After a couple of years of production in Europe, BMW brings its new 1 series to the U.S. The car comes with two engine choices and two body styles. The 128i comes with a straight 3-liter six cylinder engine, while the 135i gets the same engine with twin turbochargers. Both versions can be had as a coupe or a convertible.
Although the 1 series is BMW's smallest car, the front retains the looks of the larger cars.
BMW stuffs a lot of engine under this hood. The 3-liter twin-turbo six cylinder is the same engine used in the 335i and the 535i. It produces 300 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque.
We aren't crazy about the odd curves on the sides of the 135i. It appears to bow out along the running board, yet becomes concave in the door.
The back of the 135i looks abruptly cut off, with a quick drop of the cabin toward the rear. However, the rear seats aren't unusable. We found adequate legroom, as long as both front and rear occupants are shorter than six feet tall.
Because of the 135i's engine power, BMW fits the front wheels with six piston brake calipers, providing extra stopping power. While driving, we found that the brakes felt more road-tuned than track-tuned.
Luggage space is reasonable. The trunk isn't cavernous, but you could easily fit bags for two people.
The interior fit and finish is good, comporting with BMW's general quality. If this car were equipped with navigation, an LCD would pop up from the center of the dashboard.
The tight handling of the BMW is enhanced by this M steering wheel, an option on the 135i. It provides a good, thick grip for tackling the corners.
With the automatic transmission and M steering wheel, we also got paddle shifters. This was our least favorite part of the car, as the paddles are chunky, and mounted to the steering wheel.
BMW keeps a classic watch dial look for the instruments, reserving the center LED for trip computer information.
We had the six speed automatic transmission in our car. Its Sport mode downshifts fairly aggressively when you tap the brakes before a corner, and it has a manual mode. However, the base six speed manual would have been our preference.
Our 135i came optioned up with a USB/iPod connector and HD radio, along with the standard MP3-capable CD player.
The USB port sits under the console. There is also an iPod cable for it, but we found it works just fine with a standard USB thumbdrive.
Although the radio display provides minimal real estate, BMW does a good job of showing buttons for artist, album, and genre selection.
In testing out the HD radio, we found the quality improvement over standard radio to be subtle, but there.
The radio display makes it possible to see a list of folders on an MP3 CD.
The base audio system in our 135i was powerful, but not too impressive. There is a premium audio system upgrade available that includes two subwoofers.
Bluetooth cell phone integration with voice command comes standard. The cell phone integration is excellent, as it downloads your contact list and makes it accessible on the radio display.