By on April 11, 2008

p0037578.JPGHistory is bunk. Although cars like the Jaguar XK120, Shelby Mustang and Porsche 911 have become legends, their modern equivalents offer far superior driving dynamics. And greater reliability. And safety. But it is their "soul" that resonates: the combination of icnoclastic style and man – machine zeitgeist. So when enthusiasts (and BMW PR) started comparing the new 135i to Bimmer's venerable 2002, expectations were sky high. The reality is more like a fat guy limbo dancing under a pole raised six feet off the ground.

My paranoid-delusional theory: BMW intentionally botched the 135i. If executed properly and sold with a mid- to upper-20s price tag, the 1-Series would have eaten the 3-Series' breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not to mention the toll it would have taken on sales of the BMW-owned MINI. So The Boys from Bavaria grabbed a 3-Series, screwed it up a bit, kept the hatch for the Eurozone and said "here is your entry level car."

p0037598.JPGEven a quick glance tells you BMW doesn't believe in reincarnation. The 2002's huge greenhouse dominated its exterior. The 135i is the exact opposite. The new Bimmer's beltline rides absurdly high; an accurate indication of submariner visibility. Even by modern BMW standards, the 1-Series is a bit of an odd duck. The front end is contempo BMW, but the headlights are more cubist X3 than sleek 7-Series. The trunk looks like it's taller than it is deep. There is nothing iconic or beautiful about the 135i. It's a rolling caricature of a virtually identical car.

In fact, the 1-Series' looks like a trash-compacted 3-Series coupe. Yes, the 135i continues Chris Bangle's axles of power flame-surfaced design theme (and how). And yes, some elements are distinctly appealing. The base of the rear pillar, for example, has a lovely retro curve to it. But when compared to the form-follows-function minimalism of its alleged ancestor, the 1-Series coupe is nothing more than an automotive affectation.

p0014499.JPGThe 135i's interior offers a welcome return to basics. Bargain hunters will be well pleased that the materials deployed throughout the 135i's cabin are virtually identical (in quality) to those found in the 3-Series. The 135i's dash design is considerably better. The center stack is oriented toward the driver– a BMW interior hallmark I've missed in the years since BMW realized the orthodontists leasing their cars didn't give a damn.

Dentists' chairs are more comfortable than 135i's standard-issue front seats; even if you include the drilling. The seats' inverse side bolstering places you on top of a leatherette covered hill. Continuing a less noble BMW tradition, righting this ergonomic wrong costs big bucks. That'll be $1500 for leather and another grand for sport seats– which come packaged with Shadowline Exterior Trim, an M-Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel, Increased Top Speed Limit and all-caps spelling.

The 135i's back chairs will not accommodate anyone: you, me, children, smaller children, junior members of The Lollipop Guild or Jay Shoemaker's chihuahua. The rear accommodations are barely sufficient for a decent-sized backpack, never mind a pair of homo sapiens. Not that it matters. The 135i's front seats are mounted so close together you can't reach into the back. And now, the good news…

p0017193.JPGThanks to its 300 horsepower turbocharged inline six, driving the 135i is like strapping yourself to a Flüssigkeitsrakete. Until you get used to the thrust, ramming the tach needle into the red line transforms the neophyte into nothing more than spam in a can, flung at the horizon by God's own right hand. BMW says the zero to sixty sprint takes just 5.1 seconds. I doubt it. It seems much faster. And yet, after a while, the 135i leaves red-blooded drivers wanting more gears, more space and a higher speed limit (see: above). It's too bad the rest of the car is just luggage.

The 135i's dynamics are distinctly "piano like." By this I mean it drives as if there's a piano strapped to the roof. And no wonder, the 135i tips the scales at 3373lbs. (When BMW and Edmunds described the 135i as the 2002's successor, they must have been talking about the 2002 model year 330i.) Even with the mighty mill motivating the mass, despite the fact that it's lighter than the equally powerful 335i, the 135i feels heavy on its feet. Don't get me wrong: there's plenty of grip. But someone forgot to add nimbleness.

The 135i's steering is a big part of the problem; its ponderousness makes turn-in an unnecessarily onerous chore. The 135i's manual transmission doesn't help matters. Like most latter day Bimmers, the clutch is a two-footer that engages with rubbery imprecision. And while the 335i has a most excellent ZF automatic transmission, the 135i does not. The smaller car's French-made six-speed auto is jerkier and more dim-witted than its big brother's cog swapper.  

p0037603.JPGWith the 135i, BMW decided to have its cake and ate it too. Maybe that's why the 135i is so fat. I guess BMW couldn't offer a beautiful,  affordable, spirited entry level car below the 3-Series, but not have a car below the 3-Series. Rather than "make it fun" or "make it practical," BMW sent us a slightly smaller, marginally less expensive, much less attractive 3-Series. Damn it's quick. But a 2002 for 2008 it most definitely is not.

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174 Comments on “2008 BMW 135i Review...”

  • avatar

    What I think BMW missed out on was the opportunity to offer an Audi A3, Golf GTi-eating 135i hatchback!
    But then it would have lost some snob-yuppy appeal, and we all know it’s a no-no.

    The coupe 1-series is really ugly, more so than most current BMWs (which is saying quite something). I rode in a 120d hatchback and was quite impressed by its driving dynamics (although I can’t compare with a 3-series). Too bad this one seems to be bungled.
    $43,000 for that seems steep, even though it’s cheaper than a $50k 335i coupe. Jeez, aren’t BMW prices absurdly high nowadays?

    Also, I think there’s a typo in fuel economy: 15 highway mpg with a manual for 26 with an auto? seems unlikely. And by the way, is the manual really worse in city driving than the automatic?

  • avatar

    The aftermarket for seats, accessories and performance chips will have some wiggle room for these cars

  • avatar

    Typo alert! The highway mileage should be 17/25. It’s been corrected.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    $43,000 for this car???

    A foreclosed and nearly abandoned home in Detroit proper would be far more amusing.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Time has dimmed memories somewhat, but in the early 70s, when I was in high school and some of my bepimpled classmates were having testosterone displays over whether the Vega or the Pinto was better (this was around the time of the Oil Embargo), my English teacher’s red 2002 seemed the epitome of exotic elegance in sporty small transport. To think, here was a car made by a company that only 30 years before was making engines for Focke-Wulf fighters that were giving fits to Spitfires and Allied bombers. It seemed like such an engineering marvel compared to Detroit’s attempts at sporty small cars, one of the contributors to the image of industrial Germany’s rise from the ashes of the 1940s.

    Within a few years, I had had the chance to take some drives in other peoples’ 2002s, and even the odd 1600 here and there (which seemed just as fun, even with a smaller but lighter engine up front). It’s safe to say those drives fixed what a BMW SHOULD be in my mind. Only two liters, maybe ca. 100 hp in non-Tii mode, four speeds on the shifter, and sometimes a bum synchro in 2nd gear. But what fun!

    Nowadays when I see another 3 Series on the road, I rarely think about the exotic nature of the 2002, but more likely Dan Neil’s quip that the 3s are so numerous on LA highways he decided to call them Bavarian Roaches.

    I think it was simply too much to expect the 135i to be a reincarnation of that iconic BMW. Memory is a powerful thing, even if it’s a bit foggy.

    It doesn’t help that even with all that the 135 has for it under the hood, it still runs north of $43k in tested trim. That red ’71 2002 cost around $4k back then. What would the inflation adjusted price be now?

  • avatar

    Seems we have a different take on this one as well. I drove one the same day I drove a Jag XF. Liked driving this one, didn’t care for the XF.

    That said, the 135i is such an incremental change from the 335i it’s necessary to ask, “Why bother?” It is a bit quicker, and a bit more agile than an already quick and agile car. (I personally like the heavier steering.) But the differences aren’t large enough to justify a second model. Especially when so much practicality is sacrificed.

    In other words, it’s an excellent driving experience, but largely because the 3 on which it is based also provides an excellent experience. Like you, I’d like to see a curb weight (much) closer to 3,000 pounds.

    And so I suppose that an excellent driver’s car can at the same time be a disappointment.

    With TrueDelta, I hope to have some reliability results soon, but this will depend on how quickly owners join up and participate in our research:

  • avatar

    Well, this is faster than the Z4 coupe 3.0si and cheaper than the Z4 M-coupe. So it does have that going for it. But still, I haven’t read a positive review for the 135i yet that reaches the level of fawning that BMW usually receives.

    It’s pretty sad that BMW’s giant SAC is a better vehicle than their small 300hp coupe.

  • avatar

    How refreshing. Finally, an auto journalist has the bravery to give the first negative review of this silly, overpriced little beast.

    In my opinion, BMW should have just re-introduced its 4cyl hatchback that failed in the 1990s. The time is right for it. Now, every other manufacturer is planning 4cyl RWD cars and Bimmer is stuck with this thing.

    Who wants to take bets that people will cross-shop this with the new Solstice hardtop, and choose the Pontiac? Now THAT’S embarrassing!

  • avatar

    I wonder how this car would have turned out if BMW didn’t own Mini.

    Would the 1 series have become a 4 cyl with the 128 being the top model? Could they have made it lighter?

    I think as much as they didn’t want to eat away at 3 series sales, they equally didn’t want to mess with Mini and Mini Clubman sales.

    So with that said – the BMW 2002, and it’s legacy are history.

    I wonder what they will do with Triumph?

  • avatar

    Wow, best review of this car I’ve read. Of course that’s only because I agree with it all. I do love BMW leatherette, though. I have fond memories of its ruggedness from my dad’s 320i. However, at this price I always find petrochemical cows a bit hard to swallow.

  • avatar

    Thank you for that very honest assessment of a car that most dare not speak ill of. I recently had a drive in a 07 328i and the seats in that car were as you described the seats in this one. Are they the same?

  • avatar


    I think you nailed it, with the Mini Cooper S in the product mix, there is no room for a true entry level BMW.

    I’m done with BMW, at least for now. The 1992 325i was sold last night and I just dont see replacing it with a any current BMW sold in the USA. Too bad, because I loved the way that car drove and even looked, as well as the BMW motorcycle that was my first introduction to the BMW brand.

  • avatar

    I would prefer a nicely restored 2002ti any day!

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    We start the week with Jonny’s X6 review and end it with Justin’s 135i write-up.

    What perfect symmetry. Proper book-ends, these.

    Whether doing ubersoovie or kleincoupe, the blue propeller boys have fat and ugly down to a science.

    Having seen a few 135i’s running about town already, I second Justin’s negative comments and square them. In the flesh, this car is quite possibly even more unappealing than it is in photos.

    BMW. You’ve lost the plot.

  • avatar

    As a younger, not-rich, driving enthusiast who also uses his car to carry quite a bit of gear now and then, the 120d has been my dream car since introduction. When BMW announced they were finally bringing the 1-series to the US, I figured my venerable ’98 Impreza wagon might be seeing retirement sooner than later. Nope.

    The car division could use a lesson from Motorrad – reasonably priced do-it-all vehicles that get great mileage yet retain fantastic driving dynamics are always best-sellers.

    My BMW of choice will continue to be the F650GS.

  • avatar

    Ok, one quip with the review, the rear seats are not that bad. I sat comfortably behind a 5’10” driver. Ok, I’m not what you would call a large man but the rear seat room is not on the Audi TT, Porsche 911 level, it is a real seat.

    Unfortunately I haven’t driven this yet, but I see where you are coming from. I can’t argue with the overly fat argument or the stlying issues. When comparing this car to what it should have been it falls short. However, having driven a 335i, I can’t imagine that it isn’t simply awesome. Anything wrapped around that engine would be awesome, much less a 335i minus 200lbs of bulk. Plus, with some basic aftermarket tweaks like an LSD and a chip there are very few cars that will be able to run with the 135i including the new M3. Start throwing carbon fiber and other lightweight components on it and it will be all that it should have been and more. Hopefully, BMW will do this for us and come out with the 135tii or a 123tii turbo.

  • avatar

    I was really looking forward to this review, but now I feel somewhat disillusioned. I wanted to like this car. Admittedly, I’m no BMW expert nor historian, so the attachment they claim to the 2002 has little effect on me. I’m wondering if the car would be better-received if they didn’t pimp heritage so much in the ads. Still, at this price, an entry level performance coupe ought to be free of any critics. Disappointing…

  • avatar

    Clarkson gave the coupe 5 stars. Pity, I had hoped BMW knew what it was doing, that somehow the 1 series overcame the flaws on paper.

  • avatar

    Mr. Berkowitz, thank you for not pulling our the BMW free pass like so many other publications and writers have done. I disliked reading all the hype in the run-up to the US release of this car and I’m glad to hear the opinions of someone willing to go against the grain.

  • avatar

    I still haven’t seen one in person, but the more photos I see of the 1 the less I like it. It’s basically a 9/10 scale 3 series, but the sedan not the coupe. It offers no real reason to buy it, because everything including size, weight, and cost are 9/10s a 3 series.

    And the new 3 series is a beautiful design to me, they just nailed the coupe’s proportions. Why bother getting a 1, get a 3!

  • avatar

    Lest we forget that there is a substantial class of no-nothing young (under 35) lawyers, doctors, and consultants getting paid close or more than 200K per year. The kind of people who get new Blackberrys & I-pods phones every six months, have the latest flat screen tvs, use too much hair gel, think that a $500 bar/restaurant tab for a Friday nite is par for the course, have monthly rents in the thousands, and thrive on competing with each other.

    BMW has nailed the demographic once again. If BMW were concerned with bringing a fresh, quirky, and interesting product to North America, we would have gotten a 128 1-series hatch (or as others have mentioned a 120d) or something. Nope, that’s not what the yuppies want. Fast or SUV.

  • avatar

    Sounds from the review like this is a BMW designed by people who take the bus to work. Competent and reliable, good on-paper performance stats (it is a BMW, after all), but with all the soul of a primer-gray Trabant in base trim.

  • avatar

    I’m an under 25 year old consultant and I wouldn’t be caught dead in this thing. If someone is trying to ‘compete’ with his car, an ugly, compact, poor-man’s 3-Series isn’t going to impress many people. Neither will any of the ubiquitous 3-Series models, with the exception of the M3 in certain enthusiast circles

  • avatar

    So the other night, I pulled out the pictures of my old BMWs…my 1974 2002 is still the car that calls the most to my inner-car lust. Even though it was a 21 year old car when I bought it, that car was just…just…right. I also owned a Euro-spec 318i (E30, thank you)…minimalist, light on it’s feet, and thanks to some slight handling mods, cornered like nobody’s business. Moved up to a 1993 325is..and then my lifelong love affair with BMW pretty much dried up. Bangle ruined it for me. Sure, my wife and I are still looking at a Z3 down the road to play with, but that’s it. I had high hopes for the little (relatively speaking, obviously) 1-series. If it had come out several hundred pounds lighter, perhaps with a blown four cylinder somewhere in the low $20s, I’d be considering one. But damn…$43k for a slightly shrunken 3-series? With the X6 and now this, one has to wonder what the folks over at Bayrische Motoren Werke are thinking? Then again, maybe they know the American market TOO well and will sell a gazillion of these beasts…just not to me. Now excuse me while I go back to day dreaming about my days in the good ol’ 2-double oh-2.

  • avatar

    In the end, the only reason to get this car is for the hatchback. Oops, can’t get the hatch in the US.

    Anyone looking to buy one of these would be better off with the 3. It will cost you less in the long run, because the 3 is going to hold it’s value better.

    If they would bring a lighter, more economical, but still fun to drive car to the plate, they could find a new set of customers at a time they really need them. Instead of a homerun, they took the walk.

  • avatar

    I’m confused by a couple of sentences in this review:

    The 2002’s huge greenhouse dominated its exterior design; the airy cockpit made the car feel a lot smaller than its dimensions indicated.

    How did its air cockpit make it feel smaller? Wouldn’t it have made it feel bigger than its compact dimensions would have suggested?

    Bargain hunters will be pleased that the materials deployed throughout the 135i’s cabin are virtually to those found in the 3-Series.

    Virtually what? Identical?

    A decent sized backpack back is just about out of the question.

    Back there?

  • avatar

    wow, didn’t realize this one doesn’t have the ZF transmission… so much for having a solid drivetrain. good engine, though.

  • avatar

    omnivore :

    Point two and three (the 1-Series’ interior’s similarity to the 3-Series and the backpack issue) were my bad. I’ve edited the text to clarify.

    Justin will address the other question.

    [NB: After complaints from several commentators, in the interests of editorial transparency, TTAC will no longer remove comments that point out our errors after we’ve fixed the text. Unless the mistakes are so completely dumb they make us look like total idiots.]

  • avatar

    I had the BMW 2000, which was a 4-door big brother to the 2002. Great engine and the best clutch I have ever experienced in a car. Not the best looking car, though. It was roomy, quiet, and handled great. Plenty of power once the smog pump was disabled. The seats weren’t particularly bolstered but were super comfortable. I used to set the valve clearance just to admire the beautiful head cover casting. I rate that 2000 as arguably the best car I have ever owned. Only bug in the years I owned it was a front wheel bearing. I finally traded it on a new 260Z.

  • avatar

    The 2002 was easier to get in and out of as well. I was shocked when I looked at this car at how uncomfortable I was.

    My mistake, though. I’d just looked at Minis and the Smart. They were nice and roomy.

  • avatar

    I rented a 318i 4 door sedan (salloon) in the UK about 7 years ago while I was there on vacation, and it was civilized (civilised?) and competent. It had a usable amount of power, not excessively stupid.

    Four cylinders. Automatic. Four doors. Green. But, BMW! (At the rental agency in Scotland, they obviously said to themselves “American…. give him the automatic” when they didn’t know I learned how to drive on two stick shift cars, a 1973 VW Beetle and a 1973 GMC Sprint SS 454 with rock-crusher).

    We need the four cylinder BMW’s here, BMW. In both the 1 series (for singletons with no passenger needs) and 3 series.

  • avatar

    After the hype for this car, I still didn’t get it. The distance between this and the 3er, as noted in other comments, won’t appeal to the status-seeking crowd, and those looking for a budget BMW aren’t served, unless the $36k base price is more common than for other BMWs.

    The spirit of lightweight fun lives on in the Mini, Miata, and Elise/Exige. The Germans won’t reprise the 2002 or the GTI, with their original spirits, any time soon. Plaid doesn’t make you look thin with what, 3300lbs of ass to haul?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    This car IS a slightly shortened 3 series. And who started all that 2002 stuff? If it was BMW, it was pure marketing hype. If it was the bimmer fans, they have only themselves to blame.

  • avatar

    IMHO, as I’ve been saying for months, they screwed the pooch by not offering the 5-door hatchback:

    1. The layout is already being lapped up by buyers of the Mazda3, 4-door GTI, or Impreza/WRX. The old “Americans don’t want hatchbacks” thing is dying quickly.

    2. They removed the rear doors and cargo room, which MIGHT have made the car better overall and at least offered a layout that the 3-series doesn’t really have.

    The whole idea of an 90%-scale 3-series seems ridiculous to me, especially when it’s not designed as some kind of lightweight stripper version.

    Agreed wholeheartedly that the market is ready for a new incarnation of the old 318ti.

  • avatar

    I test drove a 128 last weekend and came away with a more positive impression. My impressions: LOOKS: Better in person than in the pics, Tight and agressive. It made the 3 series coupe parked next to it look like a soft porker. INTEROR: fantastic! Beautiful leather and a high quality look. Nice traditional look without being overstyled. No cheap silver plastic (are you listening Lexus, Acura?) Sport Seats are a must.I found them comfortable. Backseats are useless as expected. POWER: Good, but will not overly impress. Did not care for the 6 speet AT. It was a little too busy for me. I would take the manual. RIDE: I liked it. It wasn’t harsh and road noise was not excessive. HANDLING: I didn’t have the opportunity to push it. Better than my 4Runner! OTHER: Options are expensive! choose with care or the car will cost alot. I would take this over a 3 series.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t help that even with all that the 135 has for it under the hood, it still runs north of $43k in tested trim. That red ‘71 2002 cost around $4k back then. What would the inflation adjusted price be now?

    Assuming an average annual inflation of 3%, $12,000.

    Based on the review, I’m surprised this expensive, fat, ugly, but somehow small (it takes talent to combine those three attributes in a single automobile) car got three stars.

  • avatar

    Maybe we Americans (for the most part) are the the tacky, tasteless, boring, soulless, bunch that will simply drive any stupid 3box car or SUV with a designer badge on the hood, that the rest of the world see us as.

    Maybe we do “give it up so easy” that automakers like BMW know that they dont even need to try hard to please us.

    Maybe we are that frivolous with our cash that BMW and the like know that they easily make madd profit on silly items like navigation systems that they sell for $2000 but can be had in the local Target for $500. In the meantime cut numerous little corners on their cars to the point were they ARE actually nothing more than RWD Accords.

    Hell even Toyota know that it does not take much if any effort to make a buck in the USA. Americans dont pay attention to jack so build one extremely nice model and than bait and switch with much lower quality. “Hey its a Toyota, right” Not for nothing but GM, Ford, and Chysler got away with that crap for half a century!

    Hatchbacks??? Why, Americas will simply take out a second mortgage and buy a second car like any SUV. No better yet they will drive a $50,000 6000lb luxury SUV and than pay someone to deliver whatever they buy but refuse to dirty their “truck” up with.

    Make a crappy little sub-compact with build quality less than a Civic or Fit call it a Mini and fools in America will spend $30,000 on a $15,000 car!

    This is America folks and those 1 series will sell. They are arriving just in time to maintain sales as the 3 series is becoming to expensive for America. They will also allow 3 series posers to feel better that they have now moved up the BMW foodchain by default.

  • avatar
    John R

    Umm…yeah. I think I’ll go back to pining for that Evo MR.

  • avatar

    Good job Justin – the best review I have read of this car yet.

    What a wasted opportunity the 135 coupe is. I have been renting 120d hatchbacks in Europe ever since they became available and love them. Practical, economical, a flexible engine for urban driving and a bag of fun to drive. The 120d hatch is a great all-round package. The 135 coupe is neither practical, nor economical and is resting the defense of it’s $45 price tag entirely on its performance which comes up short.

    If you want pocket rocket performance then an STi, EVO, RX-8, 350Z or R32 Golf can get you as many or more thrills for less money. I never thought I’d say this but the 135 makes the Audi A3 3.2 look like a sensible choice.

  • avatar

    I think BMW product planners felt had trouble “defining” the 1-series – especially in US trim.

    On the one hand, the car had to be different, a real alternative to the 3-series that would possibly a attract younger busyers the brand. On the other, both the 128i and the 135i had to be every bit a BMW, with inline 6 engines and hallmark BMW handling. Most of all, the execs in Munich were determined not to repeat the 318ti hatchback experiment characterized by an underwhelming car that slightly tainted what a BMW in America was supposed to be.

    Long story short, both the 135i and 128i are too expensive BMW missed a real opportunity to offer a lighter 1-series that was still every bit of a BMW but could be had well-optioned for about $30k. At that price point, it would have been king vs. the Audi A3 2.0T, the Acura TSX’s and the Volvo C30. It’s hard to say what class the 1-series is in, and who it will compete with. As exciting as the 135i maybe, don’t be surprised if the 128i sells it by a good margin. The only way to justify the 1-series is by buying a lightly optioned 128i with a manual and calling it a day.

  • avatar

    When I see a BMW. there are only 3 things that come into my mind.

    1. It is from Germany
    2. Horspower
    3.still a Bimmer.

    Look at the Driver’s Cockpit it so plain and boring. A $40,000 car is just too much to bear.

    I can buy 2 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS fully loaded with 650 watts system w/ sub-woofer, Navigation system,Paddle shifter,17 inch wheels, heated leather seats, CVTransmission etc etc for 17,850 and I can beat a 3 series in 4.5 a seconds in 0-60 and also you can buy 1 used Kia with 6 cd player, foglights and much more.

    Who wants a Bimmer? Not me

  • avatar

    A $40,000 entry-level car? Ugly, cramped and too heavy? What were they thinking??

  • avatar

    It doesn’t help that even with all that the 135 has for it under the hood, it still runs north of $43k in tested trim. That red ‘71 2002 cost around $4k back then. What would the inflation adjusted price be now?

    per the infaltion calculator I found,

    What cost $4000 in 1971 would cost $21140.12 in 2007.

  • avatar

    I think I did the right thing buying a MINI. Same problems with the back seats, but at least the leather sport seats were cheaper, and are really, really nice. And coming in well under $30K for a fairly loaded up car that drives/handles great. And I am getting just over 40MPG with mostly highway driving.

    A 5 door hatch on a small scale would have been very cool. But, if BMW had done some sort of hatch, it could have bit into sales of tricked out MINI S’s and and the Clubman. Besides, their last hatch version in the 3 series flopped so badly the remaining few on the road are probably collectible.

    If I had $45 to spend on a car, the 1-series wouldnt be it…

  • avatar

    The poor base seats remind me of the ignition system: the default configuration is lousy, so you have to pony up for the expensive upgrade.

    For those who haven’t witnessed the stupidity of the BMW ignition sequence… you insert a “key” into the dashboard and then turn it to start the engine like in any normal car push a different button located above the key to start the car. Turning off involves the needless multi-operation sequence in reverse. Or, instead, you can pay an extra $500 for a proximity sensor that means you don’t have to insert the key… just push the start button. Well, there is one good thing: BMW finally stopped hiding the key slot behind the steering wheel.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Wow…just wow. I don’t know how many people are just utterly missing this car.

    The looks, I’ll grant. It’s not a natural car. Ugly? I don’t think so, personally. But it’s not classic. It’s not sexy. But then again, I don’t think the 2002 is either, either.

    But everything else? My god people.

    For $35k, you can now get into one of the most perfect drivetrains known to man. The 6-speed trans in this car is supposed to be a slightly revised version of the 335i (mainly has a shorter shifter). I’ve driven the 335…which was damn near perfect and could perhaps use a shorter shfiter.

    The suspension layout is identical. The car now has regenerative braking and superior brakes.

    In an age in which young buyers are throwing down 35k for STIs and EVOs (and I don’t see a shortage of them), BMW has offered a car that can outperform both of them on dry roads and racetracks. And let’s face it, the people who buy the STI and EVO “because it has 4 doors” are few and far between.

    The interior is e90 +25%. Functional cupholders? Check. Slightly more driver oriented? Check. Cleaner design and execution. Here it is!

    If you’ve ever raved about the 335, if you’ve ever gone to and priced one out just for fun, if you’ve ever told yourself you don’t need 4-doors, then you should love this car.

    It’s the 3-series with a step taken towards the sportier side of the horizon. Shorter, 200 pounds less (lets face it, that’s a ton of weight less in this day and age), a little less refined in the guttural way.

    Why is it the 2002 reborn? It’s not. But it’s BMW taking a step towards the 2002. Less expensive, less big, and all the important stuff has been given to it or improved upon (i.e. 6-piston front brakes, better rear diff power control).

    And here we are 40+ comments into a mediocre review of this car, lamenting it.

    I’m proud of BMW for taking this risk. I hope it does so well that they continue it and bring the 5-door hatchback version. I think it’s a glorious car with the disadvantage of now being as good looking as the e90 coupe, but being better performer.

    Those who deride the 1 but praise the 335i coupe, suspend your pistonhead priveleges. You have succumbed to negativity about auxiliary subjects, and ignored the performance capabilities.


  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    How did its air cockpit make it feel smaller? Wouldn’t it have made it feel bigger than its compact dimensions would have suggested?

    Good question. What I meant was that the airy cockpit made the car feel like it had more space inside, but that the exterior of the car was a compact and easily managed size. With lots of glass in the 2002, you could see all the way around you, see the corners of the car, the road, etc.

    On the other hand, the 1-Series is cramped inside but because it’s like looking out from a pillbox, it’s difficult to tell where the bumpers end, and the car just seems to overwhelm you.

  • avatar

    The 1er as sold everywhere except North America comes as a 3-door (think Golf) and 5-door (think A3). Why in the heck BMW didn’t bring THOSE cars here is beyond me. Instead, they brought a 135i here and totally screwed the pooch.

  • avatar

    Our stateside aversion to hatchbacks is what made this car look like the goofy rolling caricature it is. Executed as a 5-door hatch (like the rest of the world sees), it’s a striking design. As a 2-door coupe, it’s plain awkward.

    The value/weight/size/power cyclic continuum of despair needs no further discussion in its absurdity. I will say though that the “piano” snick made me spit milk through my nose.

  • avatar

    Forty-Three Tousand Dollars???

    Forty-Three Thousand?

    Really? F-O-R-T-Y T-H-R-E-E?

    With plastic seat covers?

    There are BMW suckers born every minute.

    Thanks, I’ll take a G35S any day.


  • avatar

    It’s as though they were too lazy to actually design an entry-level car, so they just shrank the 3-series, kept most of the mechanicals, then realized they couldn’t sell it at an entry-level price.

    At that point, any sensible auto-exec should have killed the project, or redesigned from the ground up. What a travesty! Of course, the bigger travesty will occur when people actually pay $40G for this half-breed.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Personally, although a fan of hatchbacks I don’t mind the idea of a coupe, as long as it’s well done.

    The problem with the 1 series, but also so many other cars these days, is that it’s not so much a 3 box design as a 2 1/2 boxer. Or maybe 2 1/3? The rear decklids are getting so foreshortened that you might as well have a hatch, then at least the rear deck opening would be large enough to actually place something inside the trunk without going through contortions to do so.

  • avatar

    I’m sure this seemed like a pretty good idea when oil wasn’t $100 per barrel and the dollar was worth something.

    But now, the car doesn’t make much sense. The US-dollar-is-worthless-based price point will limit demand to a very small group. Although that might be a good thing, because it’s really debatable whether BMW should be selling a car to Americans that is slotted below a 3-series. It wouldn’t be great for the brand to have a popular, cheap alternative to the 3, when it’s the 3 that is supposed to be the popular, cheap alternative to the 5, 6 and 7.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Zarba –

    43k is the 135i with sport package, premium package, navigation, and cold weather package.

    35k gets you a 135i

    35k also can get you an STI.

    Rubes aplenty.


  • avatar

    This car IS a slightly shortened 3 series. And who started all that 2002 stuff? If it was BMW, it was pure marketing hype. If it was the bimmer fans, they have only themselves to blame.

    It was BMW. Their advertising and their website were proclaiming the 1 series as the second coming of the 02. Which, naturally, got the 02 folks excited. I should know – I’m one of them. I have a 73Tii, and it is a crazy amount of fun. 2100lbs and 130HP.

    Yes, the 135 is a ton faster than my Tii, but it’s not going to be anywhere as nimble or tossable.
    I was really looking forward to the 1. I don’t mind the lack of practicality. I prefer small cars, even for a given price. The 1 series price is a bit high, but I might be willing to pay it if – if – it weighed 400 lbs less. 3400 lbs is a joke. My E34 5 series weighs 3400 lbs.

    I’m right in the target market for this car. Under 30, driving enthusiast, and make OK money. But there’s no way I’m buying one.

    I’d love the Mini CooperS if its design weren’t so cartoony. Won’t somebody make a serious small car? RWD? Please? Maybe the Audi A1 will save the day. But I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar

    With the 135i, BMW had its cake and ate it too. Maybe that’s why the 135i is so fat.


  • avatar

    I used to own a 318ti, which was kind of a funny looking car, but got great gas mileage, had plenty of interior room and drove/handled great. I’d been looking forward to the 1-series ever since I sold that car back in ’03. Now that BMW Bangled-up their cars, dropped the 4-banger from their arsenal and forgot about the importance of practicality, I’ll be looking at the Audi A3 to fill the void that BMW left behind.

  • avatar

    Or you can think of it as a little bit lighter, a little bit faster, more agile 335i for $5,900 less. All depends on what you are looking for in a car.

    Lets see if you had an option to make a car handle less crisp, weigh more and be a bit slower and it only cost you about $6k would you check that option off as a must have?

  • avatar
    John R

    @ Joe O

    “In an age in which young buyers are throwing down 35k for STIs and EVOs (and I don’t see a shortage of them), BMW has offered a car that can outperform both of them on dry roads and racetracks.”

    That has yet to be seen. Only a comparo can determine that.

    To get the 1-series the way you want, (in fighting form against the Evo/STI) it will cost at least $40k. The Evo and the STI will undercut that by $1-7k depending on whether you get the Evo or STI and what options you plan to tack on. The $35k 1-series will not have the blown inline-6 and will make 250-260hp. Potent, but you can still get a 300 horse Subie or Mitsu for less than $40k.

    The Evo will pull .97g, 1-series pulls .91g and the STI pulls .90g. All three will do 5.0 seconds or less to 60mph depending on who’s driving (I didn’t mention 1/4 times as people seem to remember 0-60 better).

    On paper at least, the 1-series isn’t out performing either of Nihons brightest at this pricepoint.

  • avatar
    Joe O


    A few things.

    Automobile Mag tested a 335xi 6-speed vs. the STI and Evo. The 335xi won.

    That car is ~500 pounds heavier than a 135i and does not offer the sport suspension (all wheel drive BMWs don’t offer BMW’s sport suspension).

    It wasn’t a blow out. But it’s enough for me to say, comfortably, that the 135i with sports suspension, shorter length, ~500 pounds less, and less drivetrain sap will not have a problem taking them on :)

    I don’t know exactly where your pricing information is coming from. The 135i 6-speed starts at ~$35k. The sport package is around $1000 and only really adds sport seats and a steering wheel…the car already has the sport suspension stock.

    Every STI I’ve seen in a showroom (which has been most of them so far, since I just bought a Subaru Legacy GT), has had a sticker price of $38k. Destination and a few options are a bear.

    Oh yeah, and the 335i has shown consistently better quarter mile times than the new STI or EVO (which have grown fat on the teat of a civilized ride).

    By the way, that imaginary 250-260 HP 1-series for 35k? I think you must be referring to the 128i, which starts at 30k and offers 230 HP.

    Pull it together if you are going to decry.


  • avatar

    The sad truth is if there is ever to be a true spiritual successor to the 2002, it will probably take Mazda to bring it to life. BMW just doesn’t remember how anymore.

  • avatar

    Count me as another person who would like the 5 door hatchback 1 series and the 4 cylinder engines in the US. A low horsepower light car is more fun than a high horsepower heavy one.

  • avatar

    The problem is there’s no chrome luggage rack for the back deck. Then that piano would have a place to sit.

  • avatar

    All the talk about the 1 Series being expensive is correct. The reason why is the US$. If it had not just tanked, the US$ price would be 10 odd percent less.

    Over time some of the competition will come up in price as current rates inflate prices. BMW had the chance to put the adjusted price on this one right away.

  • avatar

    I have to admit, this car is kinda ugly. Looks like an escape pod for yuppies to flee a stricken, burning 7-series in style.

  • avatar

    @whatdoiknow1: […]


    Lovely rant, by the way. Agree 100%.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I’m late to this train… but on the other hand, I was early too.

    Remembering my review of the 118i back in May of 2007
    and subsequent drives, I liked the 1-series a lot more than you did, Justin. It felt small yet uncramped, well-balanced, practical and useful to me. (And it didn’t have those nasty runflat tires, either).

    But I didn’t like the 130i I sat in at the Frankfurt motor show in September. It seemed over-equipped and strange, what with all the gadgets and pimped-up features. Your review confirms my impression of the US version. I agree with what othe, quicker commentators have said here: the 118, 120, 120d are interesting and appropriate cars, but the faster versions seem pointless and overwrought — tantamount to a SS Chevy.

  • avatar

    “For $35k, you can now get into one of the most perfect drivetrains known to man.”

    Man, if only it wasn’t attached to that car.

  • avatar

    Wow. Well, I was looking forward to this review; a bit of humour, some irreverency and ultimately the straight scoop – just how I like it from you guys. And what do we get; a BMW hater! Why do I say that?

    Well, for one thing, anyone that compares it to the 2002 is just falling prey to marketing gimmicks developed by half-wits. Second, let’s not stretch the truth about the stats. Reality is that the car can be had with 6MT, sport seats, sport suspension for $36.5K. And third, and this is critical, there are no other actual $37K cars that will beat this in any of the performance tests except maybe the Mitsubishi from 0-60. What’s this about 0-60 in 5.4? C&D tested in 4.7? Are they driving the ‘souped’ up 135i? And then there are the ‘useless’ back seats; a couple of posts pointed that out here, they are small (no kidding) but not that small. Kids will fit, and 6 foot adults will fit. The latter less comfortably, the former just fine. But if the author thinks that this car is being bought to carry four adults (or any type of family unit for more than treks around town) he doesn’t understand the likely purchaser.

    Finally, I’ll say this. I’ve driven the 335i and the 135i back to back. There is no way, that I’d spend another $5K to get the bigger, slower, and generally not any more practical 2 door 335i. If you’re talking 4 doors, different car category, no point comparing apples to oranges. Oh yeah, and then there’s the R32. Slow and available only as an automatic. G37s? Smaller inside, slower outside.

    Show me a better performing, more fun(135i has 300ft-lb torque <2K RPM), 2 door, 6MT coupe for $36.5K and I might change my mind. End of day, it’ll be hard to find that car from those currently on lots.

  • avatar

    I saw one of these in the flesh for the first time yesterday. It looks worse in real life. The back end looks like they simply took a foot of the trunk to get a shorter car, and failed to change the adjacent styling cues to match. Very awkward.

  • avatar

    First may I say what an excellent review. I wonder how one website can get it so wrong (with the X6 review) and nail it with this review, all in the same week. Go figure.

    I also was waiting for this Beemer to come out. Owning a 2004 Honda Accord Coupe EX M6 I was looking forward to changing to a spirited BMW entry level machine. Nope, this car belongs to the orthodontists spoilt college kid, and there it will stay…forever.

    I have to wonder at car companies, Ford had the great Mustang, yet keeps churning out clones that poorly mimic the spirit of the original. BMW had the 2002, something that us baby boomers consider an iconic vehicle. Yet, they keep missing the opportunity to capatilize on it. We loved BMW then, we thought you got us, us millions of buyers who know auto-soul when they see it. When will BMW produce an affordable drivers car that leaves a permanant grin and nostalgic memories? Not this time, I guess it will be another four years looking at this marketing mistake before we get another chance.

    One last comment about this Beemer, has anyone ever heard the saying, ‘the horse was designed by a single person, the camel by a committee’?

    Anyone have an idea what I should look forward to next? And don’t say the Challenger or Camaro (that is living in the past).

  • avatar

    Show me a better performing, more fun(135i has 300ft-lb torque <2K RPM), 2 door, 6MT coupe for $36.5K and I might change my mind.

    Then again, six months after purchase you might decide that raw numbers aren’t everything and there are more pleasing cars to be had for that kind of scratch. Stranger things have happened.

  • avatar

    It’s probably still a great car although certainly awkwardly placed in the market. But it looks like they drew half the car, then realized they forgot to include a greenhouse and so at the last minute someone at the factory made one without seeing the rest of the car. And then someone kicked in the rear fender.

  • avatar

    Joe: I really agree with you. I really like the car too but the price is giving me chest pains. I’m too tight to buy a new normal car much less than this much nicer car.

    The comments here sound like the BMW-anti-fans have arrived.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Busbodger – I just bought a Subaru Legacy GT 5-speed for 24,500. Perforated leather, heated power seats, 243 HP/241 TQ, AWD, a practical driver-oriented interior, and all the good stuff standard. It’s my wife’s car, it met all her needs too.

    Genuine driving cars can still be had for the cost of a Honda Accord EX 4-cylinder….

    Ironically, ~3 years ago I bought a new ’05 Saab 9-2x Aero (WRX Wagon) for 18,500 w/ a 5-speed and heated seats. Traded it in after 9000 miles for more than I bought it for…

    Hopefully we keep the LGT :)

    Do I think the 135i is worth 35k? No. I don’t think the STI or EVO is either. Is it possible I’ll lease one to have the enjoyment of owning such a wonderful drivetrain/suspension/braking/steering system at least once? Yes :)

    By the way, I’d expect better fuel economy numbers out of the 135 than those ratings. It has better aerodynamics than the 335i (less frontal area), less weight, regenerative braking, etc….

    I’d think 19/27 or so myself.


  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    zbladejr: And what do we get; a BMW hater! Let's not play the "negative review automatically means bias" game. I don't hate BMWs; on the contrary, I own one (a 2007 M Coupe). Second, let’s not stretch the truth about the stats. Reality is that the car can be had with 6MT, sport seats, sport suspension for $36.5K. The price as tested is just that; the price of the car tested. But you're absolutely right – you can indeed get a 135i for $36,600, as long as you're willing to forgo leather seats, metallic paint, power seats, etc. Since my dailer driver GTI has none of these things, I'm not particularly bothered. But some people are. You also mentioned "the type of person" getting the 1-Series, and I think that's important to touch on because it goes to price. The sticker price only goes so far. The majority of the 1-Series sold in the US are going to be leases. And at least right now, it's more expensive to lease than a 335i.   What’s this about 0-60 in 5.4? C&D tested in 4.7? Are they driving the ’souped’ up 135i? I had intended to list BMW's 0-60 estimate, which I incorrectly quoted as 5.4; what they publish is 5.1, and the article is corrected to reflect that. I can't speak for C&D's methods in this case, but buff books' test methods are hardly clinical. They stick a pro or semi-pro driver behind the wheel on a track on a clear day, do 10 0-60 runs, and then pick the best one and publish that – not an average of the times, not a real road, not an average driver. And seriously, press cars (not necessarily from BMW) have a long history of being souped up for the journalists. There is no way, that I’d spend another $5K to get the bigger, slower, and generally not any more practical 2 door 335i. And that is why this is lose lose for BMW. Either people are turned off by the car (me, and tremendously disappointed as I had really high hopes for it), or they save $5000 and buy the 135i. Which is $5000 of profit for BMW right out the window. I respect your opinion, and certainly the 135i is not a bad car in my opinion. I just felt like it was a much less attractive, somewhat less expensive 3-Series. But the real issue is that I didn't find it fun to drive, straight line acceleration notwithstanding.

  • avatar

    What’s hard to understand about all the Bangle-ugly, expensive, iDrive-equipped new BMWs is that, apparently, they’re still selling well enough. For its hefty price and stilted appearance, I can’t see the 1-series as being any different. Someone’s likely going to be buying them.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Agree on negativity with this vehicle offering. They could have brought in delicious 4cyl gas or diesel, and hatch but don’t want to be down market in USA. Its a 6 cyl company now, in USA.

    Its for sure not a 2002.

    2002 was up-engined 1500/1600/1800. These were the break through that saved BMW in Europe. Its not a 1502. Which it should be. For me, not to save BMW they don’t need saving anymore.

    2002 was breakthrough for US market but the company was already saved.

    2002 weighed 2200 lbs. i.e. 1,100 lbs less than this porker. Thats umm three 365 pound (!!!) passengers standing by curb in 2002, or wedged in with driver in 135i. Or 14 sacks of cement weighing 80lbs each.

    2002 had compliant suspension- major part of break through, and nice steering, another revelation.

    $4,000 in 1974? Ignore general inflation, all lies from US Government. Look at what a Camaro cost then. $3100-$3700

    OK you give up smog V8, solid axle/leaf springs, and horrible interior, you give up likely 1,000 weight, pay say $500 more. So it was 10-15% more expensive than a Camaro.

    OK the 2002 aged quickly, rusted, and had maintenance intensive engine management system in USA.

    They could make a new 2002 without these flaws and I would pay what its worth. I don’t want a mini or a new 3 series.

    The closest to 2002 in the US market is Mazda3. Its too heavy but closest thing. Mazda2 is closer and I cant wait to see if ford will put ugly grill on the US Fiesta.

  • avatar

    #Justin Berkowitz : Thank you for giving a fresh break from the overly-glowing “All hail the 135i” reviews circulating in magazines and blogs. Your review may be the first one I’ve read where negatives aren’t glossed over in favor of the positives.

    In defense of the 1-series’ heft, it clocks in within a few pounds of the late-model 350Z and appears to be much lighter than the G37, while remaining in that price range. All of these cars offer similar performance as well. In defense of the 1-series price point, a 135i is priced in line with the G37 coupe and mid-level 350Z. I don’t think power seats, leather and metallic paint are dealbreakers for most enthusiasts. Even if BMW made the M-Sport package an option, the 1-series’ price would remain contentious with many people.

    Regarding a four cylinder, hatchback and/or diesel offering in the US, I imagine a lot of those same people would complain about BMW reaching too down-market, deride the the hatchback styling, and gripe about the 4-cylinder’s lack of power.

    With all the rumors of BMW developing a turbo four-cylinder, an ideal 1-series for most of us would be a ~200hp, 2800-3000lb car with a real limited slip. Deep in my heart, I know if BMW created and sold that 1-series in the US, I would still find something to complain about. Probably the reliability.

    # Paul Niedermeyer :

    Bloggers and BMW bloggers started the whole 2002 thing. It’s a prominent feature in their promotional literature.

  • avatar

    Hey, its the new boxster!!!

  • avatar

    Huh? This “baby” Bimmer weighs more than my minivan…

  • avatar
    John R

    @ Joe O

    I’m not surprise Automobile chose the the 1-series. They’re almost biased against Japanese auto when in comaprison to anything from Germany. Also, they’ve lost any credibility with me when its editor-in-chief extolled the virtues of the Jeep Compass…for a Chrysler commercial.

    Price. Road & Track tested the Evo against the STI. The Evo GSR had an as tested price of $33k and the STI $39k. As Justin Berkowitz noted, to get the 1-series the way you want it you ARE going go over $36k.

    So what did Automobile find out? The 135i only performs marginally better than, not “outperforms” the Evo and STI.

    Maybe you should post a link to that article because that looks like a 335xi.

    Anyway, what kills the 1-series for me is the fact that its is no real value. The Evo and STI are at least useful.

  • avatar

    I just don’t see the point in this car. It is not much cheaper/lighter than a 3-series. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad car – but other than people streeeeeetching their lease budgets to get a BMW badge, who is going to want one of these?

    If BMW made a lighter and less expensive car than the 3-series because they were aiming at a performance benchmark, most buyers (esp. the kind that read this site) would applaud. I would say, “Leave out all the iDrive and power doo-dads and hit the target you are aiming at.” But this car doesn’t seem like BMW was doing that, this seems like they said, “Let’s make a slightly cheaper car so we can get a few more, slightly well-heeled buyers into a BMW.” So they did that and got this car that is barely lighter and marginally quicker than a 3-series – that is no reason for a whole new model. It seems “un-purposeful” – the very opposite of what (I have always assumed) BMW was all about.

  • avatar

    As a Canadian, I’m suffering from sticker envy. An STI here starts at $45K and a base LGT is over $40K. With salaries being so similar and the US/CAN dollars almost at par, can you imagine spending $40K+ for the BASE 1-series?

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Wow…each time I post a comment I have to correct people on here for some misinformation.

    Justin Berkowitz – You said, “And at least right now, it’s more expensive to lease than a 335i.” …

    The current lease rates on a 135i are:
    71% residual for 24 months, .00258 money factor
    58% residual for 36 months, .00258 money factor

    Lease rates on a 335i sedan (which costs less than the coupe and has better rates):
    71% residual for 24 months, .00210 money factor
    58% residual for 36 months, .00210 money factor

    Either way you run the calculations, the 135i is 4k less and is therefore less to lease. By the way, all the above numbers are for 15k miles per year leases.

    John R. –

    Reread my original statement; I said that the Automobile magazine put them on a track and the 335xi beat the EVO and STI. I then went on to say that the 335xi does not have the sport suspension (which the 135i comes standard with…), the 335xi weighs 500 pounds more, and the 135 is several inches shorter in overall length and has less drivetrain sap from less overall drivetrain.

    Therefore, my money is on the 135i significantly widening the track-gap on the similarly priced Evo and STI. People are commenting that you “can’t get a 135 how you want it for 35k”. Ok. I’d want it with the sport package. Now it’s 36.5k. It comes with a driver’s side power seat (IIRC) and I know it comes with adaptive xenons and a strong stereo.

    I drive a 2006 Honda Civic SI. I see the 135i as a car in a similar vein, in that it’s a small coupe directed towards corner carving (and better at grand touring than mine).

    It’s not a “value car”, true, but neither is a Cayman, Z4 Coupe, etc….


  • avatar

    I drive a 2006 Honda Civic SI. I see the 135i as a car in a similar vein, in that it’s a small coupe directed towards corner carving (and better at grand touring than mine).

    You forgot the $14,000 plus LESS part for the Si

  • avatar

    Also regarding leases:

    While you may be right with regards to residuals and money factors between the 1 and 3 series BMW, a dealer friend I know who sells BMW, tells me he can get me into a 3 series coupe cheaper than he can a 1 series coupe.

    He also says that the salesmen hate the 1 series.

  • avatar

    Did this author actually DRIVE the car?

  • avatar

    Did this author actually DRIVE the car?

    Is this a test? He found it to be fast, but it felt like a piano was strapped to it and the steering was excessively heavy.

    Did I pass?

  • avatar

    With all the rumors of BMW developing a turbo four-cylinder, an ideal 1-series for most of us would be a ~200hp, 2800-3000lb car with a real limited slip. Deep in my heart, I know if BMW created and sold that 1-series in the US, I would still find something to complain about.

    Yeah, but the difference is that I would buy the car you described – even if there were a few things to complain about – since no car is perfect. I won’t buy the 135. So, from BMW’s perspective, they lost a sale. Although it seems like they don’t care about the enthusiast anymore. (fun fact: the E34 5 series, in addition to weighing about the same as a 135, actually DOES have a real limited-slip differential).

    And let’s everybody stop with the talk about BMW-haters. I’ve owned 4 of them. Just because I won’t prostrate myself in front of anything with a roundel doesn’t mean I hate BMW. It’s tough love. I do care about what they do which is WHY I’m concerned with the path that they’ve been on lately. When GM turns out some rolling letdown, I don’t even lift an eyebrow. Being critical shows that you care (at least to some extent) – it’s indifference where the real hostility lies.

  • avatar

    Joe, my issue isn’t with the car so much as the price. I don’t see the value.

    I have an association between size and cost. Bigger cars should cost more, all else equal. The only time that association turns is where there’s some benefit to be had from lesser size, such as weight reduction.

    Here, there’s no benefit to less size. The 3-series is already a relatively compact car by American standards. This 1-series is just that car in a tighter suit, and the proportions have gone to pot. It’s hard to claim your vehicle is a status symbol when it looks like a permanently confused miniature.

    And what of the weight? Two hundred pounds is less than 6% of a 3600 lb. Given the increased steering effort of the 1-series, I doubt the difference is even noticeable. I’m quite sure it wasn’t intended to be a step toward the 2002; BMW fans dreamed that one up on their own. BMW just needed something smaller to wedge below the 3-series, because the latter approaches the E39 5-series for size and weight.

    And then there’s the price. This isn’t a $35K car. In classic BMW packaging, if you want power seats and metallic paint, expect to shell out $40K. Select an iPod adaptor, or any of the other nonsense that comes automatically with lesser cars, and you can easy add an another few thousand.

    Where’s the value? $40K for a cramped and ugly version of an excellent car? Who would choose this over the 3? Or a G35? Or a G8? If people wanted to drive a 3, they’d buy the 3. When I think of what this car could have been, it hurts.

    Incidentally, I think the price comparison with Subaru is unwarranted. That company is equally off its rocker, and two fools don’t cancel each other out. There’s almost no reason to buy an STi over an Evo, which is a better car at $4000 less. It doesn’t have the 135i’s torque, but if you want to argue quarter-mile times, I’ve got a supercharged Mustang to show you. The Evo leaves them all for dead in the corners, and with an ECU reflash of the fuel mix over 4000 RPM, it’ll do it in the straights too.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    “Incidentally, I think the price comparison with Subaru is unwarranted. That company is equally off its rocker, and two fools don’t cancel each other out. ”

    Extremely well said :)

    I thought that Subaru was insane to price the new STI at that point….it’s still a ~17k car (Impreza) built up. The inside es terrible for that price. The Legacy has some of the same….~$20k base car to a ~$33-35k Spec.B. or H6 version. Except the Legacy is actually at the cusp of entry level luxury.

    Anyway, judging by the arguments I’d say two things:

    1. If this car was beautiful (which I don’t think it is), then people would be much more inclined to love it. Like the original G35 coupe, who had significant shortcomings but was so graceful to behold.

    I reassure myself with the fact that from 1997-2004, Porsche produced egg-shaped front headlights and flatter-side 911s….and then went back to form in 2005.

    I hope BMW does the same for the 7, 5, 3, 1, and Z within the next few years.

    2. People are complaining about a car that weighs as much as a 2001-2006 M3 and ought to perform as well (even without a real LSD, the current rear diff design in the 1-series should be much better than the one in the 335i).

    The car has several more years of safety advances and a better suspension. It has more gas-saving items such as regenerative braking and, I believe, alternator de-coupling.

    It weighs ~200-300 pounds more than a current Boxster S. Think about that for a moment. One of the purest forms of automotive sports cars, the Porsche Boxster, is only 200-300 pounds less than this car. Which has 4, albeit small, seats.

    I’m all for this car getting lighter. But let’s face it folks; the ’73 2002 was lightweight because it had a small engine, not much niceties, and did not have 600-800 pounds of safety advances and smog control.

    If you want a lotus, get a lotus. Great car. But otherwise, this car offers a tremendous amount at 3300 pounds in today’s world.

    And, in my eyes, it has about the same utility as a 3-series coupe. Which is to say, not much, but I could fit my bike in the trunk :)


    P.s. I probably won’t be buying a 135i….I want to wait to see what the 2009 or 2011 3-series has to offer. But I’m glad BMW brought it over. It’s a step in the right direction, in my eyes.

  • avatar

    Incidentally, I think the price comparison with Subaru is unwarranted. That company is equally off its rocker, and two fools don’t cancel each other out.

    That’s not quite true. The STI is a halo car. It exists to sell lower end Imprezas. Love it or hate it, the 135i is not a halo car in the BMW stable. In that sense Subaru is at least slightly less deranged than BMW.

    As for purchasers of either car at MSRP? Equally certifiable. No doubt about it.

  • avatar

    johnny ro: “The closest to 2002 in the US market is Mazda3. Its too heavy but closest thing.”The only problem with the Mazda3/2002 comparison is the drivetrain layout. If Mazda could figure out a way to offer a version in RWD instead of FWD, they’d have a true, modern 2002.

    It’s too bad that the realities of modern drivetrain efficiency in small cars makes the possibility of that extremely remote. A RWD Mazda3, a car that would surely rise to the top of the sporting crowd, would likely drop to the bottom as far as fuel efficiency, meaning overall sales would take a steep nosedive.

  • avatar

    Let’s face it, BMWs are fashion statements much like those $1,000 handbags women buy. I’m surprised that they still drive fairly well as the typical BMW buyer wouldn’t know the difference.

    This 1 series is a ponzi scheme. The attempt here is to try and take some of the price out of the accessory so that a few more….customers can step “up” to a BMW. As far as an enthusiast car goes, I find it a hard sell against cars like the Civic Si, MazdaSpeed3, and the GTI. And I don’t want to hear about rear wheel drive versus front wheel drive. The MINI has been hailed as a great handler with no regard to its front wheel drive layout. The fact that most cars are driven at 8/10ths of their capabilities pretty much makes the issue of driven wheels a moot point.

  • avatar

    One last comment about this Beemer, has anyone ever heard the saying, ‘the horse was designed by a single person, the camel by a committee’?

    First of all, a “Beemer” is a bike, a “Bimmer” is a car. Being that this is an enthusiast site, not a site that caters to status seekers, one would expect the proper name. Of course you could be trying to goad someone into an argument; in that case I fell for it. As for the camel thing, it is: A camel is a horse designed by committee.
    The review is right on the money. The sad part about this car is that it had the potential to be great. Hobbled by the concern of stealing sales from other models under the BMW umbrella we DO end up with a camel. Add the “pirated” structure from the 3, we get the weight. This stuff used to be a Detroit parlor trick. I guess the Bavarians aren’t immune to short sighted business tricks either.

  • avatar

    1. If this car was beautiful (which I don’t think it is), then people would be much more inclined to love it.

    You’re right, and I almost wrote that in my comment. If it looked like the previous M3, and it was priced $3-5K less than it is, and it had an LSD, it would be hailed as the second coming of Car-Jesus. I doubt there’s ten people here who legitimately care about rear-legroom. For a drive like that, you can pile the kids lengthwise like cordwood.

    That said, I’m not sure real consumers care what it looks like. I don’t find the 3-series particularly attractive either, but BMW continues to make a killing on them. Between the status badge and the powertrain, the car could be a rolling meatloaf sculpture for all it matters.

  • avatar

    I still find a lot of the negative comments here inspired by lack (dare I say ignorance) of the basic raison d’etre for this car. A safe, relatively affordable, relatively luxurious (yes, it’s quite nice inside, though no Aston Martin), and extremely capable two-door sports car that adds practicality of a trunk and back seats when, and if, needed.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the looks. That’s not worth debating.

    But performance (and no, not just straight line numbers)? Do yourself and everyone else a favor by watching this comparison with a Boxter after reading the review and prior to suggesting that this is nothing short of a good value in a sports coupe for those that choose to pay the price tag. If you argue badge prestige, I’d suggest the 128i; not the 135i. Please, let’s get some objectivity in here – this car drives and performs classic BMW. And in some ways it’s a better choice than the new M3.

    Is a Lambo Gallardo worth the $150+? Who knows, but it does well in that price range. Same with the 135i.

  • avatar

    I still find a lot of the negative comments here inspired by lack (dare I say ignorance) of the basic raison d’etre for this car. A safe, relatively affordable, relatively luxurious (yes, it’s quite nice inside, though no Aston Martin), and extremely capable two-door sports car that adds practicality of a trunk and back seats when, and if, needed.

    That’s not a mystery to anyone. But what you’re describing is a modern reinterpretation of the BMW 2002, when what we actually have here is a heavy, relatively expensive, awkward-looking 9/10ths scale 3 series coupe – a sprinting hippo in platypus clothing marketed as if it has all the grace and athleticism of a gazelle.

  • avatar

    $45,000 cars are now relatively affordable?

    Would you be my relative?

    But seriously, put this car in context; for half its price, you can buy any number of fun, good performing cars. Some of those cars offer better reliability, better resale, and a better buying experience. Other cars, like the G37 coupe and 350Z, offer almost the same performance in a better looking package as much as $8,000 cheaper

    For those arguing performance, this car comes too close to the Corvette in price.

  • avatar

    And the appeal of the 2002 was its relative simplicity in providing good performance in its class while at the same time giving you TRUE utility in that it could carry four adults comfortably along with their belongings all at a price that commanded a very small premium over its competition.

    This car has none of those attributes

  • avatar

    BMW leatherette is the best.

    Is the 135i a Ponzi scheme? Cool. For a car that beats the Porche Cayman @ 12k less in the slalom? Comparing it to a “mazda”? Whatever dude.

    135i is a keeper. Plain and simple. Nothing else like it at any price under 50k.

    4.7 0-60
    13.3 1/4 mi
    comfort access
    it’s a BMW
    great looking front-end
    the best sports seats you’ll find
    the best steering wheel available

    need i go on?

    enjoy your mazdas and pontiacs

  • avatar

    Nino: We have to let go of the 2002; it’s really just a mktg campaign.

    And we have to let go of the $45K. If you load a 2008 Accord Coupe, it goes for close to $37K. Let’s look at base price versus performance.

    The numbers rkeep820 is referrencing above can be had for $36K, maybe less if you negotiate. Go for Euro Delivery and you’re at $33K plus about $800 in travel expenses.

    I have to say that if the R32 were available in 6 speed then it would give the 135i a good run for it’s money in sportiness (not really in performance, the twin turbo six would just slap it silly); but that car too sells for about $33K. So, I don’t know, most people just think that a loaded car is the only way to get the performance and style combo.

    But I like the discussion. I highly recommend driving this car – everyone that has (actually) driven one seems enamored with it.

    And this thing with weight; I mean how many of us are going to be ‘throwing’ this car around out there where a true 3300 versus 3000 lb weight can be appreciated. If you are looking for a track car then there are many choices in the second hand market that are phenomenal. This car is not meant to be a track ringer, but rather a fun, sporty drive for someone that can afford it.
    If you’ve got another $40K the 911 is affordable to you. If you’ve got $15K less, then get a GTI, it’s a great engine (got one) and very modifiable.

    And then there’s this. Dinan already has software for the 135i that will give it 381hp and 421 lb-ft tq!!!! So, I don’t know, but if you want to juice it, this could be a terror on the street, or track (with some suspension mods).

    I would like to see a list of cars that are better all around performaners for less money (new, not used). Enough with conceptual discussions; name the cars guys, and state the numbers.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Hmmm… or you can buy a 1 year old…

    Chevy Corvette Convertible
    Porshce Boxster Roadster
    His & Her Honda S2000 and Mazda MX-5
    Mercedes Benz SLK 350 Roadster
    His & Her Mazda RX8 and Scion Xb
    His & Her Mini Cooper & Nissan Altima

  • avatar

    Exactly right. I bet the 1-series helps BMW dealers sell a lot of CPO 3-series.

  • avatar

    I will not recommend that you stick to Civics because it’s hard to heel and toe in Birkenstocks. While that might be cute I honestly don’t think either demographics or basic lack of perspicacious insight were why you panned a great car. What I do think happened is that the car wasn’t what you had hoped. Let me guess, a $30,000 E30 M3? How vain to review a car from that point of view. If I might exercise my verbosity with an overlong retort:

    This car is less of what you don’t need in a 335i and more of what you want. And what other cars come close? Compared to the 335i, the 135 is hotter styling, 9/10 the size, 9/10 the cost, 10/10 the quality, and 11/10 the performance. If you need a backseat or your preferences for styling drive you to the 335i, then by all means drop the extra $5000 – $6000. Not like there’s another choice. EVO? STI? Faster on the track if that’s your thing and you don’t mind a wing and swelled fenders. Not too pleasant as daily drivers. Infiniti G37? Nice big car. Slower. Can’t see out the back. Smaller trunk. Lexus IS350? Floaty and isolated. Get it with a decent stereo and it’s $8K (and up) more. BMW Z4M coupe? Less practical as a daily driver or touring car. Many more $ for same performance. So.. not needing a big cruiser, I bought a 135 to be picked up in Munich. And I don’t get the impression the car is selling slowly. They are going to blow through their 10,000 cars in under 12 months. We’ll see how much less. And no, they aren’t mostly leases (re: automotive news, they sold 1500 in March)

    Addressing some specific observations in the article, I’ve read probably over 25 reviews. Not a single one has said the steering was too heavy or the clutch was overbearing. Most said it had the best steering they have felt on a BMW and a great shifter. I feel comfortable in their published view having checked for myself in a test drive of the 135 6M. The shifter wasn’t as good as an S2000, but was crisp and gratifying to use. The hydraulic steering was engaging, not cumbersome. As for looks, some love it, some hate it. I find the styling on a 335i OK, but a bit republican orthodontist. The 135 looks like a fast, tight car.

    So everyone hoped for a $30,000 E30 M3. Yea, whatever. This is more like an E36 M3. Made for the freeway and in town, not for the track. Made to be both comfortable and fast. Made with quality components not compromised by bargain basement marketing. Look at what it is as opposed to your hopes and expectations and you might find it’s a damn good car for the pragmatic enthusiast.

  • avatar

    Do you think we’ll ever see a review of the 128?
    The gonzo car mag/website/ my car is faster than your car means nothing to me. No one will ever use the 135 to its capacity without being killed or going to jail.

  • avatar

    Look at what it is as opposed to your hopes and expectations and you might find it’s a damn good car for the pragmatic enthusiast.

    We seem to be reaching a consensus here. BMW is doing itself a disservice with its 1-series launch by giving rise to false hopes and expectations instead of selling the car for what it is. No one offended by the review has even suggested that this is indeed the 2002 reborn.

    So there you go.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I think I’d rather just find a pristine 2002, or a 3.0 CSL.

  • avatar

    Alschrec has it right. To those that have read all the positive reviews and this one negative to say ‘finally someone tells the truth’ is just ridiculous.

    The truth is that 25 reviews to 1 tends to be an overiding argument. I appreciate the author has an M coupe; but I don’t appreciate exaggeration that is written to excite ignorance. Reminds me of challenger politicians inciting emotions through playing on people’s fears. It’s just bad manners for professionals.

    I love it when truthaboutcars beats on cars like a Cobalt; I’m sure an owner of a Cobalt doesn’t, but okay, par for the course.

    In this case, history will be the judge, but the sales numbers speak for themselves. 1,500 cars in March is no joke, by BMW standards.

    And I’m going to close with another comment on the looks. It’s not classically beautiful, maybe. But to say it’s ugly is just hating on this car for now good reason. You pull up in your toyota, or whatever, and your girlfriend will wish you drove a bimmer. Period.

    And me, from the inside, I could careless what the car looks like, I don’t need the cars looks to boost my ego. I just want to enjoy driving it. And maybe, your girfriend in it……..just kidding guys….but seriously, this is not an ugly car:


  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @alschrec :
    I’m not sure why you feel the review panned the car. The interior, aside from the non-sport seats, is great. The engine is phenomenal and among the top 5 engines in cars under $100k.

    My biggest issue with this car, more than anything else, is that I found it clinically good to drive. The stats on it are amazing. It’s very fast, it holds the road very well, but I can’t say I loved driving it. The steering is too heavy and the car’s grip exceeds what you can do at legal limits (that’s a good thing for safety of course). For me, it’s just not as much fun as the M Coupe, or a MINI, or a Boxster, or my daily driver GTI. I’d be curious to take out a 135i for track time.

    If the 135 sells by being “faster than a 335i for slightly less money” then BMW has seriously screwed themselves by building a cannibal car.

    They would need to be getting people that are otherwise not going to buy a BMW to buy the 1-series. Not only that, but they need enough new-to-BMW people to offset the diminished income from potential 3-series buyers that just get a 1-series instead.

    It’ll take a year or two of it being on sale to see what the combined 1-series/3-series sales are like. My bet is that you’ll see them combine for no more cars than the 3 would have sold alone if there was no 1.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Enjoy your mazdas and pontiacs


  • avatar

    A few disparate points, if I may so indulge myself:

    1. I realize that it is unpleasant to read less than enthusiastic reviews of an (expensive) item that you have or wish to purchase, but perhaps a little perspective is in order. The article (and comments) are simply the opinion of the author (and commentators) regarding an object. The hostility is unwarranted (on both sides).

    2. Why the obsessive quoting of performance statistics of the car? Does anyone actually utilize the full potential of their vehicle? I have a car that will (theoretically) run somewhere in the mid five-second range to 60 and I have never been in a drag race with the car. It pulls somewhere around .9 g on a skidpad, yet I have never raced with it. I realize that some people drag race and enjoy track days but many (most) of us don’t, and therefore absolute performance data is unimportant vis-a-vis how enjoyable the car is to drive.

    3. The comments implying that one may somehow be an inferior individual due to their vehicle are simply fallacious and appalling. They speak to the insidious consumer culture in which we live and demonstrate social and moral decay. I find them very depressing. There are some that cannot afford a $36,000 car, and they should not be ashamed of this. To suggest that they should be is reprehensible. I own a (chipped and otherwise modified {in no way visibly}) MkV GTI and an original Eagle Talon TSi AWD, so I have not (yet) been personally insulted by any post; it simply bothers me when those that are less fortunate are made to feel in some way deficient.

    4. I do not believe that the reviewer or any commentator (feel free to correct me) considered the car to be a bad one. I think most (myself included) have incredibly high expectations for a car starting at $35,000. I gather that many (specifically those that do not focus on performance numbers) believe that there are better cars to be had in the 35-45k range. Further, I think many believe that the 135 is likely to take away sales from the 3 (and perhaps the Mini) and that it is therefore a poor proposition for BMW. These are debatable but fair points. Finally, every car is judged in light of the expectations held by whomever is doing the judging. BMW implied that the 135 was the reincarnation of the 2002, so to me it is acceptable to review it per that expectation.

    5. We are discussing a subjective review of a car; a trivial pursuit. There is no correct answer; even if such an answer existed it would not be of great import. We would all do well to remember this, and in so doing treat everyone on the site with respect.

  • avatar

    zbladejr :
    April 12th, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Nino: We have to let go of the 2002; it’s really just a mktg campaign.

    I’m not disagreeing with you, but I believe that since the 2002, BMW has slowly but surely distanced itself from the enthusiasts that made the brand.

  • avatar
    David Yip

    I really wanted to like this car. I looked at it from every angle and only came up with “ugly”.

    If BMW was worried about cannibalizing 3 sales, they could have made the exterior pretty, made it say, 2800 lbs, and given it a smaller engine.

    But as it is, what a waste of time. That orange does it no favors either.

    Seems like my fondest BMW memories will remain with the 70s and 80s, and maybe the 90s up to the E39.

  • avatar

    Serves me right for reading up to the 12th page of the responses, but–

    Shesh, some of the pro 1-series comments only emphasize horribly trite stereotypes about BMW drivers. Calm down Blue Propeller fans: no need to get both insecure AND elitist in one thread. This is the first negative review of the car I’ve managed to read, too.

    I thought the main thrust of the review was that it’s no 2002 reincarnated? I’m thinking all of the other points of contention are due to the weak dollar, if anything.

    As another poster asked: Is anybody reviewing the 128i? Sounds great, save for the aforementioned “poser” stigma that comes standard in the trunk. I was always a sucker for naturally aspirated straight-sixes.

  • avatar

    What was the reaction in markets where the 1er preceded the current 3er ?

    In the US, the question is posed as,
    Do you want 9/10 of a 3 series ? Why did BMW bother ?
    but in Europe and perhaps other markets, the 1 series came first as e81, e87 hatchbacks, maybe 2 years before the e90, e92 3er.

    In a case of greener grass over there, Subaru 22b/STi fans have been lusting for a coup!

  • avatar

    I have a theory on BMWs which is: The first BMW you ever owned will likely be the one you will love most.

    True for my dad. As his most impressive (read fun) car he rates his 120hp 2000 TI (late sixties), having owned Porsches before (used 356s) and a range of other BMWs, one Mercedes, Porsches and now Audi (fallen for that AWD thing).

    True for me. My first BMW was an E39 525d touring manual. Had a Mk IV Volkswagen Golf before, which was very fine indeed, but what a step up in class, refinement, sensuality. The 525d had only 163hp, but felt like 200 (up to a point at least), was supremely comfortable, but still got me addicted to little tailslides on curvy country lanes. Had an E39 530d touring auto after that. Almost horrible, would not reach top speed, much thirstier, louder, courtesy of hopeless GM sourced 5speed auto.

    Now we have an E46 330d touring manual, which is excellent (but missing the E39 magic carpet quality) and a 120d 5dr hatchback, which is nice, but not totally convincing.

    The 135i would cure some of the points I have with the 120d, i.e. replacing the electrical with hydraulic steering for feeling and having a proper (very proper I assume) I6 petrol.

    That would leave 2 big points: The much too small tank, which would necessitate refuelling after 200-250 miles of spirited driving and the still somewhat cheapo feel of some interior materials. (And maybe the lack of a proper LSD).

    Rear legroom is not that bad. I am long-legged 6ft and could still sit behind myself (go to a proper driver’s training and you’ll probably move closer to the wheel). However ingress and egress are really an issue, the lower part of the back door apertures being very narrow (in the 5 door!).

    Other that that I think that in its niche the 135i coupe is fabulous and compares very well to a Boxter S, if you are prepared to trade the last iota of sportiness for a bit more room (the ability to carry 4 people if neede, understatement and cash of course…

    I think the 135i will sell well and owners will be quite happy. Sooner or later they might even sell 4 cylinder models in the US. In the meantime don’t be sorry, at the moment the 4 cyl petrols are outclassed by VW/Audi’s turbo engines.

  • avatar

    Lumbergh21 :
    “Assuming an average annual inflation of 3%, $12,000.”

    US$4000 from 1971 would equal almost $20500 in today’s dollars. Inflation wasn’t always 3% (it ran into double digits in the early 80s) and the calculation needs to take into account compounding, not simple interest.

    The official CPI figures are almost always massaged to be lower than reality for political needs, so I’d suggest it’s a lot higher than even $20k.

  • avatar

    I don’t disagree with you that the 1 series may strategically not be the strongest foot forward for BMW. At least not in the US where the cars are priced within 15% (128 versus 328; 135 vs 335).

    It remains to be seen what happens, however, a strategy maybe to raise the 3 series (at least the 335) pricing slightly and over time increase the size of the 1 series. Start it out as a bit of an enigma, bought by either enthusiasts or new to the brand drivers, and then, slowly but surely, it becomes an entry level full(er) size BMW. This is what happened with the 3 after all.

    My main issue with your review is the depiction of the seats (the sport seats in your $42K equiped car), the room in the rear (more than you suggest) and the steering feel and ride quality – on all of these you are very critical, which would be okay, if, and this is a big if, any other professional car reviewer in the world agreed with you. You are really in a group of 1 (get it???LOL) on this. The exterior beauty; many say it’s ugly. Many said the same of both M Coupe generations. I think the first M Coupe is one of the most beautiful BMW designs in the last 30 years.

    As to combined sales of 1 and 3 series not being greater than the 3 series alone; there are many factors that will go into that future number, not the least of which will be competitive offerings as well dollar weakness and pricing/financing pressure. The statistic that will put this whole discussion to rest is asking BMW 1-series owners if they would have bought the 3 series had the 1 not been available. Would they even have bought a BMW?
    We can know this answer soon enough, and I think that would be a worthwhile addendum to your review.

    Save for a few posts, most of the 100 or so here are just discussing merits back and forth. The point on the 2002 is really a fair one.
    But can you imagine what will happen if BMW ever launches the M1? Remember the original M1?

    I’ve worked as a marketer for most of my life, and as such tend to be allergic to illogical mktg campaigns such ‘the 1 is the reincarnation of the 2002’. This was an error, the same way that Pontiac’s GTO comparison made no sense either when they recreated it. At least this time, BMW had changed the sub-branding.

    To your point #5; existentially we are all marginal. Reality is, people are interested and like to debate, so the conversation must go on…… with respect to others, of course!

    So for conversations sake, what are these $35-$45K cars that compare favorably to the 135i in your opinion? And on what attributes do they fare better?

  • avatar

    Frankly, I thought the 2002 series were kinda ugly, misshapen and having odd proportions. Fun to drive tho, when cars were usually not fun to drive.

    I would have prefered a hatchback, this car looks good as one. Five doors with a 4 cyl engine is more reality based for me. Better milage would be nice too. I dont need a 6 cyl engine, anything over 100bhp is wasted around here in constant traffic jam land. But good driving dynamics are always welcome.

    An inexpensive BMW with a small easy revving engine and an excellent sporting driving experience – now that would be nice. I suppose thats what MINI is for. Sigh.

  • avatar


    I agree; it has only been a few of the comments that have been insulting. I do find it silly though to see such hostility in a discussion of a relatively meaningless subject (and of course I do love cars; witness the time I spend on this site). Further, the elitist comments bother me in my capacity as a financial advisor. I frequently see clients with virtually no money invested, no insurance coverage, no retirement plan of any kind, living from paycheck to paycheck yet driving a $40,000 car. I wonder sometimes if sentiments such as those (rarely) expressed here have something to do with this phenomenon.

    To your question: I was suggesting that many of the commentators were arguing that many other cars in the price range could be better. I’d have to go back through all of their comments to post them here (the G37 comes to mind, and I do agree at the least that it is a more pleasant vehicle to behold). I do not have a strong opinion of the 135 one way or another as I have never driven it. The closest I have gotten to driving one is the 2006 325i that I drove/considered before purchasing something else (it was a nice car; wasn’t my favorite to drive though). I do find the exterior pretty ugly in pictures and I do wonder whether BMW is following GM down the path of sales cannibalization, but that is the extent of my opinions on the car.

  • avatar

    I have driven the car and to me it seems as though BMW didn’t put in any effort. It feels as though BMW just took a 3 series, squished it a bit, and threw it on the market as an “entry level” vehicle.

    I would’ve been more impressed had BMW brought out the hatchback with a decent four cylinder motor, very limited options, and placed it at the top of the hot hatch class pricewise (about $26,000). The only major option I would then offer would be a turbo on the base motor and still try to keep the price under $30,000. By doing this, BMW would show that the enthusiast is still important to them.

  • avatar

    And to those that are suggesting that BMW pricing is due to the value of the dollar exchange, BMW does have manufacturing facilities in the US. As pricing for an entry level vehicle would seem to be an important consideration, wouldn’t it have made sense for BMW to build the car in the US?

  • avatar

    >> So for conversations sake, what are these $35-$45K cars that compare favorably to the 135i in your opinion? And on what attributes do they fare better?

    Every review in every magazine and online from Porsches to G35/37 to R32’s to EVO the BMW 135i has always finished in 1st place.

  • avatar

    But are raw numbers the determinig factor into what this car is?

    I can give you raw numbers from a modded Civic that will blow this thing away, but does that make it a better car?

    While my experience is far from scientific, the people who saw this car don’t equate it as a competitor for the G37, Porsche, or even the 3 series. By and large they see this car as being one rung lower on the “prestige” scale. Many of these people see the GTI, the Evo, the A3, and maybe even the MazdaSpeed3 as competitors for this car in the marketplace.

    Although I don’t consider myself an automotive snob, I can see where this perception will hurt this car. Coupled that with a rather ordinary driving experience (for a performance car), and I think there is a problem.

  • avatar

    rkeep820 :

    enjoy your mazdas and pontiacs

    Given their recent history, BMW should try following Mazda’s lead on how to make a proper affordable sports car.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    Personally, I think thetruthabout got it right. The other reviews just lacked the ring of truth for me. I never understood why so many reviewers made such a big deal of this car. I could understand it IF the car was MUCH lighter than the 3 Series (which it is not) or MUCH more powerful (which is also isn’t). The car is substantially cheaper than the 335 coupe, but not that much cheaper than the sedan. The difference is about $5k at list, and probably much less in terms of “street” prices. For the difference, you get a MUCH more practical car and essentially the same performance and probably much better depreciation. The 135 just isn’t cheap enough or sufficiently better performer to make for a viable alternative to the 3 Series

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    About BMW building the 1-Series here.

    I got a very cool tour of the robo-crazed US palnt in Spartenburg, SC. They’re doing a pretty major expansion of the plant (3/4 of a billion dollars) right now.

    Here’s the striking part. They build three cars at the plant. X5, X6 and Z4/MZ4. Used to be that they had two seperate lines. The X6s were built over there, and the Z4s were built over there.

    Not anymore. All cars roll off the same line. And since the X5/X6 and the Z4 barely share anything, I would not be surprised in the slightest if many more BMWs began driving off the Spartenburg production line.

  • avatar

    As the new MINI and Fiat 500 have shown, there’s a lot of demand for small AND efficient cars. To me, anything larger than 4 cyl or a displacement above 2.5 litres seems like overkill in a car this size, especially if it’s a daily driver. It would be nice if BMW offerred the blown 4 cyl from the MINI Cooper S, and a hatch option. It would be the equivalent of the MINI Clubman for those with more conservative styling tastes.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the info, Jonny.

    Check out this YouTube

  • avatar

    This has been a surprisingly good discussion about BMW’s… usually this is the point where we start insulting each others mom’s and comparing the length of our penises… Haha…


    Excellent insights man. I’m not a financial adviser but the level of elitism in car discussions is pervasive at all levels. And I’ve seen too many people driving BMWs way outside of their means (actually, this is pretty much true for all socio-economic classes) who show a high levels of hostility and elitism.

    Anyways, I think there are several cars who compare favorably to the 1-series at similar or cheaper prices. The only way I’d pay the BMW premium (and maintenance costs) over a VW, Infiniti, Acura etc is for the excellent all around driving dynamics that is revealed in everyday driving, not simply at the limit. Since I haven’t driven this car I have no idea if the BMW has this character, but I don’t think on-paper performance is the end all be all. As someone has already said, if a performance vs value calculation was all that mattered then there are Mustangs, GTIs, Civics etc that can be modded to outperform these numbers at cheaper prices.

    Besides, if I wanted a BMW 3-series but wanted to save some money I’d get an Infiniti anyways. But that’s only because I have seen this car in person and I can’t get over how ugly it is. That’s just personal opinion of course.

  • avatar

    I have not driven a 1, but have had a 330i for the last five years. The 1 struck me as a 3 series with no back seat. I liked the more simple interior, and I’m sure with the right options it will go nicely, but even with inflation, this will out price my 2003 3-er, and even a current 335i is close in price.

    What we don’t know is if BMW wants this to be a mass market car or if its something for Muffy to take to school. I can see many non enthusiasts leaving with the 328xi (auto, premimum pkg, leather) that every BMW dealer sales manager stocks the lots with (probably in silver, too). While BMW uses price to foster exclusivity, the product has to be worth that price.

    The 1 is too close to the 3, and should have been smack between the 3 and the Mini.

    Is it just me or has bMw become way too overstocked with confusing cars ? I know the Roundel folks were crying for this car, but I think what BMW gave us was not the 2002 or uprated 318tii, but a less useful 3. They already make sports cars, the z series.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    I’m sure this seemed like a pretty good idea when oil wasn’t $100 per barrel

    Enter the 120d – 0-60 in 7.5 and 50 mpg, for a lot less money than any 6-cylinder 1er.

    Interesting fact: In Germany, the 1-series is the #8 best selling car.

  • avatar

    Question; let me see, who in Europe had the idea of having saloon (sedan) cars which had upmarket interiors (wood and leather) and relatively powerful four and six cylinder cars in the 1970’s?

    Answer; that would be Triumph then

    2002 was good car, but give me the Dolomite Sprint over it any day (16 valve, 125bhp,first saloon with alloy wheels, four speed plust 2 overdrive = 6 ratios)

    2500 was good car but give me Triumph 2500 PI (150bhp fuel injection, four speed plus 2 overdrive = 6 ratios).

  • avatar

    BMW should sell “Triumphs” alongside Coopers as a way to put simple, affordable, tossable RWD sedans in the portfolio without devaluing their (now) premium brand. It’s probably the only way they would ever give us anything truly resembling the spirit of the 2002.

  • avatar

    my sentiments exactly

    when I saw the curb weight my jaw just dropped

    it doesn’t help that BMW screwed the pooch on the wheel/tire/suspension package – they designed it so that the orthodontist leasing it will having nothing more than terminal understeer at all times.

    Its nothing the aftermarket can’t cure, but it shows BMW doesn’t think highly of its customer’s driving ability.

  • avatar
    kenn j

    At the dealer the other day, I approached the car for the first time from the drivers quarter panel angle. My first thought was that the belt line is just like an early 60’s corvair.

  • avatar
    Jim K

    I think that this car comes pretty close to the modern day reincarnation of the E30 325is (especially the 128i).

    Do I wish it was a little lighter?…..yes.
    Do I wish it was a little cheaper?…..yes.
    Do I wish it was a little better looking?…..yes.
    Would I buy one?……definitely.

    I haven’t driven one yet, but I currently have a new 328i sedan as a service loaner while I am having some work done on my e39 touring. I have to admit that even for an automatic, I have been very pleased with the amount of power this car has. The 6 speed in the 128i has got to be very nice package, with the 135i being unbelievable.

    In 1998 I bought a new 318ti Sport package (basically the old Clubsport) to replace my 1990 325is. I loved that ti. The car was just right, from the feel, the quality and the handling. Did it have a ton of power? Of course not, but it was a blast to drive. That car was pretty simple, but still cost I believe $26k and change.

    Definitely not cheap, and there were alot of cars out there with more power for less money, but didn’t have the feel and the quality of the BMW.

    I truly feel those that say the 318ti was crap are missing the point, just like those that are criticising the 1 series are also missing the point. BMW’s are obviously not the cheapest car out there or always the best bang for the buck. But the overall package is well worth it.

    $35 – $45k is definitely alot of money, but it is money well spent for either a 128i or a 135i. I am glad to see BMW actually come out with something that is lighter and simpler than a 3-series).

    PS…..I still wish they would bring the 5 door hatchback over.

    Are you listening BMW NA?

  • avatar

    OK, better late than never to chime in here on the 135i or better yet the BMW 1 series.

    It is somewhat of a mistake to analysis the BMW series in the USA from the prespedtive of the 135i. The primary 1 series car will be the 128i and the more I look at that car the more it does make sense. The 128i list for a base price of under $29,000, well into GTI, WRX, Mini, TSX, A3, territory. This is the only true RWD drivers car amoung the lot. Optioned to about $35,000 and you have a rather nicely loaded BMW that IS smaller and lighter than a 328i. Incidently, 128i is a coupe and if tht is what you want one must factor in that the the 328i coupe does cost a premium over the sedan.
    The convertible also has the advantage of being a simple clothe top that does not eat up the trunk space, making the 1 series suitable for a roadtrip, something that the power hard-top 3 series can no longer do easily or with more the two people.

    Viewed in this light the 135i can be seen as how a “super 2002” with the 3.0 6cyl CS/CSL engine would have been in 1973. Yes, very expensive for such as “small” car, yet very fast. Just the ticket for a number of enthusiast.

    Taking everything into consideration that BMW had to when setting up the 1 series for the USA I feel they did a very good job. Price wise BMW could not go any lower for their brand. It is needless to say that a $25,000 200hp 4cyl version would have sold, and sold all too well for it’s $35,000+ 3 series brother and BMWs ultimate profits to be pleased with.

    The problem is that IF BMW fans truely want a reincarnated 2002 it is NOT the car that a true luxury brand, like BMW could deliver. A $25,000 BMW is no longer a BMW! It is a bread and butter, everyman car. What BMW has done is created a deluxe version of that car in the 128i that does/will sell for an appropiate BMW premium.
    In the 135i BMW has created one hell of an excellent tuning platform!

  • avatar
    Jim K

    whatdoiknow……..good post. I agree. A very lightly optioned 128i with the sport package is going to make a very attractive package without breaking the bank.

  • avatar

    @beetlebug & @rkeep820: BMW leatherette is good, but nothing compares to MB-Tex for durability.

    The 135i will eventually attain cult status. Keep in mind that E30 M3s and M Coupes sold very poorly. Even classic muscle cars such as Hemi ‘Cudas and ZL1 Camaros barely sold at all.

  • avatar

    Eh…I don’t buy this review. Every other person that has driven this car has given it top marks, and I’m not even talk about the buff books…I mean people I know, and trust.

    Sometimes you guys are just so critical it’s insane.

  • avatar

    I find it amusing that some are justifying vinyl seats in a $35,000 car.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Are vinyl seats OK in any kind of car? In Europe, BMW doesn’t offer them. The 1er comes with cloth seats, there is nicer cloth as a 160€ option, 540€ buys you a gorgeous leather/cloth combination…

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz


    I’d much rather have cloth than leatherette. Nice cloth seats are wonderfully comfortable, good in all seasons, and hold up nicely.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    I’m currently torn between black “Network” cloth and orange “Pearlpoint” cloth/leather.
    “Network” looks like something you would make an expensive running shoe of. It’s really nice.
    Pearlpoint looks like this:
    (just more orange)
    Why don’t they offer cloth in the USA? I understand that BMW wants to be perceived as “upscale”, but isn’t cloth better than synthetic cows?

  • avatar


    I owned a 328 with leatherette and the aluminum rather than wood trim. My boss, who had a maxxed out 5 was upset that my leather was nicer than his, and he also liked the aluminum over his “fake wood”.

    Of course, my leather was fake, and his wood was real. There are new vinyls that are as nice as the real thing. I would not get hung up on it.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson


    I do believe the review and you would too if you stopped to think about it. The main criticism isn’t that this is a bad car. Rather it is that it isn’t much cheaper or much better performer than the significantly larger and more versatile 335i.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Claude Dickson:
    The main criticism isn’t that this is a bad car. Rather it is that it isn’t much cheaper or much better performer than the significantly larger and more versatile 335i.
    Bam! You got it 100%.

  • avatar

    Landcrusher :
    April 15th, 2008 at 5:23 pm


    I owned a 328 with leatherette and the aluminum rather than wood trim. My boss, who had a maxxed out 5 was upset that my leather was nicer than his, and he also liked the aluminum over his “fake wood”.

    Of course, my leather was fake, and his wood was real. There are new vinyls that are as nice as the real thing. I would not get hung up on it.

    I’m with Mirko Reinhardt in that I think a cloth interior looks better and has a better feel than vinyl.

    I don’t disagree that there are some really good vinyls out there, but since BMW prides itself on being a sport/luxury car, I do feel that a good leather interior is part of the image.

    And I’ve never been one for wood, real or fake, in a car.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Wood in a car reminds me of my grandparents, who were shopping for a new TV. I came with them, comparing features, prices and picture quality.
    In the end, they bought the Grundig with the wood bezel around the screen.

    Wood = for old peoples’ cars. BMWs look better with the aluminum trim or the base models’ silver painted plastic trim. Piano black is also good looking.
    Wood in a 1er? come on…

  • avatar

    Wow, do all of the car reviews typically generate this much response?
    Having read through most of the 16 pages so far, I can’t help but feel that the review and most of the comments are as much or more about the past than about the car at hand. I still have a 318i and though I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it, I won’t pine nostalgically for it’s anemic 4 cylinders when I move on. Technology has moved a very long way in 10 ten years – for the better.
    I recently test drove the 128i (a sales person had damaged the 135i) in comparison to an A3 which I had tested 10 minutes earlier. It was an interesting comparison. The Audi is solid little performer and very practical to boot. The Beemer was, however, more fun, more about the act of driving than the Audi. Maybe that’s the crux of the matter. The 1 series is a BMW driving experience with only a few practical nods thrown in such as 2 back seats (which have as much room as in my 4-door 318i I can honestly say). Sure, I wish BMW offered the full 1 series line that you can get in Europe. A 5-door 1 series would be the spot-on competitor to the A3, but alas that’s not the case. The USA 1 series is a minimized offering from BMW. It may only interest a narrow range of drivers who want the BMW driving experience (great handling, speed and comfort), but don’t want either the larger, more practical offerings, or the smaller Z. So how many people might that be? Might I be one? I’m still on the fence – at least until the repair the 135i so I can see if the 300hp seduce away my practical reservations. Priced as I would want them, the A3 3.2 and the 135i are only a couple of hundred bucks apart.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson


    Funny you should mention the A3 3.2. Both this A3 and the 135i have something in common. The 135i just isn’t cheap enough or good enough to be a viable alternative to the 335i for most people and the A3 3.2 just isn’t that much better than the A3 2.0T to justify the 3.2’s higher price. When the upgraded 2.0T arrives, the argument for the 3.2 will get even harder to justify

  • avatar

    BMW called me that the 135i had been repaired and was ready for a test drive. I’m still looking for an A3 3.2 to test. They’re pretty rare. The 2.0 I drove was also in the same price range as the 128i, but doesn’t compare well in terms of ride. There was a lot of lurching going on in the 2.0, while the 128i was a smooth as silk. The Audi has the almost the same advantages in terms of practicality although it’s missing the quattro.

  • avatar

    Test drove both the Audi A4 3.2 and the 135i. The 135i is an honest to god blast to drive. While the 128i is well mannered, the 135i is chomping at the bit, actively encouraging you to ignore every speed limit you encounter. Just tap the peddle and those three hundred horses give a satisfying growl and then throw you back in the seat as it scampers forward. The car looks like a bulldog and acts like one with a big, fat mailman in sight, just down the sidewalk. Sure it’s an odd compromise between big/ small, entry-level/expensive, practical/impractical, but the biggest problem may end up being that if you can only just afford the 135i, how will you afford new tires every 6 months or all the speeding tickets? You gotta drive and see for yourself.
    Oh yeah, the A3 3.2 is a great car. It has all the best qualities of the 2.0turbo, but none of the lurchyness. It was smooth and very solid. For only a couple hundred bucks less than a comparably equipped 135i it has way more pacticality, but it sadly lacks the mad, cackling, laughing, pleasure that the 135i is all about. Decisoins, decisions.

  • avatar

    This is quite possibly the least truthful review of a car I have read in ages and certainly the most self congratulatory. The comments about the interior are just flat out innacurate. It’s small, that much is true, but nowhere near as bad as is stated in the review. I’m 6′ and I can put the passanger seat up to a point where my knees are still 2″ from the dash up front and not have them hit the back of the seats from the back seat. Headroom is a little skimpy, but it’s actually better than in the 3 series which is supposedly so much more practical. It’s not bad at all for a short ride. You would not want to travel long distances, but then you wouldn’t want to do that in the 3 either. The behind the wheel feel of the 1 is actually quite a bit nicer than the 3 if you ask me, as it’s more classic BMW in it’s layout and feel, which is a good thing, and the quality is identical.

    The practicality difference is also vastly overstated, as is typical of this review. The number of times per year that the difference in size between these two cars would create a problem that the larger car would have solved for me can be counted on one hand. 4 people in the 3 series is nearly as uncomfortable as in the 1, unless they are short enough to not need the headroom which means under about 5’7″ or so.

    As for the misguided hopes everyone applied to this vehicle as far as unrealistic weight goals, that was simply wishfull thinking. There has never been a 300 HP, solidly built, reasonably priced car in the modern era that was under 3,000 lbs, and unless something drastic changes in the market, there never will be. The 1 series kept all of the things people wanted from the 3 series, and lost only a bit of sheet metal. That’s why it’s nearly the same weight you idiots. To make it significantly lighter, they would have been forced to remove the equipment that people want, like sound deadening, air bags, sunroofs, thinning up the sheet metal, and weaken the chassis, and the end result would have basically been a BMW badged STi without AWD, which is only marginally lighter but infinitely more crude to the senses. Not a good idea for BMW.

    In the final anylsis for this car, it comes down to how it feels, and how it will feel in five years. There is no other car at this price which I can comfortably say would hold up as well. BMW’s just are better built than most other cars, and getting one basically for the same money as an STi, Evo, or R32 is a no-brainer unless you need the AWD, which 90% of people really don’t. They just think they do, just like they think they need a 4 ton SUV to haul around their two kids. The BMW will hold it’s value better, and will still be a solid and quiet ride in five years or even ten, where the others were either never that way to begin with(Sti, Evo) or will have decayed into a massive rattle trap by then (R32)

    The bottom line is this is a car aimed at single people, and single people don’t need ginormous trunks and big back seats. What they need is a car that pleases them, and that extra 5 Gs in their pocket to spend on a house, or whatever else they can think of.

  • avatar

    I think BMW may understand something with this car that many automotive journalists have yet to grasp –there may be something of a generation gap. I am 29, and I have fallen in love with this car.

    Most journalists describe the car as ugly, and I think it looks great. Younger folks may be more open to designs that take risks. The Toyota FJ-cruiser, the Scion xB and xA, MINI copper, Honda Element, and the VW new Beetle are a few examples of “odd” looking cars that are doing quite well in sales with younger buyers. A car does not to look aggressive. Instead, I am looking for something that looks fun, and this car does look fun.

    I am also considering a Golf R32, the only downside being it is one of the ugliest cars I have ever laid eyes on. When VW redesigned the golf in 05 they totally ruined it, by trying to make it more aggressive in appearance. An aggressive look is not all that important. I think a car should look confident, maybe content, –not pissed off.

    In addition, I would have never considered BMW were it not for this car. If you want to talk conspiracy, this car might be a ploy to get younger buyers into the 3 series. The 3 series is my bosses car, my fathers car –it is boring. However, I have reluctantly added it to my list of cars to test drive, because so many journalists have said they would pay the extra 6 grand for the 3 series. Is this BMW’s way of getting younger buyers to consider the 3 series?

  • avatar

    You’re probably right on the money with a lot of automotive journalists being older guys who like to go on and on about the good old days – whenever the hell that was – and tend to see even performance cars in very conservative ways. In those terms the 3-series is still the greatest and “you’d have to be an idiot not to want one”. In other words it’s become your father’s oldsmobile in terms of being sexy or interesting.
    As for BMW’s strategy, they sure hope to entice and capture a whole new market of young, upwardly mobile drivers who will appreciate the BMW driving experience so much that they’ll be happy to get another, more expensive one as they move through life. That’s a smart strategy given the modest number of cars (10000) they hope to sell in the US in 08.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the response ptack. So it has been a month, did you make a purchase? What car finally made the best impression?

    I have also been considering the Audi A3 models, but not very seriously because for some reason I want a RWD car. I have never had one before, so I dont know what I am missing, or what a burden they can be in Winter. I am also looking at the Mustang Bullitt. It may seem an odd choice, between a 135i and a Mustang, but there arent really many 300hp RWD coupes on the market. I was not initially attracted to the mustang because of all the tacked on plastic crap, but the Bullitt is a good simplified version, and has improved handling.

    Again, to bring up the generation gap, I have not seen the movie that inspired the Mustang Bullitt. There is so much marketing and discussion about the movie, I just want a simple, good handling RWD coupe between 30-40 grand. (That I can fit in)

    I would have already purchased a Miata hardtop, but I am too tall to fit in the thing… It was a very sad day when I learned that.

  • avatar


    I put a deposit down on a 135 on Tuesday. I’m doing a September European delivery to save an additional $2400. The downside is I won’t finally get the car until about Holloween.

    The A3 3.2 is a great car because it blends tremendous practicality (5 doors and quattro) with quality and performance. I found the A3 2.0T to be much jerkier in it’s throttle response due to the turbo and transmission. The 3.2 has DSG and it’s terrific. For all the praise about the Audi interiors, though, it’s pretty spartan. I think the exterior is very well proportioned and I might have plunked down the money if a dealer had had a blue one with the titanium package (very sharp looking).

    As for the 135i, if you haven’t test driven one, beware. I suspect it will eliminate all other choices for you. To me it’s the best mix of performance and luxury you can get for less than $45k (including taxes and everything) period. Cars like the Mustang, G8, Evo, Sti, etc. may have similar performce (in some respects), but none match the overall qualities of high performance and comfort that the 135i offers. The big question for you may be how long you intend to keep the car and how often will you be in it. I keep cars until they become too expensive to keep versus replace (10+ years) so the quality better be there. I also spend more than an hour a day in it so it better be comfortable.
    Despite all my reasoning, however, what made all of the other test rides and comparisons (IS350, A5, etc) pointless was the can’t-stop-laughing fun of driving the 135. It was like walking a crazed bit bull through a room full of mailmen or as one reviewer said, “more fun than a caffinated circus monkey”. Basically, BMW has given us an affordable version of the previous M3 coupe (with free service and a warrantee) so what more could you ask for?

  • avatar

    All good points ptack, thanks for the update. The 135 has received a lot of flack for the price, but you do have to factor in the free maintenance, resale value, good MPG, and… the genius European delivery program. I have thought a lot about doing that as well. It gets my wife excited about spending a load on a new car. And, I can think of no better way to trol around Europe than in my new car, especially when it is saving me money.


  • avatar

    I saw the 135i coupe in December while in Berlin. Sedona Red Metallic, clean lines, beautiful. Now that it is here I took one out for a test drive. Brilliant! I took an Infiniti G37 out the same day, more horses, a little cheaper but it did not have the absolutely smooth acceleration and the solid handling of the BMW. Sure, I could get a 335i for a little more, but I like the look, the dash, the size and the ride of the 135i better.

    Why settle for more?

  • avatar

    You can all say what you want, but I’m perfectly happy driving my 135i, knowing that I didn’t waste $5000 for back seats I use less than once a month.

    To the people calling this the “poor man’s BMW”, you call BMW drivers snobby? Must I remind you that it costs more than a 328?

    If you don’t need rear seats like in the 335, I don’t see what’s so bad about the car. You save a couple grand, you get a slightly better performing car. You need the rear seats? Spend a couple more grand, get the bigger rear seats. I don’t see why you have to pay a few thousand more dollars for rear seats you don’t need and a different exterior.

    People blast the car for being 35k, but over 40k with options, which is around the price of a 335. Well, that’s a barebones 335. Just like the barebones 135, without leather, without power seats, etc. To option up the 335 would cost just as much. The $5k savings is still there.

    Sorry if people don’t think I’m “rich enough” for a 3-series for choosing this car. Guess the BMW driver (me) isn’t as snobby and elitist as the 1-series critics out there.

    By the way, the 3-series used to be this size. With each redesign it got bigger and fatter. That’s good for the people who want a family car, but rather than thinking of this car as a 2002 reincarnation, it makes more sense as an early 3-series reincarnation. That’s what European car companies tend to do.. Make each model bigger with each passing redesign, then introduce a smaller car to fill in the gap..

  • avatar


    An acquaintance brought his new 135i coupe to my place of work today, eager to show me, since apparently in the past I had teased him a bit too much about liking really fast cars and never buying one.

    Well, the Honda guy walking down the street during his lunch break certainly stopped and had a look, while the builder guys repairing next door were in no doubt about the little Sedona red devil. It’s all business to look at, for sure.

    They’re relatively cheap in Canada, $46K for the model TrueDelata says is $43,525 in the US. Great leather adjustable manual seats, M gearshift knob and a couple of M plaques here and there. Auto windshield wipers, dimming mirrors etc.

    Frankly at $46K in Canada, it toasts the G35 whatsits for the same money, Accord coupes, IS 350 etc. and especially Audi A4s, which cost more for only a Quattro advantage, and many disadvantages. A Mercedes C 350 sedan is $48K with no options, and I found it smallish inside. Hell, My Legacy GT lists at $42K, and it does not take a genius to see which car has the higher finish quality, because they were sitting side by side. The interior of the 135i is very nicely made indeed.

    Anyway, went for a ride. Very tightly put together for our potholed roads. Kein rattles at all, but a pitchy ride on the rough stuff, nothing to worry about.

    He let me drive it on a back road. Haha, well, she’s ludicrously quick. Surprised me at the traction, even starting out from a stop. I haven’t experienced wheelspin for years driving Subies, so even a bit was a surprise. But not much. Brakes are lovely Brembos front and rear. I really liked the gearshift and clutch except for starting out. But after a day I wouldn’t expect any problems adjusting to that. On the move gearshifts were just fine. The steering also was fine. It’s less isolated than I’m used to and therefore more “alive”, but second nature and better than the LGT, as is the directional stability.

    Clambered in the back. Not bad for me at 5-9, not bad at all. Narrow is all but fine for 2.

    I really liked it a lot, I must say. Makes my LegacyGT seem like an old bus by comparison. The only Subie salvation is incredible traction in winter, and (probably) better long term reliability.

    Now my doctor pal in audio diy crime has just got his 335i, so we’ll see if I like that more. Trouble is, he lives a couple hours away so it’ll be a few weeks before I get to see it.

    Meanwhile, in Canada, this car is priced to go. I loved it. And the spectators thought it looked badass.

    The old 320i from the ’80s is an utter dog by comparison, and 2002’s always felt way too tippy, so older Bimmers don’t do it for me. This 135i eats those for a snack, I’d say. Hell I’m just a 60 year old hoon at heart.

    So far as this review goes, fine. I’d have to say to anyone contemplating this car, forget the road tests. Drive one, and you decide. It sure as hell ain’t a bad car!

    Meanwhile, all you other car companies still ripping off we Canucks for 40 or 50% more than the US pricing, take heed! This car is properly priced and is going to sell a lot here.

  • avatar

    The 135i makes a lot more sense when lightly optioned. Especially as a convertible. I was looking to purchase, not lease, a Mustang, 128i, 135i, or 328i convertible.

    The Mustang is cheap but unsophisticated. The 128i is about 38, the 135i is about 42, and the 328i is about 48. Big differences between all three price wise. As of now I’ll take the 135i with a soft top, saves a lot of trunk space and weight compared to the 328i. Additionally, the back seat in the 1 series and 3 series convertibles were not much different size wise. All the cars on the lot were loaded to the gills and quite expensive, you’ve got to order it to do it right.

    If I was not looking specifically for a convertible it might be a different story, but try to find a sporting 4 seat convertible with a manual and you’ll find your options limited and very expensive.

  • avatar

    The 135i just got top scores from Consumer Reports of all places. You would expect that they would find it overpriced, but the lab coats were a lot more objective about the car. If you plan on buying one you should probably take the plunge because 1 sales are brisk (3 sales are way down) and the quantities will be quite limited.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    I’d like to see a review of a manual transmission 128i coupe with the sport package. I’m really considering going that route, despite how many people would say “lol luk he bot da cheepest bmdubya lol”. Who cares?

  • avatar

    Go to the 1Addicts web site. You’ll find everything you could ever want to know and more about the 1 series. A common thread is whether to buy a stripped 135i or a loaded 128i. You can find hundreds of pics plus links to every review ever done (so far) about the 1 coupes.

  • avatar

    Wow. There sure are a lot of people who don’t like this car – think it was a bad idea. Me, I checked it out for a year before buying one and test drove it 4 times – same with the 128. It does look better in person than in pictures – and the color makes a difference … but ultimately it’s all about personal taste. I’ve owned several Miatas and a couple of G35 coupes too. I prefer smaller, tighter machines and while I’ll agree that the word “elegant” isn’t going to stick to those slab sided flanks – well it isn’t supposed to is it? For me the car has character. It handles beautifully and moves quickly when it needs to. I’m happy driving it – and I’m very glad I have one. I’ve driven the three – it’s a fantastic car too – just doesn’t meet my need to downsize. Is it worth the asking price? I guess that too is a matter of perspective. Is anything worth its asking price? To the right person: sure. I wasn’t willing to pay 42 and change – but 38 was better and that’s what I did. So again – to the right person. It isn’t about trying to drive a “cheap” BMW or be a ‘poser’ for the sake of it. I could have purchased a more costly, more “elegant” BMW if I liked – but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the squashed, ugly little beast that despite its controversial exterior has a heart of a lion. I’m not buying the car to meet someone else’s need – only my own. Isn’t that really what BMW was aiming at?

  • avatar

    i think some of you are missing the point here.
    with some simple changes we can easily make 360 HP. 400 HP is attainable if you want to make some serious mods. if you buy the vehicle new then you will not have to smog it for 5 years. so buy a new 135, take it to a tuner with 5 thousand american dollars (before they become worthless) and you will have a vehicle that is faster and probably more satisfying than a new M3. if this does not appeal to you then buy a used NSX for 25 thousand. there are no other choices really. YMMV!

  • avatar

    Visibility a problem in this car? No. Just… it isn’t, at all. That’s not valid. Comparing the car to one made decades ago as a way of illustrating the point is apples to oranges and at best highlights a general trend away toward passive support structures with a more centrally positioned passenger compartment. Even with that said, there’s just no problem in terms of what you can see from the driver’s position of this car.

  • avatar

    This is by far the worst review I have read on the 135i.  I would guess that most of the comments here are from people who have not driven, or owned a 135i.  I had a 2004 E46 M3, that was riddled with problems.  i do think it was a much crisper ride (with the ///M suspension) when doing extremely spirited driving, however, I also had it in the shop about 12 times for many different issues.  i have owned 4 BMW’s and this is the first one that i drove that reminded me of my 2000 M roadster (one of the most fun and agile cars on the road).  I will also note that during all of the issues with my M3, I had 6 different types of service cars, 2010 and 2011 128i’s, 2010 and 2011 328is, and 2010 and 2011 335i’s etc.   the 335 (while quite an awesome vehicle) was way to big for what I would consider a “small sports coupe”.  They have grown almost a foot longer than my old 96′ 328is.  So, if you want a bigger, heaver, less nimble, car without the soul that the 135i captures, go for the 3 series.  Too often i talk to “options shoppers” who want all these “things” strapped onto their car, and monstrous leg room, and the standard 3 series badge…. well that’s fine and go buy a 3-serious and be happy.  But the 135i is not a 3-series, and is not a cheaper version of it either.  Go drive one and then post if you think it doesn’t put a smile on your face from ear to ear.  And that’s coming from a guy who drove an M3 for 2 yrs.

  • avatar

    Just bought an 09 with 30000 miles on it and couldnt be happier. Id rather buy a used beemer than just about any other car new. One word – quality. This is my third bmw and there is no going back now. My previous one, an 07 335 sedan had 70000 miles on it, and drove like the day it was new. Many cars at that age are a rattling mess, a testament to beemers quality.

    I originally was looking for a 335 coupe wirh the sport package to replace my sedan and gradually started taking more notice of the 135. I then began looking at both thinking the right deal would be the decider. After a while i started looking exclusively for 135’s. Not just because of price, but because they were starting to grow on me and represented a smaller, sportier, more minimalist option that was really what i was looking for.

    At first, i didnt know quite what to make of the 1. It was kind of funny looking and curvier than the 3 but the more i saw it the more i appreciated the more muscular, squat appearance that it conveyed to me.
    If the 3 is a sleek and refined golden retriever, then the 1 is a bulldog, purposeful and no nonsense. To me its a love or hate it thing to be sure. I also thought that the more i looked the 3, especially the sedan, the more i thought that it was becoming boring. So many other cars out there that have copied, or at least look like it. Hondas, acuras, to mention a couple. The 1 reminds me a more of a vehicle in the roadster or pony car tradition, possibly more mustang than euro sleek coupe. At any rate beauty is in the eye of the beholder and its such a subjective thing.

    As far as performance, the n54 twin turbo needs no more accolades, its proved its mettle since 08 and will lives on in the m sport while the n55 replaces it in the base model. Say no more, this thing is blisteringly fast.

    Handlingwise on my 09, three words, m sport package. Tighter suspension, 18 inch wheels and adjustable bolstered sport seats bring it well into sports car territory rivaling much more expensive cars and satisfying all but the most dedicated rally or tracks rats. Definately not as refined and effortless as the 3, that car is downright telepathic. I feel the 1 is more involved experience (isnt that what sports cars are about), and it does feel twitchier over rough roads than the longer wheelbase 3. Again tho, the m sport package provides what i consider a pretty agile ride and, unlike some other cars with this kind of performance, i think the 135 is sublimely rewarding daily driver. Manual gearbox to me feels crisp with no sponginess. Clutch is rather light, i’ve owned a few muscle cars over the years and it feels weird to have this kind of power with such an easy feel, i initially thought i’d rather have something a little beefier but again, as a daily driver its just so much more pleasant.

    I’d buy this car again in a heartbeat, do your self a favor and drive one if you are considering a car in this class

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