By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.6
Good enough to even to make some 3 Series buyers think twice, the 2012 BMW 1 Series Coupe and Convertible remain relevant to any number of BMW enthusiasts, as well as younger buyers wanting an easier entrée into the joy of driving. And you can enjoy the 1 Series as aggressively as you care to, with an entry-level 128i offering 230 horsepower for just around $32K, or the more expressive 135i delivering 300 ponies for roughly $8,000 more. Finally, drop-top variants are also offered, at price points roughly $5,000 higher. If an address ending in "Ocean" is within an hour's drive, you should consider the 1 Series Convertible. And sunscreen.
If, within the vast menu of the new-car market, you prefer your automotive calories "straight up," the 2012 1 Series is your machine. Front engine, rear-wheel drive, fully independent suspension and enough options to skew your order either "luxe" (leather) or "loud" (BMW performance exhaust), the 1 Series presents itself as completely appropriate to your automotive aspirations, and no one else's.
The 1 Series, in either Coupe or Convertible guise, is about as simple in spec as an automotive purchase can get. That won't, however, mask its cost of engineering, manufacture and transportation to the U.S. In short, if "driving dynamic" means little or nothing to you, you'll probably find a better transportation alternative at an Acura, Audi or (even) VW showroom.
The 2012 1 Series is given little more than minor tweaks. The most notable update in 2011 was under the hood of the 135i, when it received a more responsive version of the tried-and-true 3.0-liter in-line six. At the same time, the 135i received a 7-speed Double Clutch automatic transmission (optional), while the 128i continued with an optional 6-speed Steptronic automatic. The most significant change on the 2012 BMW 1 Series landscape is the discontinuation of the 1 Series M Coupe. Its limited production run is marked "Sold."
Driving Impressions With reasonably light curb weight, an almost perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a choice of responsive powertrains, the 2012 1 Series Coupe and Convertible provide an entertaining envelope of spirited...performance, dynamic handling and reasonable efficiency. As with most cars and SUVs in the BMW lineup, BMW's smallest entry is well-connected to the road via its principal touch points: steering, braking and acceleration. Of course, the most exhilarating is the 135i Coupe, but an argument can be made for the better balance of the 128i. And if you live near a beach, or have access to scenic roadways, going slower with a top down is a viable alternative to tickets – or jail time.
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. BMW's 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 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!
Nissan once suggested that its Xterra SUV had "everything you need, nothing you don't." Much the same descriptive could be applied to the 2012 1 Series Coupe and Convertible. These are interiors drawn for the motoring athlete, and while upgrades – notably leather and wood trim – are available, they remain largely irrelevant for those with an interest in the 1 Series as a driving instrument. For them, the available sport bucket seats and M Sport steering wheel are the only necessary or appropriate upgrades.Exterior
Moving into the 2012 model year, this specific collection of compound curves is nearing the end of its production cycle, and while the simple, unadorned form doesn't reek of planned obsolescence, neither is the sheet metal so fresh or original as to suggest "classic." The 1 Series' architecture suggests a "shrink-to-fit" approach, but we appreciate a footprint that remains a tossable alternative to the ever-larger 3 Series.
Most notable – in a driver's view – is an in-line six fitted to the 1 Series' standard spec. Whether normally aspirated or turbocharged, 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.
Were we building our own 2012 1 Series, we'd opt of one of two Sport packages. At a relatively low ($1,300) cost of entry is the base Sport package, providing a firmer suspension, staggered tire size, an increased top-speed limiter and sport buckets (with more aggressive bolster). The M Sport ($2,450) takes the above additions and supplements them with an aggressive aero kit and M Sport steering wheel. (Given the simplistic mechanical menu of the 1 Series Coupes, we're inclined to leave ours cosmetically stock.) Of course, for those wanting to stay connected to both the road and the world around them, BMW Connected Drive affords you a host of technologies, all within the reach of a thumb.
BMW's in-line six is legendary, and has been a signature ingredient of small BMWs (in the U.S.) for some 25 years. For those finding the classic, normally aspirated recipe most desirable, the 128i synched to the standard 6-speed manual transmission is your well-developed answer (a 6-speed automatic is available as an option). And while its 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque may be duplicated by its eventual replacement, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four, the silky smoothness of an in-line six will never be replicated by anything other than an in-line six. In the next 135i, the six will probably be retained; as with most automakers, however, BMW's drive to efficiency will eventually trump any further attempts at engineered nostalgia. The 2012 135i's 3.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine transmits 300 horsepower through a 6-speed manual or optionally available 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
128i Coupe and 128i Convertible:
3.0-liter in-line 6
230 horsepower at 6,500 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/28, 18/27 (Convertible with automatic transmission)
135i Coupe and 135i Convertible:
3.0-liter in-line 6 turbocharged
300 horsepower at 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque at 1,400-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (Coupe with manual transmission), 19/28 (Convertible, manual transmission), 18/25 (automatic transmission)
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