Reviews

2012 BMW 1 Series Walk Around

For 2012, the BMW 128i Coupe and Convertible benefit from the Air Curtain, BMW's latest aerodynamic innovation. Introduced first on the 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe, the Air Curtain is now a standard feature on the 128i models as well. The Air Curtain improves air flow around the front wheel arches with the benefit of significantly reduced turbulence. The 128i can also be equipped with special Aero Wheels to further enhance the performance of the Air Curtain system. The Air Curtain design consists of openings in the outer section of the lower front fascia that route high-pressure air through ducts at each front corner. The ducts are approximately 10 x 3 centimeters wide and are designed to channel air to openings at the front of each wheel arch, where it is discharged through a very narrow opening at high speed. The escaping air stream covers the side of the front wheels like a curtain, thereby reducing aerodynamically unfavorable turbulence around the rotating wheels. Less turbulence means less resistance and better fuel economy.

The BMW 1 Series is short in the rear compared to the larger 3 Series, but it looks good that way. It doesn't look cheap or cut off or bandaged. Every major part of the car, the nose, the bodyside, the roof and the rear end, blends with the rest of the car to make a shorter, narrower version of the 3 Series with a different and special roofline. Some would argue, however, that the slab-like sides are bland compared to other, more sculpted BMWs.

We like the 135i's aerodynamics package with the huge air intakes below the bumper, necessary for cooling the turbocharger intake air. At the rear, the 135i has a prominent spoiler, while the 128i uses a more gentle lip integrated into the trunk lid. The 128i rear bumper is entirely body-color, lacking the black-out panel seen on the 135i. Drag coefficient on the 128i Coupe is 0.31 Cd vs. the 135i Coupe's 0.33 Cd.

Put the top down on the convertible models, and the flared shoulder line that's shared with the coupes seems to form a single surface that surrounds the interior, like the deck of a small boat. For both convertible models, drag coefficient increases slightly to 0.34.

Interior

Anyone familiar with the interior layout of the current 3 Series would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the BMW 135i and the larger, more expensive 335i. Just about everything inside is in the same location and looks and operates the same way.

We found the front bucket seats to be very comfortable and supportive, with big side bolsters. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, helping drivers of different shapes and sizes to find the ideal driving position.

Order the optional navigation system and you get BMW's iDrive, which integrates navigation, entertainment, telephone, and other controls via a pop-up screen on the top of the dash and a mouse-like knob on the console.

The 1 Series continues with an older version of iDrive that doesn't have the ease of use of the newer system found in other BMWs. It includes a central control knob with a separate Menu button, while other version add CD, Tel, Radio, Nav, Back and Option buttons around the controller. Those extra buttons provide easier access various functions, eliminating a few steps. Both versions require some time to learn, but the system in the 1 Series is a little more daunting. Having tried iDrive numerous times, we're used to it and not entirely annoyed, but many drivers find it overly complicated.

All 1 Series coupes come with a 60/40 split folding rear seat than can almost triple the trunk's 10 cubic feet of space. A storage package for the trunk area includes some tie-downs and straps and a 12-volt power point for external accessories. Without that folding seat, the trunk would be rather small.

The convertibles feature a soft top that can be raised or lowered in 22 seconds, even while driving at speeds up to 25 mph, so you don't need to worry whether that stoplight will be long enough to finish the roof operation. The soft top takes up less trunk space than a convertible hard top would, which is partly why the design uses a soft top. Still, it eats up two cubic feet of cargo space, leaving 8 cubic feet, which is small but not too bad for a convertible.

The convertible's interior room suffers a bit, though hardly enough for a real convertible enthusiast to notice. Front leg room is reduced by a quarter inch, and head room by three-quarters of an inch. The losses in rear-seat room are more consequential, where shoulder room contracts by nearly a foot. Leg room is reduced by three-quarters of an inch, and head room by just 0.1 inch. Coupe or convertible, the two-passenger rear seat is rather inhospitable. You really can't sit back there if anyone up front is tall, and the convertible will have two adults knocking shoulders. The back seat is best left to small children and packages.

The leather upholstery optional for the convertible incorporates what BMW calls Sun Reflective Technology, a special pigment which reflects both heat and ultraviolet rays. BMW claims this technology can keep the surface of the seats 20 degrees cooler than conventional leather under the same sun, while also helping the hides last longer. Additionally, the convertible's automatic climate control system adds a top-down mode that reacts less to interior temperature and more to the exterior climate and sunlight. We like the idea but didn't get enough time in the sun to see if it really works.

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