The 1, One Year Later: BF Revisits the 135i

Perhaps the most read review on BimmerFile has been our first piece we did on the BMW 135i. The car has often been called a reincarnation of the 2002tii. While we could go always wax poetically about the 135i, I wanted to take another look at the car a year later without the hype and the pretense the surrounded its introduction.

Our 2009 135i test car came equipped with the sport package, cold weather and convenience. At $43k it was about in the middle of what you would expect for the 135i moderately equipped. Driving the car for the first time in awhile was a bit more eye-opening than I expected. For starters steering feel is not (and never was) a strong suit of this car. While the mechanical steering rack in the 135i is an improvement over the electric one found in 128i and other iterations of the 1 its feedback is decidedly less than what you ‘d find an on M3, let alone an E46 ZHP or any number of previous generation 3 Series. The steering is as weighted as you ‘d want but simply doesn ‘t have the feedback that you ‘d expect given the feel of everything else associated with the car.

The 135i still manages to impress. The much talked about oversteer is clearly evident when pushing the car to its limits. But there is little question in my mind that the 135i is still the car it was on that magical first drive. It ‘s simply as fun to drive now as it was then. While steering feel may not be at M3 (or even previous 3 Series) levels, it doesn ‘t effect the performance or handling. Eager with good turn-in and seemingly endless torque, the small coupe is much of what made the 2002 and E30 classics. But this time that is mated with enormous power, relative comfort and the flexibility you ‘d expect to find in a modern BMW.

Is it still more engaging than the E90 era M3 as I stated a year ago? Yes and no. In many ways the car ‘s abilities are much more accessible and in turn I would argue more immediately enjoyable than the M3. Yet it doesn ‘t have the presence nor the sense of occasion that the V8 M3 is endowed with.

And then there ‘s the fact that the new 1 series is almost on the horizon. In late 2010 BMW will introduce an entirely new generation of the 1 and with that the rumored “supersport ” version of the 1 Series coupe coming a year or two later. How this current 135i will stack up against that car remains to be seen. But if rumors are true, there certainly is a lot to think about for those considering a small BMW coupe in the next 1-2 years.

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  • How did you find it in the snow? I had to get a set of winter tires to be able to still use my 135 this winter – best investment I ever made, the winter tires I mean.

  • Ryan

    I have the same question as GSKChicago, but to add, are those tires OEM? And since the 135i is rear wheel, (which I have never driven before, always had front wheel), are they great in the snow with or without the snow tires? I drive a MCS, and it’s front wheel, and it’s great in the snow.

  • Any word on a hatchback coming at any point? Maybe in late 2010? That’s yet another thing for those of us considering this car to keep in mind. I think a 5 door is most appealing to me.

  • Ryan, from the looks of the photo’s Gabe posted, those are OEM tires – low profile summer runflats. They’re great on dry pavement and warm temperatures. I had driven FWD for more than a decade before getting my 135i and with the OEM tires, I had virtually no traction in more than a couple inches of snow. I went to Tirerack.com and went with their “recommended” snow tires and it is a NIGHT AND DAY difference in my opinion. The 50/50 weight distribution definitely seems to help as do all the electronic devices, like DSC, Anti Lock, etc to help as well. Gabe has more experience driving RWD than I do hence my curiosity with his winter experience with the OEM tires. But with the winter tires, I have zero complaints.

  • How did you find it in the snow?

    Dangerous. I would never own a RWD car without snow tires.

  • Disclaimer: High Performance Summer Tires are NOT meant to be driven in COLD, ICY, SNOWY conditions!

    Please equip your vehicle with the appropriate set of 4 snow tires for wintery conditions.

    Summer tires in the winter are literally a death trap; I equate it to when you were a kid on your big wheel and that big hard plastic wheel would spin when you went to fast and then slide if you tried to stop… giving you a flat spot!

    The 1er is a great little car, and though we will not see the 5 door for this model cycle, I would not be surprised to see it with the next generation.

    BMWNA is not going to bring a model slated to be redesigned in a year over here… and I do not blame them.

    The one sour spot with the 5 door is the rear passenger space because of the current RWD platform, I would image the engineers over at the FIZ have been diligently coming up with ways to increase that efficiently and dynamically 🙂

    -M

  • Oh, was it just a fluke on the auto show 135i I saw, but the 2009 still said “Year one of the One” around the silver disc surrounding the start/stop button.

    They just getting rid of the supply they had or do they still consider it year 1 since it hasn’t been 12 months since the 1er has been in the states?

  • JonPD

    Looking forward to seeing what they do with this car, and have big hopes on seeing something interesting with the “supersport” version. Much more likely to pursue something like this than a E89 M since in my world coupes are the only real option.

  • GSK- I had the same question with a 2009 I sat in recently… I think they had some extra stock or maybe are running it as a 12 month gig; so that would mean soon the 1 of the 1 will go away.

  • lava

    somebody with a history of flipping their cars every 1-2 years might decide to get one anyway..

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  • PDXLager

    Ahem. Well, of course the E90 does have a V8. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Paired with a comment critiquing your own errors. There goes my credibility (backing away slowly now….)

  • Dewey

    Who cares that the 1 will be replaced in 2010? To me that only makes it only more desirable. That is what I love best about my 135… since I bought mine back in October, I’ve only seen one other on the road. And that was on a 5 hour driving trip. I love the uniqueness of it, and the fact that it’s going to be short lived only increases that fact!

  • Dewey

    PS… Winter Tires are a must with this car. I bought a set, and even though it is quite sure footed in the snow, the massive torque does still make it kinda squirly in the white stuff. I live in the Buffalo area, and never got stuck. Came close a couple of times though…

  • Hi Everyone: The commemorative Year One bezels went out of production at 1/1/09, so the early ’09s got them. Gabe: I wasn’t sure from your article but wanted to clarify that the 128i currently has a hydraulic power steering system in the US. Best, -Matt

  • Thanks for the clarification Matt. At the launch last year I though I had heard that the 128i in the US had the hatch’s system. I must have been mistaken.

  • chaz

    RE: the 5 door – I read some German comparison that showed the 5 door 130 ranked last, behind Audi A3, VW Golf (RS32), and Mazda speed. It gets dinged a lot for RWD platforms lack of leg room in the rear, stodgy design, lack of AWD. Certainly the 135 in the US is a slightly different beast. (and yes, winter tires are great, summer tires are not an option – and the e-diff does help a bit with traction).

  • tom

    The car would be great if it weren’t so stubby and ugly. I would be embarrassed to be seen in that thing.

  • r.burns

    @ chaz in Europe too there is the 135i……..

    @ tom, I totally agree with you…..

  • MatB

    Just bought a 135 this weekend. Of course, being January in Colorado we haven’t been able to have too much fun yet and are looking for winter tires. Would love any suggestions of what people have used! Thanks.