LUCKY YOU. You did well at school, landed a decent job, worked your way up to managing a small team of talented colleagues…and you can finally afford BMW’s new 1-Series.
It’s an exciting prospect. The 1-Series might have traded in its party trick – being the only rear-driven kid in a class of me-too hatchbacks letting the front wheels do all the work – but it’s better packaged, better built and very nearly to nice to punt down a sweeping B-road as the old one. It’s also, at £279 a month on personal contract hire for a 118i Sport, tantalisingly within reach.
But imagine if, having stuck down your deposit, the sharp-suited man from the BMW showroom dropped off an Austin Maestro instead. Yes, the five-door hatch that took the fight to Ford’s Escort and Vauxhall’s second-generation Astra, and endorsed 35 years ago by a youthful-looking Noel Edmonds in some rather excitable TV ads. You’d be pretty peeved, right?
“Ahhh, awfully sorry sir”, the chap from BMW might say. “Your new 1-Series isn’t quite ready yet. It’ll be ready early next year, we can assure you, but we wanted to make sure you can still get to work in the mornings. Yes, we know it went out of production 25 years ago, but it’s still a five-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback, and it’s great on fuel.”
“But it’s a Maestro, for heaven’s sake,” you protest loudly. “It’s nothing like a 1-Series….and more to the point, I’m paying £279 a month for it!”
The response is polite, but firm. “It’s all we’ve got, sir.”
“Haven’t you got a MINI Cooper – you make those as well, right? What about an old 3-Series? I used to have a secondhand 335d, and I loved it. Couldn’t you get me one of those instead?”
“I’m sorry, sir. All of our other BMWs and MINI Coopers have been reserved for people in London and the South East. You live in the North of England. All we have for people in the North…are Maestros.”
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that this would never, ever happen at your nearest BMW showroom…but something not entirely dissimilar is happening to a lot of people who, for whatever reason, choose to commute by train rather than at the helm of a new 1-Series. They’ve been promised new trains to replace the frankly rubbish ex-British Rail Pacers on their regular journeys into work – and now they’ve been told they have to put up with them until at least early 2020, and probably longer.
In much the same way that I actually rather like the Maestro but would understand entirely that you wouldn’t want to trade in your Golf GTD or Audi A1 for one, the Pacer deserves recognition for propping up rural communities a generation ago, and a genteel retirement on a heritage railway line somewhere. But to continue inflicting them on people who think an iPhone 6 is old hat is just mean. Especially when they’re paying for something newer and better.
As much as I love old British Leyland engineering it winds me up immensely every time I see one of these noisy, shaky, cramped and non-wheelchair-friendly excuses for a train creaking into a station in front of a crowd of depressed-looking commuters.
This, or a 1-Series? It’s a no-brainer. In fact, given the choice, I’d take the Maestro over a Pacer too…