New & Used BMW 1-Series: In Depth
2012 BMW 1-Series Hatchback (three-door)Enlarge Photo
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The BMW 1-Series is available as either a compact coupe or convertible. Even though it’s the least expensive way to get into a BMW in the U.S., that doesn't necessarily mean it's cheap.
See our 2013 BMW 1-Series review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings.
Nevertheless, it offers the excellent handling that's long been BMW's trademark, and can be equipped with some of BMW's latest safety and infotainment technology. That puts it in good standing against the likes of the Audi A3 and the more affordable end of the Mercedes-Benz C Class, but it also overlaps BMW's own 3-Series range, and faces a stiff challenge from the new $30,000 Mercedes-Benz CLA later this year.
The first 1-Series arrived on the U.S. scene in 2008, and continues largely unchanged through 2013. A minor engine redesign in 2010 saw the older twin-turbo engine of the 135i replaced with a twin-scroll, single-turbo 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. The base engine has remained consistent: a 3.0-liter normally-aspirated inline six-cylinder in the 128i. Both engines provide smooth, sonorous power and good low-end torque, but the turbocharged engine in the 135i is notably more powerful, at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque to the 128i's 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque.
Like other BMWs, the 1-Series offers a wide range of options, from exterior appearance items like various wheel, paint, and interior materials to high-tech gadgetry and convenience items--though the 1-Series misses out on some of the highest tier of tech found in the 5-Series and 7-Series.
The look of the 1-Series bears hallmark modern BMW traits, with the headlights, kidney grille, and relatively long hood that identifies the brand's coupes. In convertible form, a cloth top does duty where many alternatives, including BMW's own Z4, use a hard top. Inside, the design is spare but modern, with well-executed construction and quality materials. Optional upgrades can add various levels of wood and metal trim to the dash, console and doors, while a range of upholstery colors and leather grades offer the chance to take the 1-Series further up-market.
The 128i is available with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, while the 135i replaces the automatic with an optional seven-speed DCT dual-clutch transmission. The available M Sport package gives the 1-Series a more aggressive look, but the 1-Series M Coupe, a single-model-year run limited-edition for 2011, brought even more aggressive styling and a power boost to 340 horsepower.
Convenience and technology options available in the BMW 1-Series include navigation, Harman Kardon audio, satellite radio, heated front seats, BMW Assist with Bluetooth, keyless entry, automatic high beams, and rear parking assist.
There were no significant changes for the 2012 model year, but for 2013 BMW added special 135is Coupe and Convertible models to the lineup, featuring a higher-output 320 hp engine plus various performance enhancements and added equipment like xenon headlamps and sport seats.
For 2014, there's a special Limited Edition Lifestyle version of the 1-Series coupe and convertible.
Looking to the near future of the 1-Series, it is expected to get a complete redesign next year--and perhaps a rename, as the 2-Series, to better fit with BMW's newly announced model strategy, launched with the upcoming BMW 4-Series Coupe and Convertible models. And as for the future of the 1-Series nameplate? BMW is reportedly working on a range of front-drive vehicles to adopt it.
Used BMW 1-Series Models
The BMW 1-Series, launched in 2008, is the smallest BMW on the U.S. market. Sold as a two-door coupe or a convertible with a choice of two inline six-cylinder engines, it's small, utterly composed on the road, and a superb entry-level luxury sports car. The 230-horsepower 128i has a 3.0-liter six; the 300-hp 135i uses the same engine turbocharged, but only the smaller engine comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. There's not a lot of space in the rear--though the trunk's spacious--but this a driver's car. While its interior borders on the drab, its styling and performance say BMW through and through.