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BMW’s small wonder

BMW’s 1-series is a compact 2+2 sports car available in both coupe and cabriolet form.

BMW’s 1-series is a compact 2+2 sports car available in both coupe and cabriolet form. This is the smallest BMW but great things can come in small packages and the 1-series certainly fits that description.

Two models are offered. Both the 128i and the 135i come with a 3.0-litre 24-valve DOHC inline six cylinder engine, but the 135i gets a little boost in horsepower with the addition of twin turbochargers and an intercooler. I took a 135i coupe out for a drive to experience the power and came back smiling about the complete package.

Outside, the 135i has BMW’s traditional twin kidney shaped grille but in a smaller form, putting more emphasis on the large air intakes across the bottom of the front facia. A sharp bodyline starts at the headlights between the junction of the hood and the front fender and runs straight back the length of the body separating the car’s greenhouse area from the lower body.

A chrome strip runs above the frameless door glass and rear side glass, highlighting the coupe’s roofline. Black trim on the B-pillar provides the illusion of a longer side glass, but when viewed directly from the side, the short rear window and trunk lid are obvious. A rear spoiler is integrated into the trunk lid design.

Inside, front seat room is great but rear seat and headroom are limited. The front bucket seats slide forward for rear seat access, but entry is best left for agile friends. Our coupe came with the optional sport bucket seats. This $800 option gives 12-way adjustment to both front buckets, with manual control of height, tilt, fore/aft, recline and thigh support. Power side bolsters allow the seat sides to adjust to the driver’s profile.

A cup holder is attached to the passenger side of the console. Although it may work well, this is the most ridiculous cup holder I have ever seen and it would be the first thing I would have removed from the car.

The dash gauges are large and round while the rest of the dash is conservative and uncluttered. A navigation system with idrive control is optional. The important features for the driver are the start button on the dash and the six-speed shifter between the seats.

The six-cylinder twin-turbo engine comes to life with a muted rumble and gets the adrenaline flowing. Maximum torque starts at only 1,400 rpm, so the car pulls smoothly away from a stop sign and doesn’t tire you out in stop-and-go driving. Step firmly on the gas pedal and the engine feels like it would pull strong forever. Stability control and traction control help keep the rear 245/35R18 inch rubber under control.

This is a performance car with 300 horsepower in a 1,530 kg body and has brakes to match the power. It is nimble on corners and feels effortless to drive even when pushing it hard. It is also surprisingly economical on fuel, which is good because it likes to sip premium grade. The direct fuel injection and variable cam timing enable 7.9 litres/100 km on the highway.

A six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is available for drivers that don’t want to shift the manual gearbox, but I found the manual shifter excellent and the clutch has a nice progressive engagement.

Introduced in Canada in 2008, the 1-series BMW has been sold in Europe since 2004. It’s a shame we didn’t get it here sooner because it is so much fun to drive.

’09 BMW 135i Coupe
Type: Compact sports car
Price: $41,700 MSRP
Engine: 3.0L twin turbo inline 6 cylinder
HP: 300 hp @ 5,800 rpm

Highlights
• Sport seats
• Automatic dual zone climate control
• Stability control
• Tilt/telescopic steering

 
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