The Bottom Line
Over the past 30 years, BMW has dabbled with sub-3-series-size cars in the US. There was the wildly successful 2002 of the 60s and 70s and the not-so-successful 318ti hatchback of the 90s. With gas prices a-climbin', BMW has decided to try again by sending the 1-series (on sale in Europe since 2004) to the US in coupe and convertible form. Will the Bimmeristi take to the new 1-series? I'm not sure -- but as one who has a hard time falling in love with BMWs, I sure went head over heels for it.
- Small size gives it a roadster-like feel
- Decent back seat
- Delightful to drive
- Price includes 4 years/50k miles free maintenance
- Small side mirrors
- Big over-the-shoulder blind spot with the top up
- Options drive the price way, way up
- 1-series is BMW's new entry-level car
- Available as a coupe or convertible
- Price range: $29,425 - $53,670
- Price as tested: $40,225
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 17-19 MPG city/25-28 MPG highway/20-22 MPG combined
Guide Review - 2008 BMW 128i convertible
I liked the BMW 128i from the moment I got inside. I'm a small guy and I like small cars -- you can speculate as to whether those two things are connected -- and the 1-series feels exactly like a scaled-down 3-series, with all the controls closer and easier to reach. The 1's size gives it an almost Miata-ish feel, but it has the advantage of a back seat. Said back seat is more spacious than it appears, though not much -- with the front seat adjusted for my 5'6" frame, I found more legroom back there than I was expecting, though shoulder space was tight.
The rear-wheel-drive 1-series shares its engines with the 3-series: 3-liter inline sixes, either with (135i) or without (128i) turbochargers. I drove the 128i, and I liked the way its engine pulls -- evenly, if a bit lazily, with a slight snarl developing as it nears its 7,000 RPM redline. Driving the 128i is invigorating, if not outright thrilling -- although my tester had the $1300 Sport Package, the steering lacked the razor-edge sharpness of other BMWs and I could feel the structure quake a bit over bumps. But that's part of what I like about the 128i: It's not perfect. And a humble BMW is a rare find indeed.
Complaints? Just two. The side mirrors are too small (a big problem when the top is up, as the blind spots are huge) and the windows don't automatically go up when you raise the top. You have to close them separately.
Pricing for the 128i convertible starts at $33,925. That's about $10k cheaper than a 328i convertible, though 3-series gets a retractable steel roof while the 1-series gets a soft top, which is less durable but mechanically simpler. $6,000 more gets you the 300 horsepower 135i, though I'd be perfectly happy with the 230hp 128i. And that's what sets this car apart: I really could be perfectly happy owning one. That's something I've never felt about any BMW. -- Aaron Gold