BMW 130i | Spotted

If you're not over it, then you're not alone; the BMW 1 Series has not only ditched rear-wheel drive, its six-cylinder USP has gone as well. The practical reasons for the move are numerous and eminently sensible, but that doesn't make the decision any less lamentable for enthusiasts. Because in a market saturated by quite ordinary, transverse-engined, front-drive rivals, the 1 Series always seemed that bit more exotic - that bit more BMW.

And while the 1 Series didn't always deliver on the dynamic promise of its layout, there remains something intriguing about its flagship six-cylinder models. The M135i and M140i of recent years are the most obvious examples of the breed, and miles more successful than any previous versions, though arguably the template extends right the way back to the 325ti Compact of the early 2000s: big straight-six up front, short wheelbase, slightly odd styling and rear-wheel drive.

The chosen exponent of the formula for this Spotted is an E81 130i, using the N52 3.0-litre engine. Launched in 2005, the 130i was the 265hp top of the hatchback range throughout the 1 Series' life - the Coupe and Convertible later getting the 135i version with the turbocharged N54. It was a car received well in the UK, building on what was liked about the standard 1 Series with the muscle of a big engine. That was dependent on spec, however; BMW's obsession with dynamic options was well underway by this point, and concerns were raised about sports suspension and active steering.

This 130i is notable for being an M Sport Limited Edition car, of which just 160 were produced for the UK. They were distinguished by unique BMW Motorsport wheels, a bodykit, sports seats, an M Sport wheel and lemon coloured leather that doesn't look half as awful as it sounds. With a £3,915 premium over a standard 130i M Sport, it cost £30,270 in 2007.

Which, being honest, looks like a lot of money, given the M135i launched five years later with a chunk more power at £30k. Anyway, now those cars are a lot less than that, this 130i M Sport LE for sale at £6,995. Given the car's status - most would surely have been content with a regular 130i, meaning the LE was there for the truly dedicated - you would have to hope an enthusiast (or four) has cherished this car since new. The condition would appear to back that up: the wheels are unkerbed, the paint's shine still lustrous, the lemon leather still... lemony. The service history is said to be full, provided by BMW and specialists.

Surely, too, this era of 1 Series will only become more desirable with knowledge of there being no more. Because for those that like the idea, there's nothing else like it: an S3 is perfectly worthy, but features only a bland four-cylinder turbo and Haldex all-wheel drive. A Golf R32 at least upgrades that package with VW's honking V6, but you'll pay as much money as this 1 Series for an R32 with another 30,000 miles. And a Volvo C30 T5 would be an interesting alternative, though addled with forced induction and front-wheel drive.

So there you are: the masses will surely appreciate a 1 Series of greater practicality and efficiency, but these originals will hold a special place in the hearts of a few. If you count yourself amongst the latter, this 130i looks a gem.


Engine: 2,996cc, straight-six
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@6,650rpm
Torque (lb ft): 232@2,750rpm
MPG: 34
CO2: 197g/km
First registered: 2007
Recorded mileage: 87,000
Price new: £30,270
Yours for: £6,995

See the original ad here.


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Comments (81) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Mr Tidy 05 Jun 2019

    I had a 325ti Compact for 3+ years as a daily, from 2014 to 2018.

    But I've also had a Z4 Coupe since 2014 with the same N52 3 litre engine, and it's a great power-plant!

    When I decided to replace my Compact last year I just missed out on a Japan Red 130i less than 10 miles away, and as it was supposed to be my practical car I ended up with an E91 325i with the smaller version of the N52.

    But to be honest I was disappointed with it, so this year I replaced it with an E90 330i (also N52 3 litre) and in a Man Maths sort of way justified it because it has the rare split/fold rear seats! rolleyes

    While the 130iLEs are fully loaded, I wouldn't want one because they all have 3 doors - and when you want to drop the rear seats you have to scrabble about in the rear footwell while dropping the rear head-rests. Which is one of the things I found a PITA with my Compact!

    Plus the LEs have electric PAS, whereas earlier ones have hydraulic PAS which is so much better IMHO. (The HPAS on my 330i is way better than the EPAS on my Z4).

    The only problem is all 130i prices seem to be holding up well - which is why I bought my 330i. laugh

    I would say 130is are great, but I'd rather they got cheaper!

  • yonex 05 Jun 2019

    They do tend to get under your skin these cars, they’re a niche of their own. The engine is a gem.

  • mrpenks 05 Jun 2019

    Re: early 2000s 325ti compact being the first, there was a 323ti compact with the same formula in the mid 90s

  • sagarich 05 Jun 2019

    I’ve had an LE for the past 5 years and it’s been brilliant . Goes completely under the radar, has enough power and sounds wonderful and reasonably practical. I thought the 3 door would be a pain, but my 3 year old can get in and out with not too much assistance.

    The suspension is staying to show signs that it needs a refresh at 90k, but apart front that it’s been pretty good.

    I’m unsure what to replace it with apart from a 987 Cayman... which is now out the window with the arrival of my second son this week.

    Great little cars!

  • s m 05 Jun 2019

    mrpenks said:
    Re: early 2000s 325ti compact being the first, there was a 323ti compact with the same formula in the mid 90s
    Occasionally see one about or up for sale

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