2013 BMW 1-Series Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
September 21, 2012

The 2013 BMW 1-Series is part small luxury coupe, part sports car, and if you're okay with a tight interior and a sometimes-frustrating iDrive, you'll find happiness.

The smallest model in BMW's U.S. lineup, the 1-Series, continues mostly unchanged, as anticipation builds for a replacement due next year. Despite its age on the market, the 1-Series remains one of the most impressive entry-level luxury sports cars on the road. And in the meantime, there's new excitement in the lineup this year: a more performance-focused 2013 135is model that follows up on the excellent limited-edition 1-Series M Coupe.

Unlike the M, the 135is, as with other 128i and 135i models, can be had in Coupe or Convertible models, and it gets a higher-output, 320-horsepower version of BMW's excellent turbocharged in-line six, plus a special tune for the stability control, as well as a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels, and various feature extras.

Otherwise, both the 128i and 135i share similar styling, and are available in coupe and convertible form. It's a well-proportioned coupe, with crisp and clean detailing that still manages to fit in with the rest of the BMW lineup. Inside, the 1-Series can feel a bit drab, with its functional but overly simple dashboard and center stack, plus predominantly black finish in base configuration, and  more plastic than you'd expect from a luxury car. For a price, you can change this with all sorts of trim improvements.

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You're probably not going to look at the 2013 BMW 1-Series for flat-out practicality--although if you're weighing it against a traditional sports car, it may impress as a better daily driver. Whichever version of the 1-Series you're looking at, it's quite comfortable and easy to use--provided you're not thinking about using the back seat too much. Laid out like 2+2s more than true four-seaters, the 1-Series Coupe and Convertible models offer plenty of comfort up front for adults, with the rear seat best left to kids. Trunk space is quite good, though.

With the 128i generating 230 horsepower from a naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, and the 135i adding a twin-scroll turbo to bump things to 300 hp, there's never really any shortage of power in either of these models. Both standard 1-Series models are fun and quick cars, with snappy reflexes balanced against excellent ride quality; get the 135is if you're willing to sacrifice just a little more comfort in the name of sizzling performance. The 128i can be ordered with either 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The 135i offers the 6-speed stick or a 7-speed dual-clutch.

The 2013 BMW 1-Series has a good list of safety features, but like many luxury vehicles and sports cars, it hasn't been crash-tested by either of the U.S. programs. Front, side, and side-curtain airbags are standard, as are ABS, traction control, stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, and daytime running lights. And although rearward sight lines can be blocked by the headrests, the rather thin roof pillars, low beltline, and generous glass space all help outward visibility.

Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, power accessories, steering wheel-mounted controls, and HD Radio capability are all standard on the 2013 BMW 1-Series models. In addition to all of their performance upgrades, the 135is adds xenon headlamps, retractable windshield washers, power front sport seats, an M Sports multi-function steering wheel, automatic climate control, and a special anthracite headliner to the feature set.

And throughout the lineup, there's plenty of room to upgrade; options range the gamut from high-grade leather and wood inside to tech like BMW's iDrive infotainment and a heated steering wheel. All in, the 1-Series can feel like a true luxury ride. The one thing to beware of when outfitting your ultimate 1-Series, however, is how quickly the price tag can rise as the extras pile on; a loaded 335is can top $52,000, and at that price point you'd better like the 1-Series more than the 3-Series or any number of more exclusive sports cars. 

7

2013 BMW 1-Series

Styling

The 1-Series Coupe and Convertible models have aged well, and still fit right in with the BMW lineup from the outside.

The 2013 BMW 1-Series isn't particularly daring or trend-setting, but it continues to wear its compact sporty styling very well. As the smallest model in BMW's current lineup, it got a mild update in 2010 to keep it in pace with the details as several of the brand's larger models were redesigned; otherwise it's a remarkably attractive, almost ageless design.

With its long hood and short rear deck like the larger 3-Series, the smallest of  BMWs fits right into the lineup--and the 1-Series' rather low beltline and large window greenhouse that stood out at the time of its original launch now fits right in. It's perhaps a little too stubby and compact to be truly elegant, though some may find the pug-like look (from the front) endearing.

The coupe looks a bit better balanced than the drop-top, which looks better with its top down; the soft top fits well, but it just doesn't flow entirely well with otherwise tight proportions and contours.

The limited production ActiveE electric version looks essentially the same as the gasser, aside from a more aero-focused front fascia, unique wheels, and a graphics package.

There's more of a likeness to the 3-Series--or at least the previous generation of the 3-Series--inside, where soft-touch plastic trim, metallic accents, available leather seats, and a purposeful, if plain, motif serves to fit the dual purpose between luxury coupe and sports car quite well.

Unique aesthetic touches reserved for the new-for-2013 BMW 135is include exclusive 18-inch wheels, a high-gloss black kidney grille, black mirror caps, and the full M Sport Package. Inside, the 135is sports special badges, and optional black leather seats with blue stitching.

Conclusion The 1-Series Coupe and Convertible models have aged well, and still fit right in with the BMW lineup from the outside. 

9

2013 BMW 1-Series

Performance

The 2013 BMW 1-Series is a pleasure in any of its variants, but it's the most fun in 135i or 135is form.

The 2013 BMW 1-Series remains available in two main versions: the 128i and the 135i. With the 1-Series M Coupe now out of the mix, 2013 brings a model that channels some--but not quite all--of that performance goodness: the 135is.

BMW 128i models are powered by a 3.0-liter normally-aspirated inline six-cylinder rated at 230 horsepower, while the 135is borrows the same engine that's found in the 335i, delivering 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. All 1-Series models are rear-wheel drive, available with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission (128i) or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (135i).

The 135is gets a stronger version of the engine, making 320 hp and 317 lb-ft. It includes special programming for the stability control system; and a new differential in the 135is offers cooler operating temperatures and, in theory, somewhat greater efficiency in power delivery. It does this by using new double-helical ball bearings, reducing friction and the amount of lubricant needed within the differential. The 135is still doesn't get a true mechanical limited-slip differential like that found in the 1-Series M Coupe, however, instead relying on the familiar brake-based simulated differential lock to improve acceleration and low-traction grip.

The 135is accelerates briskly; the 0-60 mph sprint takes just 5.3 second when optioned with the 7-speed dual-clutch. An optional M Sport package enhances things even further with its stiffer suspension calibration, improved aerodynamics, and upsized wheels with sportier tires.

On the road, the 1-Series impresses, handling with poise and balance, a noticeable but hardly excessive level of body roll, excellent overall grip, and ready acceleration. Enthusiasts will relish in a stability and traction managment system that is not overly invasive and allows for fairly aggressive driving without intervening too much.

Braking is an especially strong suit. It's stable and straight, although track duty can cause heat soak and fade unless you upgrade the street-oriented brakes. 

8

2013 BMW 1-Series

Comfort & Quality

All the 1-Series models feel like luxury vehicles inside, but their snug interiors limit appeal.

You're probably not going to look at the 2013 BMW 1-Series for flat-out practicality--although if you're weighing it against a traditional sports car, it may impress as a better daily driver.

Whichever variant of the 1-Series you're seeking, it's quite comfortable and easy to use--provided you're not thinking about using the back seat too much. Laid out like 2+2s more than proper four-seaters, the 1-Series Coupe and Convertible models offer plenty of comfort up front for full-grown adults, with the rear seat best left to kids.

The trunk itself is reasonably roomy, even in convertibled, while a pass-through split-folding rear seat offers more cargo space for longer or larger items.

Considering that the BMW 1-Series is the low-priced entry point into BMW's lineup, its interior materials are quite impressive and build quality is strong. They're not quite up to the standards of the latest 3-Series and 5-Series models in most respects. The one thing that's noticeable is that trims and plastics are slightly lower-grade. Cabin noise is commendably low, with wind and road rumble well-controlled, even in the convertible--so that stands as a big benefit over a number of other performance cars.

In general, on-the-road comfort is good, but it does depend on some of the performance options chosen. The low-profile tires with larger 17- or 18-inch wheels--as used in the 135is as well, or with the M Sport package--can create more ride harshness. 

8

2013 BMW 1-Series

Safety

The 1-Series lacks U.S. crash-test results, but it's outfitted with the standard regimen of modern safety features.

The 2013 BMW 1-Series has a good list of safety features, but like many luxury vehicles and sports cars, it hasn't been crash-tested by either of the U.S. programs.

Front, side, and side-curtain airbags are standard, as are ABS, traction control, stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, and daytime running lights. And although rearward sight lines can be blocked by the headrests, the rather thin roof pillars, low beltline, and generous glass space all help outward visibility. 

8

2013 BMW 1-Series

Features

The 2013 BMW 1-Series won't leave you wanting, but it might leave you in a state of sticker shock.

Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, power accessories, steering wheel-mounted controls, and HD Radio capability are all standard on the 2013 BMW 1-Series models.

In addition to all of their performance upgrades, the 135is adds xenon headlamps, retractable windshield washers, power front sport seats, an M Sports multi-function steering wheel, automatic climate control, and a special anthracite headliner to the feature set.

Option packages and extras include a Technology Package (navigation with BMW Assist, real-time traffic info, and BMW Apps), a Premium Package (Comfort Access, a universal garage-door opener, Boston leather, and ambient lighting), and many other a la carte tech options such as rear parking sensors, active steering, automatic high beams, and an excellent Harmon/Kardon surround-sound system.

Watch the bottom line carefully, however: a loaded 335is can top $52,000, and at that price point you'd better like the 1-Series more than the 3-Series or any number of more exclusive sports cars like the Porsche Boxster or Cayman.

Conclusion The 2013 BMW 1-Series won't leave you wanting, but it might leave you in a state of sticker shock. 

7

2013 BMW 1-Series

Fuel Economy

The BMW 1-Series is falling further back, as luxury vehicles get downsized engines and higher mileage.

The 2013 BMW 1-Series are relatively fuel-efficient if you're comparing them to other sports cars, but next to other sport coupes or compact sport sedans, they're falling toward the back of the pack.

That's mostly because in recent years a number of other models--even BMW's larger 3-Series--have gone to smaller engines and base turbo fours. Although a new 2-Series model next year is expected to make that change, the standard 128i coupe rates 18/28 mpg city/highway with either the manual or the automatic transmissions, which is well below the 3-Series' ratings.

The turbo 135i scores a little better, perhaps a surprise considering its impressive power output, rating 20/28 mpg with the stick shift, though it suffers a bit with the dual-clutch, rating 18/25 mpg according to the EPA

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October 9, 2016
2013 BMW 1-Series 2-Door Coupe 128i

for a Youngster like me, this car meets up with my demands and is more than convenient for me. also, it attracts people especially women

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the 6 speed manual transmission does it for me. need I say more? rear wheel drive? (oh yes), luggage space is a minor problem, but it's all i could ask for.
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April 13, 2015
For 2013 BMW 1-Series

All the BMW attributes, not the cost

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We ended up ordering this car so it has only the moon roof and M-sport package. Drives so well, is fun, and really didn't cost much since it doesn't have all the other stuff they usually load on the car. Did... + More »
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Styling 7.0
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Comfort & Quality 8.0
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