Argo1 Dork
4/20/14 11:59 p.m.

This is another installment of my series where I compare used car choices that cost somewhere around the price of a new fully equipped Miata. The idea is to see what else that amount of money buys. Are there options for faster or better cars? How do they stack up? I have nothing against Miatas. I've owned one. They are great cars. They just can't be the answer for everything.

I usually stick to later model cars that could be reasonably expected to provide reliable daily service. I will also not review anything that gets above the 30's in fair market price. All fun type cars. No boring cars. The full review collection can be found at

I will share what they are like to live with in daily use. The good stuff and the annoyances. Hopefully, this will help those who are considering purchasing one make an informed choice. Don't look for performance data, specs, and such. You can find all that elsewhere. These are all strictly my opinions and experiences. Your mileage may vary. Owners are welcome to chime in with their experiences.

This month I am driving a 2012 BMW 135i with just over 10k miles since new. The "baby" beamer debuted back in '07. Reviews at the time were generally positive but questioned the pug puppy styling and pricing which was barely less than the 3-series.

Fast forward to today. The market has spoken and resale values of 1-series cars are almost identical to 3-series prices. In fact, the rare 1-series M Sport commands above new prices. So I guess the little BMWs were a good value for new buyers. That's not such good news if you want to buy a used one. Prices are holding strong. However, I expect that they will continue to hold strong which will be good for used buyers as well. Expect to pay mid to upper twenties for a nice 135i. A bit less for the 128i which is...well...a bit less.

It's hard not to like this car. It's the same size as the legendary e30 with the turbo six from the current larger 3's. The result is a quick and agile car with M3 acceleration thanks to the light weight. I wasn't overly kind to the 550ix that I drove last month. I felt that it was big and bloated and filled with gimicky accessories. This car is the complete opposite of that.

This car has all the stuff that you want and need without excess. Auto climate control, rain sensing wipers, all that kind of stuff is present. What is missing is the center screen and annoying iDrive that I complain about all the time. Even navigation is an extra cost option - which I don't recommend for any car. Why? Remember the factory built in cell phones of the '90s? They are still there. They seriously date those cars and they don't work because technology passed them by. There is a new version of GPS on the horizon. My cell phone does turn by turn navigation just fine.

So this is a nice simple car with stuff that matters and everything that you need. For it's compact size, it is surprisingly roomy. The rear seat is usable and the odd roofline keeps rear headroom decent. The trunk is good sized, except with the convertible. With the top down, you will struggle to fit in much more than a 12 pack. Outward visibility is great and it's size makes it convenient for parking and around town. Gas mileage is mid twenties in mixed driving.

There are a few odd bits: There isn't an easily reachable pull to close the doors. The cup holders -- Seems like I'm always complaining about German car cup holders, but seriously -- the second one is blocked unnecessarily by the armrest and both are shallow enough that your Vente Mocha Frappuccino will still tip over (don't ask). Overall it is an interior of high quality materials that looks like it will last forever.

Driving is a blast. That's what this car is about. This is Mini Cooper spunk and nimbleness with the plus of rear wheel drive. Add in blistering acceleration, without the reliability worries that seem to always follow the Minis, and you have a formula for fun. I could see myself living with this car as my daily driver easily. I struggle to find anything that I don't like about driving it. Maybe the ride is a bit pitchy because of the short wheelbase, but so what? The fun factor trumps it.

The six speed is terrific but even the auto box is fun. Flick it into sport mode and manual shift and everything comes to attention. You can snap off changes quickly even if you do need long fingers to reach around the wheel for the paddles. The bark of the automatic downshift blips and overrun pop and burble just add to the fun. There is no real reason to select the three pedal over the two. Both are great.

The only real annoyance isn't unique to this car: Throttle cables have gone away, replaced with computers and throttle position sensors. When you tromp the gas you aren't opening any throttle butterflies. You are asking the computer, "Please may I have some power." It will decide just how responsible you are and if it will choose to grant your request. Some cars are better than others.

The worst example of this was in a Boxster S creeping up the steep hill into the infield at Road Atlanta. With the throttle matted, it would barely go forward. It had simply decided that we did not need power at that time. In the 135i it provides noticeably uneven throttle response. Sometimes a touch of the pedal causes the engine to jump. Other times pushing it down an inch gives you nothing. It's the most noticeable in an off-on throttle situation such as rolling up to a light that turns green. The sport mode minimizes this.

I hate to see this car go. It has been the most fun of any recent car that I have driven. It gets my full endorsement. Highly recommended.

Joshua Dork
4/21/14 12:45 a.m.

Who cares what they're like to live with...they're beautiful.

That could be taken very badly out of context...

ddavidv PowerDork
4/21/14 5:32 a.m.

I'm one of the weirdos who liked the looks of this car right off. I was hoping the stigma of it "not being a 3 series" would kill the values and they would plummet to my level, but apparently not. This car is definitely on my future radar once they start hitting 100k+ miles.

I wonder if there is an aftermarket software tuner fix for the throttle response? As I've been looking at Mustangs, this is a complaint they suffer with as well, but it's only a simple computer tune away from vanishing.

Feedyurhed Dork
4/21/14 5:43 a.m.

I also like the looks of the one series and find the car very desirable. I have checked them out several times and the only draw back being the cost. Guess it's not coming down much either. Thanks for the write up.

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/14 6:52 a.m.

I still wish BMW had gifted us with the 2 door hatchback.. the least ungainly looking 1 series they make. I would have bought a new one if they had.

JohnRW1621 UltimaDork
4/21/14 6:56 a.m.

I did not realize '07 was the first year or that they have been out for 7 years. I too had always hoped they would depreciate quickly but headed toward 10 years old, these may be getting into the sweet spot soon.

SilverFleet SuperDork
4/21/14 8:14 a.m.

Pseudosport has one: a 2010 135i. I drove it for about 5 minutes after he picked it up. Even though I drove it for such a short time, I came away with a very positive experience.

Compared to my Mazda, this thing was other worldly. I felt like I was driving a weapon. The steering was perfect, as was the shifter and clutch and brakes. You pretty much point it in a direction, mash the throttle, and it will go exactly where you need it to, like the thing is an extension of yourself.

As small as it appears on the outside, I was surprised at how much room is there up front both for the driver and passenger. The cabin is very basic, but functional. Everything is where it needs to be, and there's no stupid dials, crazy screens, or other distracting nonsense. The stereo was a basic one, but sounded pretty good and has iPod/USB connectivity. My only gripes were that the dash is hard plastic, and that his car didn't have the Sport package, so the seats are rather flat. They were comfortable enough, but offer very little lateral support.

I'd also recommend this car. Get the Sport package if you can swing it.

T.J. PowerDork
4/21/14 9:33 a.m.

I've been intrigued by these since before they were offered for sale. When BMW announced they were going to sell a Civic sized RWD car with plenty of HP, I wanted one. When it came time to buy a new car though, I ended up buying my WRX. It was cheaper and had AWD so I could convince the wife that it was a mini SUV that would be good in the snow.

Ian F
Ian F UltimaDork
4/21/14 9:49 a.m.

You had me right up until the "more reliable than a MINI" part... that made me chuckle... I know quite a few people who have owned these cars (most were MINI owners). Reliability hasn't been a strong point.

toad9977 Reader
4/21/14 11:46 a.m.

If possible, I would try and look for one with the n55 rather than the earlier ones with the n54. I have an 07 335i with sport package and I have had some reliability issues with fueling and turbos. Granted BMW recognized these issues and increased the warranty on the turbos to 8yrs/82,000 miles and the injectors/HPFP to 10yrs/120,000 miles. Other than that, I love the car. As has been said it is like a weapon. Steering is very responsive and even the stock suspension keeps the car planted well enough to push it hard. A JB4, DCI, and down pipes makes the car plane nuts. I know I have seen some tuners out there that claim to help with throttle response, but I haven't found that to be a big enough issue to get one.

I too was looking for a 135i originally, but after seeing how much more comparable years 135i and 335i were, I opted for a 335i with sport package. I don't really think you can go wrong either way, although I do like the looks of the 135i more.

amg_rx7 Dork
4/21/14 3:22 p.m.

You should follow this up with another thread:

"Yeah, but what is it like to repair?"

PseudoSport HalfDork
4/23/14 2:48 p.m.

Pretty much what SilverFleet and Argo1 said.

Interior is nothing fancy. It’s simple, functional, surprisingly roomy, and sporty enough. No iDrive is a big plus for me. I do wish it had sport seats but for a daily driver that I spend most my time in computing to work the flat seats are fine and easy to get in and out of. Trunk has a fair amount of space and even more with the rear seat down. I’ve fit a set of tires in the back without much trouble plus a bunch of other stuff. Kind of wish it had less space so I’d stop using it as a truck, lol. One of my favorite things about the car is the visibility. Too many new cars have a high belt line which I find annoying.

Engine is great. Plenty of power for me when needed and I don’t really notice any turbo lag. The 6 speed is smooth and shifts great but still feel it has too many gears for my liking. Guess I’m just use to 5 speeds.

Suspension could be firmer but my biggest complaint is the understeer and lack of front camber adjustment. Also a 235 tire is about as wide as you can go in the front without camber plates or rolling the fenders.

As far as repairs I’ve had 3 fuel injectors that were replaced due to a recall and one coil pack replaced under warranty.

For someone who normally gets bored of vehicles pretty quick I still love this thing and have no plans on getting rid of it anytime soon.

Our Preferred Partners