2012 BMW 1 Series: Up Close

As balanced as the 1 Series handles, I’ve always found something awry about its styling. The snub-nosed front end ends abruptly; the tail looks unfinished, especially compared to the 3 Series. The headlights are too big for a car that’s about 2 inches shorter and narrower than a Scion tC.

The car’s updates for 2012 don’t change its dimensions, but they improve upon a few areas. For starters, the headlights have decorative white caps with embedded LEDs. Only the 1 Series and 6 Series have the LEDs, but the white trim graces most BMW headlights these days. We’ve taken issue with it before – it recalls the controversial headlights on the prior 5 Series – but they cut down on actual headlight space, and on the 1 Series that makes for smaller-looking lights. It needed that. 

The 135i gets a more aggressive, three-portal front bumper that looks similar to last year’s bumper. It’s optional on the 128i; without it, the 128i receives the biggest visual changes for 2012. Circular fog lights replace the horizontal ones, and they now sit apart from the center air dam. Separate outboard gills smooth out the passage of air around the vehicle, slightly improving the car’s drag coefficient, BMW spokesman Matt Russell told me. The whole of it looks pretty busy in photos, but in person it’s reasonably cohesive.

The 1 Series M, on the other hand, looks distinct from either car. With extruded fenders to accommodate an M3-spec suspension – and add some 2 inches of width – the 1 Series M looks race-ready. Will people pay close to $50,000 for it? We’ll see. 

BMW says the cabin controls have been refined, but I’m hard-pressed to see the difference. Cabin materials remain a shade below the 3 Series, and without seat belt extenders – which the 3 Series coupe has, albeit not the best-executed ones – it’s a long reach to the B-pillars to buckle in.

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