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BMW 1-series

There’s nothing cut-rate about it — including the price.

The 1-series may be the smallest BMW, but it’s every bit a BMW. Its engines mirror those of the previous-generation 3-series on which it’s based. Not surprisingly, the driving experience is similar to that car’s as well, which is to say it’s largely above reproach. OK, the ride can be harsh, particularly with the sport suspension and the available eighteen-inch wheels. Otherwise, there’s plenty to love, starting with sublime steering (avoid the optional active steering), a beautifully balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis, and very good performance. The in-line six in the 128i is smooth and strong, but the 300-hp turbocharged version makes the 135i a rocket — it zooms to 60 mph in as little as 5.0 seconds with the available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is standard in both the 135i and 128i; the 128i’s no-shift option is a conventional, eight-speed automatic. As good as this car is to drive, its popularity doesn’t approach that of the 3-series. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the 1-series is available only as a coupe and a convertible, and back-seat space is tight. Second, although the 1-series is smaller than the 3, it doesn’t get better gas mileage. And the 1-series isn’t much cheaper, either. So even though the 1-series is great to drive, that’s pretty much the case for the 3-series as well.

COMPETITORS

Chevrolet Camaro

Ford Mustang

Lexus IS C

Volvo C70

new for 2013

The racy 1M coupe is gone, but BMW hopes performance enthusiasts will take to the new 135is variant of the 1-series. Available as a hardtop or a convertible, the 135is has a bit more power (20 hp and 17 lb-ft of torque) but matches the fuel economy of the 135i. The 135is gets special visuals and a unique sound from its sport exhaust.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Front, side, and side curtain air bags (except in the convertible); active head restraints for the front seats; traction and stability control; ABS; and a tire-pressure monitor are standard. Adaptive xenon headlamps are included on the 135i and optional on the 128i. BMW Assist with automated crash response is optional.

MPG

CITY 18–20

HWY 25–28

PRO

Fantastic steering

Tidy size

Very quick (135i/is)

CON

Ride can be harsh

Fuel economy not great

Price similar to 3-series’

Base Price Range: $31,925–$48,845

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE: Rear-wheel

TRIM LEVELS: 128i, 135i, 135is

BODY STYLES: Coupe, convertible, 4-passenger

ENGINES: 3.0L I-6, 230 hp, 200 lb-ft

3.0L turbo I-6, 300/320 hp, 300/317 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 7- or 8-speed automatic

PASSENGER VOLUME: (coupe/convertible) 82.0/78.0 cu ft

CARGO SPACE: (coupe/convertible) 10.0/8.0 cu ft

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