Flash Drive: 2009 BMW 128i convertible
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Staff of MSN Autos
The new 128i convertible provides all the driving excitement and pleasure one can expect from a BMW. Performance is comparable to Bimmer's incredible 3-Series. Driving with the top down is enjoyable because the stereo and heating system are effective at highway speed, and the noise volume is decent, so you can actually hold a conversation. The electronic top closes quickly — 30 seconds or during a quick traffic stop. Handling is tight. One nitpick is the size; the trunk is a bit small and there's very little legroom in the back seat. The 128i convertible was listed at $45K, which included many options. Maybe if the 1-Series were priced lower, it would be more attractive to buyers, but at this price, the 3-Series would be a reasonable alternative. -Joe Chulick
BMW touts the 1-Series as a modern rendition of the fabled 2002 sport coupe from the '70s, which built a reputation as lithe and nimble. The smallest BMW model sold in the U.S. today, the 128i is anything but lithe and fails to deliver the legendary seat-of-the-pants feel of the 2002. Laden with high-tech sophistication and modern safety equipment, the 128i feels heavy but still succeeds at being nimble. While the steering wheel doesn't communicate to the driver as once expected from BMW, the steering is quick and responsive, making the 128i fun to drive. The 3.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine delivers smooth, linear power, and the 6-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifting is quick and precise, matching the revs on downshifts. The paddles allow shifts from either side of the wheel, but the up-shift button can be difficult to reach without moving a hand from the wheel. With optional equipment, the 128i convertible can reach nearly $50,000 — pretty rich territory for BMW's smallest car. -Mike Meredith
The 3-Series has been the entry-level BMW in this country for years, but in Europe there has been a smaller offering - the 1-Series. Well, America has now gotten the 1-Series and we're happy to have it. Styling cues are similar to the 3-Series, but the proportions are a bit odd — it's as if the trunk was chopped off mid-design, limiting cargo space. But get behind the wheel and this car is pure BMW. That's good and bad. The 128i offers plenty of power and is quite responsive, even when tied to the 6-speed automatic transmission. Handling is also very impressive — as expected from a BMW — making this small convertible a joy to drive. Unfortunately, being a BMW, the 1-Series is equipped with the notorious i-Drive interface. With its complicated system for accessing simple radio presets or displaying the navigation map, i-Drive continues to detract from what is otherwise a fun, fuel-efficient sport coupe. -Perry Stern