The 2012 BMW 1-Series is, hands down, one of the best performing cars in the upscale small class. This little baby will turn the most boring errand circuit into an adventure, but you're going to have to deal with a high price tag and low fuel efficiency to get that ride. If, however, you're in the market for something fun and you're not daunted by the opening sticker price of $30,950 (climbing to $43,800 on the high end), this could be the car for you. (Don't look for more than 18 mpg city and 28 highway and be prepared to upgrade from the base engine going into the deal.)
How does the competition stack up against this playful little coupe (which also comes as a convertible)? Both the Volkswagen GTI and Audi A3 are excellent alternative choices. They do both require premium fuel, but the trade off in efficiency comes out to 24/33 and 22/28 mpg respectively (if equipped with automatic transmissions.) Both of these cars are, however, hatchbacks and so come off looking less sporty, nimble, and sexy than the 1-Series. They are also less expensive, however, by as much as $3k to $5k. That lighter sticker shock and the fluctuating price of fuel are definitely major points to consider.
The base BMW 128i uses a 3.0-liter inline six with 230 hp and 200 lb. ft. of torque. The 125i has a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six with 300 hp and 300 lb. ft. of torque. Obviously the second engine is the reviewer favorite, and knocks off the zero to 60 jump in 5.3 seconds. Both the brakes and steering response on the 1-series are strong and precise.
The 1-series exterior is relatively unchanged for 2012 although the snubbed off front end has been tweaked for better aerodynamics. Inside, the cabin is finished with predictable BMW quality, but the rear seat is cramped and uncomfortable on the coupe and the trunk offers a paltry 10 cubic feet. Standard features include an auxiliary radio input, HD radio, a USB port, leather-wrapped wheel, and an onboard computer to monitor details like service appointment scheduling, oil changes, spark plug and micro-filter status, temperature outside, and the like.
The 2012 BMW 1-series has not been tested by the federal government or the insurance industry, but includes dynamic stability control, a full compliment of airbags, dynamic traction control, and anti-lock brakes. The crash sensor turns the alternator and fuel pump off, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazards and interior lights in the event of a crash.
Basically, the 2012 BMW 1-Series is seen by too many as just the car you buy when you can't come up with the bucks for the 3-series. This really is selling the 1-series short. Granted the price and low fuel economy aren't for everyone, but this is a high-performance, fun, upscale small car available as both a coupe and a convertible. It's certainly worth a test drive and if the limitations are in your comfort zone, the 1-series can be a great choice.