By KBB.com Editors
Unstable 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? Last year's introduction of the 1 Series proves it can, and although only the 1 Series Coupe and Convertible are sold here, (there are three and five-door versions available in Europe), those who think the 3 Series has grown too big or expensive hail the 1 Series as the new heir to the iconic BMW 2002's compact performance crown.
If you think smaller and lighter cars tend to be the most fun, we think you'll like the 2009 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.
A heated steering wheel is added the 128i's Cold Weather Package and is a stand-alone option on the 135i. 1 Series cars ordered with navigation receive the latest iDrive system, which includes new menus, programmable memory keys and access to Google Maps.
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 2009 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 (ABS), 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 for the 128i includes a ski bag, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and headlight washers; all but the heated steering wheel are included on the 135i's Cold Weather Package. 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, a heated steering wheel (135i) 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: 18/28
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: 18/25 (automatic), 17/25 (manual)
By A_Diaz on Tuesday, March 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great acceleration"
Cons: "Interior dashboard is plastic makes a lot of noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Car has a very powerful engine. The driving dynamics are outstanding, which makes it very agile in tight turns. The interior is very elegant, but the downside to it is that the dashboard is 80% plastic so cracks and makes noise a lot. Other than that the car is great and fun to drive."
6 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Wuggins on Monday, March 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "Hard ride"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Outstanding manumatic combined with a throaty powerful engine and responsive steering and roadholding makes this more of a true sports car. Lots of fun and very fast, so much so you've really got to be careful or it could run away on you. Rides a little hard on the run flats, but if you value driving over pure comfort this car is a great value especially compared to the newer model which only offers a 4 cylinder turbo as the entry level engine which also sounds more like a Corolla than a throaty sports car. The six cylinder drivetrain combined with the manumatic is outstanding. What a pity they gave that up!"
8 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By tomsbob on Friday, February 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Discreet, small, super quick."
Cons: "Funny looking from front. Small rear seat."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I am writing this review because I am about to trade it in for an M3. I think I miss it already. The acceleration and balance are outstanding. I drive this car 12 months a year in Minnesota in all weathers and I have never had issues. You do need snow tires in winter in snowy climes. I have driven 3 and 5 series and they just feel loose and sloppy. The 135i is the tightest feeling car you can drive. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a discreet, non "look at me" type of vehicle that can chew and spit out any fat muscle car. Still can't believe I am going to lose her."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By jackie on Wednesday, February 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive"
Cons: "poor reliability costs both time and money"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I have a cashmere silver 128i convertible which I enjoyed a lot during sunny days in California. It's very sleek especially with top down however the car feels a bit plastic from inside. The car suffers from time to time various sensor/controller problems. First it's some minor issue and then, just right after the warranty expired, bigger problems started to show up. I always admire the superior quality of German engine and transmission, but the electronics for the entry level car seems to be less reliable and reverse the overall reliability. The overall cost to own this car for more than 5 years could be much higher than expected."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Pkaia on Monday, January 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 112,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Forget all of the opinions of BMW - expensive, (repairs), etc. this is a sweet dynamic driving package that, if maintained (a word probably 90% of owners dont understand), will give you a long amount of driving pleasure. I have the base of the base BMW line: 128i, manual trnasmission, no options except sunroof. Yet it is a pleasure to drive (not text, not phone, etc). If you are one of the minority of people who actually enjoy driving, seriously consider this car. I get 30mpg on the highway, have fun on the twisties, etc. No mechanical/repair issues whatsoever. But i maintain the car myself, change the oil at half the BMW recommended interval, chnge the "lifetime" fluids every 30K, etc. If you want to "own"" and "drive" a car, consider this one. The reliability of a Toyota/Honda but with BMW dynamics. This is a sporty coupe that will not win every stoplight war, not keep up with the Porsches in the curves. But a RWD NA six cylinder with good dynamics for $10K? Try and find another like it."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Ken 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!"
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful