I bought a BMW 1600 in 1969. The 1600 was the lesser-powered version of the fabled 2002, a car that was slightly too expensive for me at the time. The 1600 was light, fast and agile compared to other cars of that time.

I remembered my 1600 when I took the wheel of a 128i convertible. The new 1 Series, available in coupe and convertible configurations, is intended to recapture the feeling of the 2002 because it is smaller than a 3 Series, yet has the same mechanical components. The smaller size makes it lighter and more responsive.

BMW says the 1 Series "represents the core BMW philosophies of rear-wheel-drive dynamics, agile handling, powerful engines and seating for four."

There are two versions: the 128i with a 230-horsepower engine and the 135i with 300 horsepower. The 128i convertible's base price is $33,875, while the 135i starts at $39,875.

I drove a 128i from BMW's press fleet.

Unless you're a real performance junkie, the 230-horsepower version is certainly adequate, and it costs considerably less, to boot. I have always liked this smaller engine because of its high-revving personality. The twin-turbo engine in the 135i can zip you up to speed in a blink and flatten the steepest hills without breathing hard, thanks to the way it builds power, and torque, from low rpm.

The 128i convertible with an automatic transmission has a fuel-mileage rating of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway.

The somewhat stubby styling of the 1 Series has been a topic of considerable discussion on the Internet. Some hate it and some love it. I fall somewhere in between. The 128i convertible is more attractive than the coupe.

BMWs are all about driving pleasure, and in this regard the 1 Series excels. It feels tight and responsive, able to attack turns without flinching. Run through the gears, even with the automatic, and the 128i feels satisfying. Cars built to drive at autobahn speeds are confident at high speed.

The fun of the 128i is enhanced when you drop the top. The power top is operated at the touch of a button, and it stows itself under a hard tonneau cover in less than 30 seconds. It does consume a good deal of the already small trunk space.

The convertible's body structure was tight and free from wiggles even over bumpy roads, and that's not something that can be said of many convertibles.

The 128i's interior is smaller than that of the 3 Series. Rear-seat legroom is almost non-existent, which means the back seat is relegated to a place for pets, briefcases or groceries.

BMW's latest version of iDrive, which comes with the navigation option, has been simplified with six programmable memory keys, but it is still one of the least intuitive systems to use. The LCD screen for navigation, audio, etc., folds up out of the top center of the dash where it is easy to see.

A neat feature is the use of adaptive brake lights that operate in two stages depending on how hard the brakes are applied.

The 1 Series is car designed for pure driving enjoyment, and if that's your passion, it will not disappoint.


The base price of the test car was $33,875. Options included metallic paint, heated front seats, headlight washers, power front seats, gray wood trim, sport suspension, 17-inch wheels, sport seats, automatic transmission, navigation system, Xenon headlights satellite radio, premium audio system and HD radio. The sticker price was $46,895.


Four years or 50,000 miles. BMW also offers no-cost maintenance for four years or 50,000 miles. There is no charge for all scheduled inspections, oil changes, brake pads, wiper blade inserts and other wear-and-tear items.