We might be one of the least influential car websites but we are responsive. Sam the Eagle raised the question yesterday. This is the answer.
The start point of the discussion is a fictional letter (sent by post, imagine!) from a fictional reader, Henry. Henry is based in northwest Derbyshire and sells office furniture cleaner. He wants to trade down from his 2004 SsangYong Rodius which is too large for him and his wife. Henry wants a new, small BMW but can’t decide if he wants the 1-series or 2-series. In fact, in the letter Henry says he can’t tell the difference between the two cars. He has seen both in the office car park and considers both “quite smart”. Is the 2 worth more than the 1, he asks. They will look almost the same when ordered in black with badge delete option, he notes.
I turned to BMW’s own website to see what is on sale in the United Kingdom. The BMW 1-series has been on sale since 2004 and has rear-wheel drive. It succeeds the cynical and ill-formed BMW Compact (which was nominally a 3-series relative). For most of the time since 2004 the 1-series has comprised four different models.
As well as a pretty 2-door convertible and distinctive three- and five-door hatchbacks, there was a 2-door coupé (E82), in production from 2007. That’s what you have seen outside your office, Henry. But manufacture of that car ended in 2013. So, your plans to choose between the 1-series coupe and 2-series coupé don’t work if you want only to buy new.
So what is this 2-series? BMW’s current product structure now also has a 2-series range and still features a pared-down 1-series range. The 1-series cars are merely 3- and 5-door hatchbacks as per days of yore. The newish 2-series range features a two-door coupe and a convertible. The coupé is the F22 and has been on sale since 2014. It is still a rear-drive vehicle.
In case you are curious, the modified nomenclature is supposed to be consistent with the 4-coupés and 6-coupés so as to move the very different small coupé away from the humdrum, workaday banality of the 1-series cars. So, even numbers for two-door cars and odd numbers for saloons. And GTs.
So, let’s now say that you are still interested in the One and the Two. What do you get for your money? The E82 (2007-2014) has a 2,660 mm wheelbase. The F22 (2014-to date) has a 2,690 mm wheelbase. That’s not a lot, is it? If you plump for the older car you can get a different range of engines, less boom and bam than in the newer car (apart from the 340 hp M-Sport). The 1-series coupe had a 140 hp diesel, a 174 horsepower diesel and 167 horsepower petrol engine. The E82 stretched 4360 mm from its aggressive nose to its taut, pert little tail. We have no difficulty understanding, Henry, why your eye wandered to that attractive behind.
If you turn, as turn you might, to the younger sister you find it comes in 220i, 230i, M240i and M240i X-drive versions. The 2-coupé demands a measuring tape of 4432 mm to reach from its frontmost tip to its eye-catching derriere. The little car weighs in at 1380 kg unladen so it it’s a bit of a porker. The 220i produces 184 horses. The 230i produces 252 horses.
In the olden days the -30i suffix would have signified a six-cylinder engine. These days it implies that but in fact the 230i is just an overbored four-banger such as the Americans have been cranking out since Nixon was in office, if not before. Back to topic, the M240 produces a mind-blasting 340 horsepower (but still has the same lame 52 litre petrol tank). In compensation, it does have an in-line six. Without wanting to go into much more detail, the X-drive is pretty much the M240i with four-wheel drive and weighs even more.
So, in summary, Henry, while you were sleeping BMW dramatically changed the character of its smallest coupés in 2014. Whether you like it or not, the 1-series coupé is a friendly and less intense sort of car compared to the 2-series which “kinda sorta” replaces it. So you can see that BMW probably were justified in changing the name. That means the 2-series is not really a replacement for the 1-series even if they look the same with the lights off. So you’re not comparing like with like.
BMW’s decision to separate the coupé from the BMW 1-series line makes sense as the newer coupé is a beefier machine. But that logic is exploded by its number-pairing with the utterly unsporty 2-series Active Tourer MPV (which is outgunned in the attractiveness stakes by the Kia Carens.)
What I extract from all of this is the BMW’s naming system is a mess and isn’t it amazing they can sell a car for two years without people becoming aware of it? Well, now you know, Henry.
DTW’s advice is that you get the best 1-series petrol coupé your money can buy as it is most certainly likely to feel nimbler and less self-important than the overblown 2-series.