- Handling and rear-wheel-drive poise
- Steering sensation
- Acceleration with twin-turbo
- Simple, driver-oriented feel
- Exterior styling seems abrupt
- Almost as big and heavy as 3-Series
- Optional iDrive interface
- Still not very affordable
Has the 3-Series become too portly, expensive, and upscale? If you think so, the 2009 BMW 1-Series might make you happier.
The 2009 BMW 1-Series represents basic BMW at its best: It has design ties to 2002 and goes all the way back to the 1960s. Over the years, BMW's 3-Series line has evolved to the point that bigwigs recognized that the brand included a big gap at the lower end of the automotive spectrum. The goal of the 1-Series is to fill that gap—with new coupe and convertible variants.
The 1-Series shares the long hood/short deck of the 3-Series, but the 1-Series is smaller. Its 104.7-inch wheelbase is 4 inches shorter than the 3-Series Coupe, but its truncated shape is shy of its bigger sibling by half a foot. Overall width is almost 3 inches narrower.
Two models are offered for each body style: 128i and 135i. Six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes are available. The main difference, then, is the engine; the 128i uses a non-turbo 230-horsepower version of the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, while the 135i provides 306 hp from its twin-turbo version of the 3.0-liter six (both engines are also found in 3- and 5-Series models).
The 2009 BMW 1-Series handles well, steers beautifully, and functions nicely as a 2+2. The compact folding mechanism of the convertible's soft top even ensures there is usable truck space with the top down. Unfortunately, while the 1-Series is smaller and less expensive than the popular 3-Series, it could be argued that it's neither small enough nor cheap enough.
Inside, the front dimensions are satisfactorily generous, but the rear is bit more snug compared to the 3er. There is room in the back, but what do you expect, really? It's sufficient for occasional use. In a nod to practicality, the rear seat back of the 2009 1-Series includes both pass-through and 60/40 split-folding access to the trunk.
Interior accommodations in the 2009 BMW 1-Series are what you've come to expect from BMW of late: less austere and more attractive while remaining easy to use…with the notable exception of iDrive. The revised iDrive software is better than before, but it remains stifling at first encounter and often counterintuitive with experience. The interface, however, now communicates directly with USB-based MP3 players. All other major controls make perfect sense and are well positioned for easy use and/or viewing. A navigation system is optional. 2009 brings an optional heated steering wheel and a redesigned iDrive system.