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 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."
3 people out of 3 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