By KBB.com Editors
Although the 1 Series Coupe received its stateside launch (early 2008) prior to the global economic downturn, its spec and - to a degree - its pricing seem tailor-made for a motoring public moving to more efficient transportation while attempting to hold on to what we used to regard as motoring fun. All iterations of the 1 Series - Coupe and Convertible/128i and 135i - make for a compelling argument from a driving standpoint, while one might argue (and we will) that the savings afforded by the 135i is minimal when compared to its 3-Series stablemate.
If your mom or dad had BMW's 2002 while growing up, or you had one while in school, the 1 Series is a valid successor, delivering a tight, tidy package and a more nimble footprint than the bigger 3 Series. Without that point of reference, the 1 Series will succeed for its on-road dynamic, quality of construction and reasonable - albeit not great - fuel efficiency. Also, if you're a fan of convertibles with soft tops, this is where you find it; BMW's 3 Series has gone to a convertible hardtop.
Even in its 128i guise, this is not an inexpensive purchase. You pay a real premium - $30,000 plus - to enjoy the benefits of BMW badging and rear-wheel drive. For those with an affection for front-wheel drive platforms, VW's GTI, Audi's A3 or Acura's TSX deliver far more bang - and arguably more style - for your automotive buck. And while not in the same segment, a V6-equipped Mustang delivers 300+ horsepower and 30 miles per gallon for a well-equipped price of under $25,000.
Most notable update for 2011 is under the hood of the 135i, which receives a new 3.0 liter in-line six. Although horsepower and torque (300/300) remain the same as in 2010, the peak torque is now achieved at a low - make that very low - 1,200 rpm. The 135i also receives the 7-speed Double Clutch Transmission as an available option, while the 128i continues with its optional 6-speed Steptronic.
Driving Impressions At track day events hosted for automotive media, the 1 Series Coupe may not represent the latest or greatest in automotive sheetmetal, but you wouldn't know it from the people...waiting in line to drive it. The car is an absolute blast on a winding piece of asphalt, and if everyone on that asphalt is going in the same direction, so much the better. The 135i, of course, is the most entertaining, but we like the balanced approach taken by the 128i (as well as a window sticker that's significantly less), and think that it most successfully channels the spirit of BMW's 2002. And while all iterations of the 1 Series will handle well, equipping your choice with the Sport option would seem to be the best blend of logical thinking and emotional strategy. You only live once, you know...
While we're hard-pressed to describe the 1 Series Coupe or Convertible as "near-luxury," that seems to be where the market perceives them to be. And in that context an in-line six is still very unusual in the segment, and very premium in its operation. The TwinPower Turbo, of course, gets the big ink, but we'd be happy with either the 135's turbo or 128's normally aspirated. And with the 128's base engine needing an additional second to get to 60, we'd leave one second earlier.
BMW Ultimate Service
You've written the big check (or financed the big number), and you simply want to sit back and enjoy the ownership process. BMW's Ultimate Service makes that possible, covering all (ALL) maintenance for the first four years and 50,000 miles of your ownership. From oil to brake pads to wiper blades, if it wears out or needs replacing, it's covered. And it's awesome!
In our view the 1 Series interior, while tightly drawn, is everything a BMW interior should be. While a base of over $30,000 should deliver - we think - leather as standard (or provide you with the option of cloth), the leatherette is both durable and easy to clean. You'll be pleased by the gauge layout, well-considered ergonomics and contemporary design which - ten years from now - will still look well executed. The rear seat should be regarded as little more than temporary seating for full-size adults, although it's much more expansive than your boss' 911. We'd note that the available sport steering wheel is one of the nicest contact points available anywhere, at any price. Finally, headroom on the convertible is virtually unlimited...Exterior
Although described as one of the most refined applications of BMW's "flame surfacing," we're not sure that the end result works any better than those applications which were unrefined. In short, the 1 Series - at least in U.S. Coupe and Convertible spec - is an abbreviated footprint onto which the design team has attempted to project traditional proportions familiar to a U.S. consumer. While the end result works well enough (and we think the best perspective is the rear three-quarter view), we wish BMW would bite the bullet and give us the 3-door and 5-door variants of the 1 Series. Those we'd describe as refined - and still unavailable stateside. For drop-top fans, the 1 Series is undeniably cute, which may (or may not) be a good thing.
Most notable - in a driver's view - is an in-line six fitted to the 1 Series' standard spec. Whether normally aspirated or with BMW's TwinPower Turbo, the smoothness and flexibility of BMW's iconic six will spoil you for other drivetrains, especially at the 128's low-$30,000 price point. Beyond what's under the hood, we'll give a shout-out to what's behind the driver - a rear seat available to close friends or family. With an almost perfect 50:50 distribution of mass, the fact that the 1 Series can accommodate four is utterly amazing. In tougher economic times the best economy car is one car capable of doing most things, and that summarizes a 1 Series perfectly.
Among the typical sprinkling of options for the 128i are two Sport packages, both of which take an already sporting platform and sharpen it. The base Sport offering ($1,300) provides a sport suspension, a staggered tire size (205/50 front - 245/45 rear), an increased top speed limiter and sport buckets providing more bolster. The M Sport ($2,450) takes all of the above and adds an aggressive aero kit and M Sport steering wheel. Either choice provides entirely too much fun for a relatively small amount of coin. Stand-alone options are fairly predictable, and include navigation, Harman Kardon surround sound stereo and smartphone integration. On the 135i, the available DoubleClutch transmission is a huge gain for the performance enthusiast.
The smoothness of the 128i's normally aspirated, 3.0 liter engine is to die for, and with its 230 horsepower it comes close to matching what Ferrari was offering in the 308 less than 30 years ago. As noted, the TwinPower Turbo is undeniably more powerful and flexible, but we're not sure it's worth the $9,000 premium - unless you plan to use it. Regardless of engine or transmission, the enthusiast will find the powertrain soul-stirring, while the daily commuter will find it eminently tractable and - given its performance envelope - extremely efficient.
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 1200 - 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (automatic), 20/28 (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."
3 people out of 3 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