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2008 BMW 1-Series Review

This review was written when the 2008 BMW 1-Series was new.

The 1-Series has the precise performance and cabin refinement of its ancestor, the BMW 3-Series. But its styling isn't as sleek as other entry-level coupes.

Featuring some of the best components of the well-respected 3-Series, the 2008 BMW 1-Series debuts in U.S. markets this year with enough power and refinement to set it apart from other entry-level luxury coupes. But several reviewers say there are problems with the complete package. Number one, the 1-Series design looks distorted compared to the sleek appeal of the 3-Series. "I love the mechanicals of this car," writes the Los Angeles Times. "Well, I loved them before they got jammed into this ugly Size 8 Birkenstock." Secondly, as the Detroit News notes, "If you can afford to pay $30K for a 1 Series, what's a few thousand more to bump up to the 3 Series?"

Still others say the 1-Series' positive attributes outweigh its flaws. Car and Driver says, "What its design lacks in elegance, it makes up for in bulldog-like character." In the same review, Car and Driver adds "there really aren't other cars on the market that compare with the 135i. Indeed, it's in a very small class: a class of one." Recently the 1-Series outpaced the Subaru Impreza WRX STi, the Volkswagen R32, and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to become Consumer Reports' top-rated sporty car. If you're in the market for an upscale small car, the Volkswagen GTI also has strong performance. The Audi A3 is also a good performer, and has a roomy second-row and a well-received exterior.

  • "The 135i has a lot going for it: It's a slightly smaller and slightly faster version of the 3-series coupe, already one of our favorite cars. It looks cool and brings you BMW virtues for a lower price than that of a comparable 3-series sedan. What's not to like about that?" -- Car and Driver
  • "Well-positioned to appeal to both up-and-coming Generation-Y buyers and older enthusiasts alike, BMW significantly expands the entry-level premium sporty car market with the 1 Series." -- Forbes
  • " BMW's new 1 Series really is just that-the only one in its class" -- Motor Trend
  • "Overall, there are lots of excellent qualities of the 1 Series, but it rides too closely to the 3 Series to make an impact. … While other carmakers cruise that fine line of premium compacts -- offering stylish hatchbacks with performance and luxury -- the 1 Series falls short in the segment and for BMW. -- Detroit News
  • "Who wants a poor man's BMW? A poor man, that's who." -- Los Angeles Times
Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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