By KBB.com Editors
Rising fuel prices and increasingly crowded roads have turned many car-buyers' eyes toward small cars. BMW would love to cash in on this growing interest, but can it do so without diluting or cheapening the brand's premium image? BMW hopes the 1 Series will prove it can, and is entering the lower levels of the United States' luxury market cautiously, so only the 1 Series Coupe and Convertible will be sold here, even though three and five-door versions are also available in Europe. Those who think the 3 Series has grown too big or expensive can look to the 1 Series as the new heir to BMW's compact performance crown.
If you think smaller and lighter cars tend to be the most fun, we think you'll like the 2008 BMW 1 Series. MINI Cooper fans looking to move up to a slightly larger, more serious car will also feel at home in the 1 Series.
Those looking to maximize their buying dollars may not be attracted to the 1 Series. For just a little more money, buyers can step up to the roomier and arguably more desirable 3 Series. Plus, the 1 Series has seating for only four passengers, so if you need room for five look elsewhere.
BMW's last model in the entry-level market, the 318ti, never really caught on with U.S. buyers. With nearly a decade to mull over what went wrong, BMW is once again ready to dip its toes into entry-level luxury waters with the new 1 Series.
Driving Impressions Those who are familiar with BMW's approach to suspension tuning will immediately feel at home in the 1 Series. Goldilocks herself would approve of the steering feel, which is neither...too firm nor too light and offers precise control of the front wheels, and we think the 1 Series will deliver all the driving enjoyment and performance balance BMW drivers have come to expect. The 230-horsepower engine in the 128i is no slouch, but with 300 horsepower the twin-turbocharged engine in the 135i is the real star. It's the same engine used in the larger, heavier 3 Series and, in the smaller 135i, it delivers great power to pass and a swift zero-to-60-mph time of 5.3 seconds.
135i Twin-turbo Engine
Big horsepower numbers are impressive but, from the driver's perspective, a wide useable power band is just as important. The twin-turbocharged engine in the 135i delivers exhilarating performance and easy acceleration in all gears.
The capability for performance must be matched by a capability to get the car slowed down, and the 135i has huge front brakes that not only slow the small coupe with ease but also look great peeking out from behind its 18-inch wheels.
It may be the least-expensive BMW sold in America, but the interior treatment of the 1 Series is anything but cheap. The materials have a high-quality feel and the interior design features all the modern style found throughout the rest of the BMW lineup. The 1 Series seats only four, but front-seat passengers enjoy plenty of head and legroom while the rear seats offer comfortable but cozy quarters. The trunk offers a reasonable 10 cubic feet of storage space and the rear seats can be folded to accommodate larger items.Exterior
The 1 Series represents one of the most refined applications to date of BMW's "flame surfacing" design motif. Its basic silhouette has the proportions of a classic performance car, with a long hood, abbreviated trunk and wheels located at the far corners of the body. Adding to the 1 Series' visual flair are a sharply creased shoulder line, signature BMW twin-kidney grille and a rear spoiler integrated into the trunk lid. The more-powerful 135i sports an aggressive exterior treatment that includes 18-inch wheels and an aero kit inspired by BMW's M performance division.
Among the standard features offered on the 2008 BMW 1 Series are automatic climate control, power windows with one-touch up-and-down function, rain-sensing windshield wipers, cruise control and a 10-speaker audio system with auxiliary input for MP3 players. In terms of safety, the 1 Series includes standard front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction controls and a system that automatically dries the brakes in wet conditions.
Many of the options offered for the BMW 1 Series are divided into packages. The Cold Weather Package includes a ski bag, heated front seats and headlight washers that are standard on the 135i. The Premium Package features power front seats, auto-dimming mirrors, leather seating and an interior lighting package. The Sport Package increases the speed setting of the top-speed limiter and adds sport seats plus other racy details. Stand-alone options include a navigation system, xenon headlights, HD radio, satellite radio and BMW's Active Steering system.
Most buyers will find the 230-horsepower in-line six-cylinder engine powering the 128i to be perfectly acceptable. Those who want even more performance can choose the 135i and its twin-turbocharged engine, which produces 300 horsepower, enabling acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour in a little more than five seconds. Both models feature a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.
3.0-liter in-line 6
230 horsepower at 6500 rpm
200 lb.-ft. of torque at 2750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 (automatic), 18/28 (manual)
3.0-liter in-line 6 Turbocharged
300 horsepower at 5800 rpm
300 lb.-ft. of torque at 1400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 (automatic), 17/25 (manual)
By Ken (MI) on Tuesday, October 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,143overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "The fun factor"
Cons: "To some the fact I get around 25 mpg avg."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car is so fun to go out for a drive in. I had gotten to the point I hated driving, but this car changed that. I am having to much fun in it for the stupid drivers to even bother me. It is not going to blow the doors off a full fledged sports car. It will give you that sports cars fun with the comfort of BMW. I plan on owning this cars for many more years!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Norman (AZ) on Saturday, October 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles well"
Cons: "Service requests"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car needs more maintenance that a high school girl with a crush. Every time I open my email I another email from the dealership telling me the car needs to come in for service. While they explain to me it's routine, they don't have any respect for my time, and it's a royal pain. The dealership sells me, "don't you want your car to be well maintained, it's a free service." Having had over forty vehicles before this one, I'm not accustomed to weekly visits to the dealership. The dealership (Chapman) BMW sold me a 'certified' used BMW, claiming the car had been gone over from the top of the antenna, to the bottom of the tires, from the front bumper to the rear. Well, one alternator, one oil leak, and three days of lost service in the first four months, has taught me I'll never own another BMW. My time is far more valuable and their respect for my time isn't important enough for this headache."
By durhamnative (NC) on Monday, August 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "great engine, ride, handling"
Cons: "lacking in the quality of the vehicle"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"Purchased my 2009 128i new with the premium package and Navigation in December 2010. Traded a 6 year old Audi TT that was starting to give problems. The 128i has excellent power, a super smooth inline 6 and has a nice balance of ride/handling. Reliability has not been great. There have been 6 trips to the dealer for power window problems, 2 trips for the third brake light lens falling off, 2 trips for the power steering gear puking fluid all over the garage and finally the leather seat stitching on the rear seats has failed even though no one has ever sat on them. All this on a car with just over 25,000 miles that is garage kept and well maintained. I love the way it drives, but just not happy with the repairs, my warranty runs out in December and I will probably be trading this Bimmer in and it will probably be for a 2014 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6, not another BMW."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By KevinB (CA) on Monday, July 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Powerful, sporty, handles great"
Cons: "Expensive, minor problems"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I originally purchased the 135i back when I lived in Chicago. At the time, we were just entering winter and I had never driven a RWD car in snow before. As far as winter is concerned, this car should be kept as far away from snow as possible. I actually had to miss a few days of work due to not being able to get out of my neighborhood from the lack of traction. In any weather besides snow and ice, this car absolutely shines. I had made the decision to move to Southern California in the fall of 2012 and being as such, I would drive my 135i all the way from Chicago to San Diego. That is a 2200 mile trip for those wondering. Through the duration of that trip, the car did not have a single hiccup or problem. It cruises perfectly, it handles elevation changes like a dream and it surprisingly has plenty of room to fit tons of belongings by using the folding rear seats. My only qualms with this car are the remote keys do not have an internal battery and thus need to be charged in order to work. The problem with that is the keys sometimes barely charge or do not charge at all, so you may find yourself using the actual key more frequently than you use the remote entry keys. Then of course, there is the fuel economy. While it does get relatively decent fuel economy (21.5mpg overall), I wished it got just a bit higher mileage for the sake of my wallet. Something in the 26 to 27mpg area seems feasible to me. Now granted, you can achieve those numbers or higher ones, but you are not going to enjoy the car for what it is, which brings me to my final point. This car is a true sports car. The gear changes, both upshifts and downshifts, are precise. The engine builds power from way down low in the RPMs all the way to redline. And, of course, the handling is absolutely extraordinary. Since the car is so small and light, while still producing plenty of power, you would be surprised by the different types of higher horsepower cars it can keep up with. Overall, the BMW 135i is an amazing little sports car which I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking for something sporty and small."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By eb (CA) on Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "extended warranty a bargin, fun drive"
Cons: "cruise control in out of view and hard to engage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first BMW 128i...bought it sight unseen from the dealer - no test drive - went on my instincts....proved I was not wrong. I have the Premium package, which serves me perfectly fine. I would encourage anyone looking for a fun _relaxing driving experience to purchase or lease this car.....you will not be sorry."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By CW (CA) on Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,400overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles like a go-kart on Steriods"
Cons: "Audio should have more than 6 speakers"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is #4 BMW 86-325e, 92 525it, 95 525i and then this one. Surprising amount of legroom for my 6ft4 frame and long legs. Sport Seats are great, Sport Suspension is tight, but expected that and love that it handles like a go kart on steriods, I would have been in trouble with the turbo model. You can get some serious power off the line using the paddle shifters. Is also an awsome cruiser at 80mph and above. Base Audio system could be better, however still sounds much better than most, but find that it does best with iPod or CD plugged in. Only complaint is that the paint peeled on the passenger door. BMW sent to thier paint shop, completed the repair under warranty and I really do not notice where it was repaired. Don't be afraid to replace the run flat tires with something a little softer that isn't run flat. Worst case scenario is that you get a flat and have to be towed, which is still cheaper than $1300 for a set of tires."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful