Overview & Reviews
BMW doesn't usually do retro, but the BMW 1 Series, a spiritual successor to the iconic 2002 coupe, comes pretty close. Produced for the 2008-'13 model years, the 1 Series coupe and convertible were meant to evoke the same passion that the 2002 did. As the company's entry-level model for those years, the 1 Series offers true BMW performance at a surprisingly affordable price. Its styling may be an acquired taste, but the 1 Series retains much of its original appeal today as one of the best values on the used-car market.
Note that the 1 Series' successor, the 2 Series, is reviewed separately, as is the rare 1 Series M coupe.
Used BMW 1 Series Models
The BMW 1 Series debuted for the 2008 model year and ran through 2013. It was available as either a two-door coupe or a convertible with a power-operated fabric roof that folds underneath a hard tonneau cover.
Although it was the company's least expensive model at the time, the rear-wheel-drive 1 Series had no shortage of motivation under the hood. The 128i came with a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6 producing 230 horsepower, while the 135i stepped up to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with 300 hp. The 135is packed an even higher-output version of the turbo-6 (320 hp).
Standard features on the base-model 128i included 17-inch alloy wheels, premium vinyl upholstery and a 10-speaker sound system. The 135i was differentiated by its turbo engine, 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights, slightly different front and rear fascias and a sport-tuned suspension. Some of these items were also available on the 128i. The 135is was sold for 2013 only with a bit more power than the regular 135i, plus standard sport seats and some aesthetic tweaks.
All 1 Series models offered a bevy of luxurious options familiar from BMW's pricier offerings, including leather upholstery (with sun-reflective surfaces on the convertible), the iDrive infotainment system with navigation, keyless ignition and entry and premium audio.
The 1 Series saw a few powertrain changes during its run. Initially, the 135i's engine employed twin turbochargers and was a bit less fuel-efficient, but the 2011-'13 models (including the 135is) switched to a newer design with a single turbocharger. Those models also received an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission known as DCT, whereas the previous 135i -- and all years of the 128i -- offered a conventional six-speed automatic. A six-speed manual transmission was standard on every 1 Series.
In reviews, we found the 1 Series' handling to be simply superb. Precise steering combined with a well-balanced chassis make both coupe and convertible feel right at home on a coastal freeway or a serpentine mountain road. Body roll is minimal, and the overall dynamics on models fitted with the Sport package will win approval from all but the most hard-core enthusiast drivers.
The 1 Series' turbocharged engines are incredibly versatile and offer an intense slug of power and acceleration with hardly any turbo lag, though the response of the gas pedal can be less than immediate. An overlooked gem is the 128i's non-turbocharged inline-6, which delivers smooth yet potent thrust in classic BMW fashion. This engine may be of particular interest because the 128i's replacement, the 228i, employs a turbocharged four-cylinder, so the naturally aspirated inline-6 marks the end of an era. But no matter which 1 Series you choose, you're in for a good time.
Interior materials are a step down from other BMWs, but the overall effect is still pleasingly upscale. The rear seat is strictly for two, and how often it gets used will depend on how large and how forgiving potential rear passengers are. There's not a lot of space back there, so it's almost better to consider the 1 as having a sports car-like 2+2 seating arrangement -- especially the convertible.
Powertrains aside, the 1 Series saw mostly minor changes during its production run. A new iDrive system debuted for 2009 with significant upgrades; we do not recommend the inferior iDrive interface offered in first-year (2008) models. A sunroof was standard on 128i coupes until 2010, while the 2012 lineup was treated to minor exterior styling revisions and refinished interior controls. The 135is headlined the 1 Series' farewell tour for 2013.
Although it was new to the North American market for 2008, the 1 Series actually debuted for the European market in 2004 as a hatchback.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 166.00
Lots of engine for such a small car!!! - 2010 BMW 1-Series
By Zach Abelardo - December 31 - 2:21 am
The result is a truly impressive power-to-weight ratio. BMW used their time-tested inline six, with bulletproof reliability and hits it out of the park. I also tested a new, 2015 Audi A3 and the 128i still runs circles around it. Where else can you get Porsche Boxster performance for under $30,000? Nowhere...that's where! If this car cannot get your blood boiling.....you're already DEAD.
Love my tanning machine! - 2011 BMW 1-Series
By Dd - December 13 - 9:23 pm
I enjoy driving this car with the top down as much as possible. If climate change, it just takes a second to put the top up, well maybe two ! I get compliments on the car often . If you want to have passengers or lots of storage, this is not for you. But if you are looking for a great ride, this is it. I used to drive a winding canyon every day to go to work. Great way to start and end my day just love it!
Big fun in a little package - 2009 BMW 1-Series
By Scott - October 15 - 8:49 pm
The greatest toy I own - 2009 BMW 1-Series
By Kevin Gregor - July 28 - 3:56 pm
I'm only writing a review after reading so many people either complaining about the size of the back seat, how low the car is, or about an option that they chose to go with. It's a high performance coupe, expect it to be low and have small back seats. You knew this when test driving it and it was YOUR choice! It's not the cars fault you didn't pay attention. That being said, the 2009 135i 6 speed manual is an absolute beast. Not to mention they are quite rare on the east coast so people notice a nice one. I'm a male in my late 20's and I've had this car for 4 years. This car is a rocket and handles like nothing I've ever driven. The 2009 comes with the twin turbo N54 engine which is the best part. It's practically the same engine that is in the new 2015 M3! Just putting a chip in the car increases horsepower by 80-100HP to the wheels! When I bring this car to the track, I leave M class BMW's in the dust. After a few modifications this is actually the fastest car I have ever been in. Power aside, the trunk is quite large and the back seats fold down. I fit a brand new 55 inch TV (still in the box) into this car. I've also fit 4 brand new 18 inch rims/tires! You'd be surprised on how much this car can fit! I also have my friends in the back seats all the time with no complaints. The issue is that the driver and passenger tend to have their seats further back than needed and don't realize it! I can honestly say that this car is the greatest thing I have ever purchased. If you are in a similar situation as me, don't have kids, and like a beautiful interior/exterior with insane power. Look no further. One quick note: Run flat tires come standard on this car and it makes the car drive stiffer due to the sidewalls of the tires being harder. If you replace them with regular tires (which are way cheaper in price) you'll find it drives much differently. I prefer the regular tires and I'm willing to accept the risk. Keep in mind that this car does not have a spare tire!
DCT was not made for city traffic - 2013 BMW 1-Series
By bxsvx01 - February 2 - 2:26 pm
Purchased this 135i in 2013. My first new BMW. I am a big time auto enthusiast and had to jump on the 135i before the electric steering came in. The 135i has been pretty reliable but there are a few issues that are worth noting, such as dash and suspension squeaks. The car drinks gas, I avg about 13mpg on NYC roads. Also the DCT has a horrible lag on initial take off, I took it to the dealer for a software update and it helped but still not satisfactory to me. The only benefit I have seen with the DCT is the lightning quick shifts which is only great at high speeds. If you won't track the car often, I suggest the regular auto over the DCT.
Excellent car - mixed bag transmission - 2013 BMW 1-Series
By kjgood - January 3 - 10:44 am
This is my second 135i convertible, and I have over 20k on this car at the time of this review. I was somewhat reluctant to order it with the then-new-to-the-135 7-speed dual-clutch transmission instead of the manual, but I was persuaded by the thought of the lightning-fast shifts and the advantage of being able to select between auto and manual modes. The reality is that in manual mode, and even auto mode for fast acceleration, the transmission is brilliant. But in stop-start, mundane "through the neighborhood" use (where you just want to leave it in auto-mode), the transmission is hesitant, clunky and confused. In other words, where you most want it to be an automatic, it is wanting.
Fair Car Needs Modification to Be Good - 2013 BMW 1-Series
By rudycassap - July 21 - 11:24 am
After coming out of a Scion FR-S, I felt the suspension in the 128i M Sport to still be too soft and sloppy (lots of roll and bounce). Car improved with a Dinan Stage 1 suspension (Konis and shorter springs). Then ditched the Goodyear Eagel Run on Flat tires for Bridgestone Potenza S-04 summer tires and now it is comfortable, sporty, and actually quieter in the cabin. Car has adequate power but could use a little more horsepower for freeway passing - I guess they could not step all over the 135i. Best part is the silky smooth Inline 6 cylinder engine without the turbo issues that plague many BMWs. Cabin and trunk are a little small, but enthusiasts actually love this chassis more than M3.
This is my favorite car - 2013 BMW 1-Series
By socalh2oskier - May 30 - 2:34 pm
Best car I've ever owned. I have had Corvettes, Jags, Benzes and a multitude of others, but by far my favorite is the 135i convertible. It is a fun, peppy car that strikes an almost perfect balance between ride/handling--and this is with the sport package. Mine has the DCT transmission--it works flawlessly and is so intuitive I rarely use the manual function. Handling is superb. The ride is a bit rough with the OE run-flats. I swapped mine out for non-run-flat Michelins right away--the ride is much improved. IMO, BMW should do away with OE run-flats. They are horrible.
Incredible Little Car - 2013 BMW 1-Series
By socalh2oskier - March 24 - 12:14 am
This 135i convertible with M Sport package is one of the most---no, make that THE MOST FUN--car I have ever owned, and I have owned many, including Jaguars, Corvettes, and Porsches, to name a few. Fantastic engine pulls strong from a dead stop to 7k rpms. DCT transmission is a blast. Handling is sharp. This thing scoots around like a Miata on steroids. The only thing I dislike about this car are the run-flat tires, which I switched out after one week for some non-run-flat Michelins--this immediately improved the ride tremendously. I think this may be the best car BMW makes.
Last of N/A Inline Sixes - 2013 BMW 1-Series
By 71boattail - February 21 - 12:23 pm
After test driving many coupes in the $30-$40K range, I drove the 128i on a whim thinking I would check it off the list and move on. After driving it however, I pulled out the checkbook. There are cars with more power and better styling, but I couldn't find any that had the combination of performance, handling and quality for the money.