2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe
2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet
2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe & 135i Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

Review by Justin Pritchard

Vehicle Type: Coupe / Convertible

History/Description: The 1 Series might be the smallest BMW-branded vehicle recently sold in Canada by the German marquee, but its living proof that big-time driving pleasure can come in small packages – especially with the available convertible model.

Regardless of roof choice, all models are two-door, four-seat machines engineered to be lightweight and highly entertaining – thanks in no small part to a 50/50 weight distribution between the axles. Plus, all units put an almighty BMW straight-six engine at their driver’s disposal.

Shoppers after a blend of luxury, fuel efficiency and performance will gravitate strongly towards the 1 Series, especially given the added practicality of its four-seat layout, which is ready for a pair of kids in the back, as needed. As a premium model, safety equipment and sophistication are both top-notch.

Features may include adaptive headlamps, navigation, Bluetooth, premium audio and plenty more. Push-button start, Google integration and automatic climate control are all on board, as are USB audio integration and the BMW assist service.

Engines / Trim: All BMW 1 Series models are rear-wheel drive and powered by a six-cylinder engine. Two mainstream models were offered, with names that indicate what’s under the hood. The 128i is motivated by a 3.0L inline six cylinder engine with 230 hp. The more powerful 135i adds a pair of turbochargers for a peak of 300 horses and 300 lb-ft of torque.

In either case, power is sent to the rear wheels by a six-speed gearbox in the shopper’s choice of manual or automatic with manual mode. Note that from 2011 and on, the 135 got a modified engine with single turbocharger, though the specs and power figures are the same.

That is, unless, you opt for the BMW 1 Series M Coupe, which will be hard to find in the used market, and pricey if you can track one down. The gist of this beasty little German pocket rocket? It’s like they put the modest little 1 Series on an all-steroid diet, emptied a syringe of illegal stimulants into its neck, and sent it to the gym. It looks so muscular, it’s nearly busting out of its own skin, and would probably have stretch-marks if it weren’t made of sheetmetal.

2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet
2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

The 1M packs 335 horsepower up front, a six-speed manual in the middle, drives the rear wheels, and gets a really loud exhaust system at the back. There’s no fluffy, sissy stuff, here. And that’s perfect, if you like performance cars without fluffy, sissy stuff. You can’t even get the 1M with a sunroof, fog-lamps, or an automatic transmission. It’s a pure, no-BS performance car.

What Owners Like: A blend of sporty performance and comfortable luxury, brand pedigree, rewarding handling and decent fuel economy were commonly praised by owners of the BWM 1 Series. Acceleration, especially in turbocharged models, is also highly rated. Many owners note the light weight contributing to pleasing performance that’s massively nimble, agile and entertaining.

What Owners Dislike: Complaints of the BMW 1 Series are typically space-related, and revolve around limited trunk space, limited rear-seat space, and limited front-seat space for larger drivers. Some drivers wish for a more comfortable and less busy ride in models with the larger wheels.

Here’s a selection of owner reviews of the BMW 1 Series

Common Issues: Start your 1 Series test-drive with common-sense checks. Since it’s a frisky sports model, approach any used candidate assuming the seller has fried the tires and brakes and would love it if you, not they, picked up the bill for a new set of each.

2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe
2011 BMW 135i Cabriolet & M Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Since it’s full of German wiring, a full check of any and everything on board the 1 Series that runs on electricity is also a good idea. The stereo, climate control, power seats, locks, instrument cluster and windows should all be tested for proper operation. Ditto the steering-wheel mounted audio controls.

If the unit you’re considering is a convertible, inspect for signs of water leakage. Look for staining or moisture on the sun visors, dried up leather on the seats, moisture in the footwell carpeting, or a musty, damp smell. Inspect the cloth roof for signs of abrasion, tearing or rips, all of which could indicate a problem that warrants further investigation. Note that some owners say closing the rear windows before the front windows is a must to keep the weather seal in proper alignment and prevent leaks. Ensure no rubber weather seals are dried out, cracked, falling apart or missing, unless you like surprise water leaks.

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