarting when power is needed again. This has a very positive effect on both emissions and fuel consumption.
But however technically advanced they may be (very!), both the 1-Series Coupe and Convertible are a joy to drive, with punchy acceleration, immaculate roadholding and a more-than-satisfactory top speed. As a nice bonus, both cars are also rather pleasing to look at, offering a satisfying blend of performance, economy and style.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1,995 cc Straight Four; 1,995 cc Straight Four Diesel/Turbodiesel; 2,996 cc Straight Six; 2,979 cc Straight Six Turbo
With the most powerful 135i engine —electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
German carmakers are masters at turning one model into several hundred (or maybe it just seems like that) and no sooner had the 1-Series Coupe and Convertible been announced than variations on the theme started appearing, mainly with assorted levels of power output.