Eight years ago you could have wandered into a BMW dealership, pointed at the muscly little coupe in the corner, signed a few pieces of paper and driven away in a brand new 1 Series M Coupe. You’d have paid a shade under £40,000 for it (before you’d got busy with the options list), and you would have been covered by a full manufacturers’ warranty for the first three years of ownership. As long as you’d been able to resist piling too many miles on to it during those eight happy years, you could now sell your 1M – as the car is far more commonly known – and trouser a small profit.
BMW’s pugnacious and stroppy-looking four-seat coupe is one of those very rare modern cars that has not lost value as it’s aged, but actually accrued it. Compile a list of other performance cars from the 1M’s era to have managed the same remarkable feat and apart from being notably short, it’d also be populated for the most part by names like Ferrari, Porsche and Bugatti.
So the 1M is a special car. What that means for those of us who weren’t wise enough to have bought one brand new – ignoring for a moment that we missed the opportunity to own and run a really fun sports car and actually get paid to do so – is as follows: if we wanted to buy a 1M today we’d have to pay more for it now than eight years ago, we’d be laughed at when we asked about a three-year warranty and we’d have to make do with a weatherworn car that’d been driven by somebody else in who knows what manner for something like 40,000 miles.
INVESTIGATING 1M VALUES
Annoying. But how exactly did the 1M wriggle free of depreciation’s spiny tendrils? First things first, we should investigate 1M values a little more closely. Two examples listed for sale on CarGurus at the time of writing demonstrate the extent of the 1M’s depreciation dodge. The first, with 38,000 miles behind it, is priced at £41,999 while the second, somewhat fresher having covered only 12,000 miles, is up for £50,000.
To put that in some kind of context, consider the 1M’s skinnier, less exotic sibling, the 135i. Like the 1M it’s a four-seat coupe with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine and like the 1M it was designed and manufactured by BMW. But it doesn’t have the 1M’s widened bodywork, it wasn’t built in limited numbers (more of which in a moment), it isn’t quite as powerful, it wasn’t a product of BMW’s fabled M Division and nor does it have the 1M’s soaring reputation among sports car enthusiasts. You would have paid £32,000 for a new 135i in 2011, but today you can buy one with sensible miles on the clock for a little over £10,000. So while the 1M ducked and weaved its way free of depreciation’s grasp, the 135i charged headfirst into it.
Limited supply is a big factor. Although more than 6,000 were built in total only 450 right-hand drive 1Ms ever emerged from BMW’s manufacturing halls, which means the UK will never been overrun by them. More significantly, though, the 1M is very highly regarded within the petrolhead community, mostly because it’s genuinely brilliant to drive. Its reputation has now reached a sort of self-sustaining critical mass, too, and people want to own not in spite of them being still very costly to buy, but precisely because of that.
OLD-SCHOOL CHARACTER WITH MODERN RELIABILITY
Don’t expect that to change any time soon, either. As the newest performance cars get bigger and heavier and ever more shackled by electronic driver aids, and as manual transmissions become increasingly rare, a car like the 1M – with its distinctly old-school character matched with modern day reliability and interior tech – increasingly feels like the performance car sweet spot. Even now, the 1M’s day hasn’t yet arrived.
So while it was those wise and enlightened souls who did wander into a BMW dealership in 2011 and buy a brand new 1M who’ll benefit from most from its steadfast refusal to lose any value, you could also buy a used one today and be reasonably confident it wouldn’t shed too much of what it owes you, if anything at all. But don’t get hung up on that. If you’re in the market for a 1M buy it instead for its lively handling balance, its punchy twin-turbocharged engine and its menacing, muscle-bound looks.
THREE MORE DEPRECIATION BUSTERS
Porsche Cayman GT4
The Cayman GT4 isn’t a particularly rare car, but anything that emerges from Porsche’s GT department is so sought-after buyers are willing to pay over the odds to have one. Costing less than £70,000 when new back in 2015, even the cheapest, highest-mileage GT4s command cost closer to £80,000 today. Values might eventually take a hit when the new 718 Cayman GT4 arrives this summer, although the first-generation GT4 is never likely to slip into the realms of affordability for the average sports car buyer.
MINI John Cooper Works GP
Although it hasn’t managed to edge up in price the way the Cayman GT4 and 1M almost miraculously have, the MINI John Cooper Works GP has retained far more of its value than you might expect. In fact, if you want a really clean example with very low miles, you’ll have to pay £23,995 for it. That’s only £5,000 less than a GP cost new in 2012. Limited to just 2,000 units worldwide, the GP ditches its rear seats and is most at home hunting kerbs on a racetrack.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S
Volkswagen, one of the most strait-laced car manufactures of them all, briefly lost its mind in 2016 when it ripped the rear seats out of a Golf GTI, fitted it with vastly over-specified suspension and track day tyres, then turned the boost pressure up until the 2.0-litre turbo engine was producing more than 300bhp. The resulting Golf GTI Clubsport S was as unhinged as it was brilliant to drive. Only 400 were built, 150 of which came to the UK. They cost a little under £34,000 new and you won’t find one for much less today.
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