The cars we loved.
Slotted below the larger 3 series, a loaded 135 can cost more than a 328 sedan and carry only half the cargo and passengers in comfort.
The styling of the 1 series looks like a 3 series viewed from a fun house mirror. It’s smaller proportions look almost like a caricature and for that reason may not be everyone’s automotive cup of tea.
The clown like simplifications continue inside but with a tasteful interior that looks like most other BMWs inside, but with simplified control surfaces, instrument cluster and tighter seating quarters.
Looks aside the 1 series offers potentially the most BMW performance outside of a full fledged M car. While its other sports cars seem to be growing larger and heavier, the 1 Series was a surprising step in the other direction for BMW. The I Series was an attempt to capture the spirit of BMW’s legendary 2002tii from the Seventies.
Although the I Series is BMW’s entry-level car in North America, its far from it’s least expensive.
There are two 1 Series car body styles in sold in America, a coupe and convertible in 128i or 335i
designations. The engine lineup comes straight from the larger 3 series. The 328’s 230 hp 2.8l inline six moves the base 128i with authority but the real rush comes from the 135i’s use of the larger twin turbo 3.0 from the 335. The angle eye headlights and 18in wheels give the 1 Series a menancing appearance thats more effective when viewed from the front, where it’s porportions look like any 3 Series coupe or sedan.
At 300 hp, it offers a power to weight ratio similar to BMW’s own M3. When introduced in 2008, the 135 was the fastest, if not best handling car in its class. Part of the appeal of the 1 Series is it’s smaller size and larger engines, something of a modern day German muscle car. Like the muscle cars of yesteryear, the 1 Series has been criticized for quirky performance characthics that make it less than the ideal on anything but straightaways at the limit. Not to say that it handles badly, just that it offered more
overseer than what most drivers would expect in a rear wheel drive car with the Bavarian Propeller on it. In a recent comparison between a 135i and Audi’s TTS in Road & Track, the TTS won the competition due to its more refined ride and predictable all wheel drive handling. That was not the case when the 1 Series made it’s debut suggesting that Audi and others have done their homework, making performance gap that BMWs typically enjoy over their competition smaller.
The shortcomings of the 135i’s performance at the limit are not issues solved simply by increasing horsepower, so it’s assumed that there may be a M version in the future to answer to ever-increasing competition from German and Japan (the Sky and Solstice were close competition, but will soon be out of production). In the meantime tuners like Dianan have offered kits to address any performance shortcomings.
What BMW needs to do is make the 1 Series available as a proper fastback coupe, in much the way the Eclipse or TT is. A fastback roofline would do wonders in making the cars proportions less cartoon-like and more attractive overall. The I Series is offered as a 3 door and 5 door hatchback in Europe, but they are station wagon like in appearance and probably are too odd looking for the American market where we are not the biggest fans of hatchbacks.
BMWs have a history of subtle refinements vs. drastic changes so a fastback might never come, but a M 1 might be a possibility, if BMW