Filling out the bottom of BMW's performance-oriented lineup, the 2012 BMW 1 Series may be one of the biggest stars in the automaker's portfolio, serving as the purest driver's car in BMW's range outside of the far more expensive M3. Smaller and nimbler than the 3 Series, the BMW 1 Series otherwise uses the same high-performance engines and transmissions as its big brother.
While carrying capacity for four passengers, the snub-nosed 1 Series' biggest difference between it and the 3 Series can be found in the car's nearly useless back seat. Sure, real people can sit back there, but it's probably best reserved for your least-favorite friends. Otherwise, passenger room is pleasant with a tall, upright roof evocative of BMW's first sporting coupe, the 2002, that lends to excellent head space.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, BMW has outfitted the 2012 BMW 1 Series with two engines -- naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants of its 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder -- and has kept the cars devoid of excess frills like the electronic seatbelt extenders found in the 3 Series. Rather than serve as a luxury car that just happens to handle well like the 3 Series, we prefer to think of the BMW 1 Series as a sports coupe with a nice interior.
Bodystyles: Coupe, convertible
Engines: 3.0-liter inline-6, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6, electric motor
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, continuously variable automatic
Models: 128i, 128i convertible, 135i, 135i convertible, ActiveE
The biggest news for this year is that the limited edition 1 Series M super coupe has come and gone in just one model year. If you didn't get your 2011 model, you may be out of luck. Filling its niche role in the lineup is the for-lease-only 2012 BMW ActiveE coupe, an all-electric version with a 100-mile range. As for the rest of the lineup, all 2012 BMW 1 Series models now have USB connectivity for MP3 players and iPods as standard equipment. Power seats are standard on all 135i models, and the automatic transmission is now a no-cost option on 128i models. Additionally, every model receives revised wheel options, and BMW has changed several of the optional paint and leather colors.
With short overhangs, upright styling, and a pugnacious look, the 2012 BMW 1 Series looks like a throwback to the boxy BMWs of yore while carrying the "flame surfacing" look of the automaker's modern lineup. It's tall and narrow, but with wheels pushed to the corners and flared fenders, it looks hunkered down for whatever the road throws at it.
Although simpler in layout than the bigger, more expensive 3 Series, the 2012 BMW 1 Series gives up little in its features and amenities. Seating surfaces include standard leatherette or optional Boston leather. Coupes have a 60/40 split-folding rear seat while convertibles have a pass-through, which was made standard for 2012. All models also come with floor mats and Bluetooth connectivity as standard now -- welcome additions that added hundreds of dollars to the bottom line in years past.
Performance & Handling
BMW's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission became optional for the first time on the 135i last year, replacing the traditional six-speed automatic. The result is a quicker car with better fuel economy. Given that the 2012 BMW 1 Series is very much like a smaller 3 Series, its handling is sublime with go-kart-like quick reflexes.
Driver and passenger front airbags are standard on the 2012 BMW 1 Series, along with side impact thorax bags and front and rear head curtain bags. OnStar Automatic Crash Response is also standard. Dynamic safety devices include standard traction control and stability control.
EPA Fuel Economy
128i manual: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
128i manual cabrio: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
128i automatic/DCT: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
128i automatic/DCT cabrio: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
135i manual: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway
135i DCT: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway
ActiveE: Not yet tested
- Quirky styling
- Outstanding performance
- Refined when you're not pushing the limits
- Manual transmission available on both engines
You Won't Like
- Quirky Styling
- Small back seat
- Can get pricey
The "driving machine" of BMWs
If You Like This Vehicle
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