2008 BMW 1 Series Review

Pros & Cons

  • BMW driving experience at its purest, powerful and efficient engines, sports car performance with coupe practicality, high-quality interior, convertible's sun-reflective leather.
  • Options cause the price to skyrocket, iDrive makes navigation a no-go option.
Other years
BMW 1 Series for Sale
List Price Estimate
$2,417 - $4,354

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Edmunds' Expert Review

As a compact premium rear-drive coupe or convertible, the 2008 BMW 1 Series is in a class by itself. It's a class we'd like to enroll in, though.

Vehicle overview

Few brands have grown more than BMW in the past 25 years. That growth can be seen in their sales figures and the vehicles themselves. Today's 335i is larger than 1986's 535i, for instance, and it certainly sells in much greater volumes. This trend toward bigger and heavier has altered the brand's lineup to the point that there's now room for a cheaper, smaller entry-level car. Stepping boldly into the gap is the 2008 BMW 1 Series.

The 1 Series already debuted in Europe earlier this decade as a four-door hatchback, but that body style's limited appeal to American shoppers prevented its journey across the pond. With the introduction of new coupe and convertible body styles, however, BMW believes the timing is right for a small car revival.

With their compact two-door bodies, high-performance engines and scalpel-sharp handling, the 2008 BMW 128i and 135i are arguably the spiritual successors to BMW's classic 2002 coupe. Yet the 1 Series features many of the modern high-tech and luxury features that have become just as much a part of BMW during this decade as the raw driving experience. Some features like active steering and navigation with iDrive are dubious in terms of value, while others like keyless ignition/entry, premium hi-fi stereo and the convertible's heat-reflective leather seating are welcome niceties in a small car.

The 1 Series coupe is 8.7 inches shorter than a 3 Series coupe and a bit narrower as well. Though its front engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration is pretty unpopular in this size category because of its lack of space efficiency, BMW reckons its layout has unique appeal to people who care more about driving than carrying passengers. As such, the 1 Series comes with the same engines as the 3 Series: a 3.0-liter, 230-horsepower straight-6 for the 128i and a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six good for 300 hp in the 135i.

Paying between $29,000 and $38,000 for a small coupe may seem shocking, but it's important to remember that this is a car without any real apples-to-apples competitors. Compared to this finely tuned sport coupe/convertible, potential rivals are either too big (Infiniti G37), have front-wheel drive (VW Eos), are too mechanically different (Mazda RX-8), are more an unrefined muscle car (Ford Mustang GT and even Shelby GT500) or don't offer the same high-quality interior (all of the above). The 135i can even hold its own against more expensive cars like the Porsche Cayman or BMW's own Z4 Coupe, meaning that as a pseudo sports car, the 1 Series can actually be seen as a value buy with a pinch of practicality and under-the-radar performance.

Therefore, the 2008 BMW 1 Series is a car like no other that may have a limited audience, considering its size and price. But for that money, it's hard to think of a car that brings as much performance, handling and refinement in a package that's still fairly user-friendly -- except for maybe all those BMWs of yore.

2008 BMW 1 Series models

The 2008 BMW 1 Series is available as a compact coupe and soft-top convertible. Both come in 128i and 135i trim levels. Standard equipment on the 128i includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a sunroof (coupe), cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 10-speaker stereo with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The 128i convertible adds a power-operated soft top and an upgraded climate control system.

The 135i trim level comes with a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, xenon adaptive headlights and automatic climate control. To make the 128i similar, there's that model's Sport Package, which features different 17-inch wheels, performance tires, the 135i's sport suspension and sport seats. The 135i Sport Package includes the sport seats and an M sport steering wheel. The Premium Package adds auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, upgraded interior trim, mood lighting, BMW Assist, Bluetooth, leather upholstery and power front seats with driver memory. Popular stand-alone options include active steering, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system with iDrive controller, rear parking assist, HD radio, an iPod interface, satellite radio and a premium audio system. Heated front seats are also available by themselves or in a Cold Weather Package.

The 1 Series convertible's options list includes the Moonlight Black soft top, which includes shiny metallic fibers that produce a metallic silver appearance in sun- and moonlight. The convertible's optional leather upholstery also features BMW's exclusive sun-reflective pigments, which the company claims can lower the seat surface temperature by up to 20 degrees.

2008 Highlights

The 1 Series is BMW's all-new entry-level car available in coupe and convertible body styles.

Performance & mpg

All 1 Series send their power to the rear wheels. The 128i is powered by a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 230 hp and 200 pound-feet of torque. The 135i features a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the standard transmission, while a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional. Expect 0-60-mph times in the low 6s for the 128i and in the low 5s for the 135i. Fuel economy estimates are 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for the 128i coupe and 17/25 mpg for the 135i coupe. Opting for the convertible and/or an automatic transmission decreases fuel economy only by a mpg or two.

Safety

The 2008 BMW 1 Series comes standard with antilock disc brakes (with brake drying and standby feature), traction and stability control and start-off assist for manual-equipped cars. Front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on the coupe, while the convertible features front seat side airbags that extend higher to protect the occupants' heads. The convertible also features pop-up rollover hoops.

Driving

Whether in coupe or convertible guise, the 2008 1 Series is a pure BMW, feeling just as confident and adept at carving a serpentine strip of pavement as its larger siblings. Body roll is minimal, and overall grip on models fitted with the sport package is superb. This isn't a mini M3, however, as BMW engineers tuned the 1 to be comfortable enough for daily use and built in some understeer to prevent rear-wheel-drive neophytes from spinning their highly powerful first BMW off a cliff. As such, the 1 Series (135i especially) is the perfect "training Bimmer" for aspiring driving enthusiasts -- it's docile enough for just about anyone to drive, yet still has the excellent suspension tuning and telepathic steering to please even the most ardent track-ready pilots. And with 300 hp going to the rear wheels, it's still possible to hang the tail out for a little muscle car hooliganism.

Having said that, it's a safe bet that most owners will find the less-powerful 2008 BMW 128i plenty quick for their daily drive. With an estimated 0-60-mph time in the low 6-second range, the 128i is certainly no slouch, even if the 135i gets all the headlines. And with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, those headlines will be filled with exclamation marks. The car's twin-turbo straight-6 engine is incredibly flexible, delivering strong power in any situation with no discernible turbo lag. (The torque peak is maintained from 1,300 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm.) Yet whichever 1 Series you choose, you're assured of a fun time.

Read our 2008 BMW 135i Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test

Interior

The 1 Series features four seatbelts, but how many get used depends on how large the front passengers are and/or how forgiving potential rear passengers are. There's not much legroom in back -- especially the convertible -- but most small coupes suffer from less-than-welcoming rear quarters, so the 1 Series is certainly not damned in this regard. In fact, the 3 Series coupe doesn't really offer much more head- or legroom.

Despite being the cheapest BMW sold, the vehicle's interior materials are consistent with its larger and more lavish siblings. This little car may be expensive, but you pay for quality to match. The 1 Series convertible, for instance, offers optional sun-reflective leather seating. Also like those siblings, the overall design is a little bland, but certainly functional and unfettered. Ordering the navigation system also brings BMW's infamous iDrive control interface, which many people find exasperating to use.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2008 BMW 1 Series.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Great CPO bargin
SagamoreJack,08/18/2010
This is a 128i stripper with a manual. It has ample room for 2 people or 4 on a quick lunch run. Fold down back seat and reasonable trunk opening allows hauling good sized cargo. It has expected BMW handling, good acceleration and also is a smooth highway cruiser, except for run flat tire noise. The acceleration is OK, not thrilling. It makes a satisfying growl at WOT. Wide torque curve and slick transmission makes a great combination for moving thru traffic and for sporty curve work. Base interior has very cheap looking and feeling plastic. More Aveo than BMW. The large adjustment knob for manual seats is exactly where your foot goes when cruise control is on. Track day soon
I love the 135i
Jorge,12/03/2010
I've been driving the car for more than 22,000 miles now and I think I can have some comments: 1. I had the usual problems: The HPFP, the bluetooth firmware upgrade, all the tails lights failing and the safety recall for the seat belts. 2. The run flats awful, replaced them with Michellin A/S now and rides much better 3. Gas mileages is not great. The car has been problem free for the last 5,000 miles and I personally think there is NO perfect car, I was lucky that BMW Charlottesville has been ver professional and helped me all the time when I faced problems. However, if you love cars, this is the one! Test drive one and see for yourself.
Terrible service, plagued with problems
1porscheman,08/10/2010
Where do I start. Oh, I know. BMW does not care about their customers! I have owned to others in the past, m3 and a 2003 x5. My past experience lead me to purchase (lease) my 1 series. Love the performance, its a fun little car. But. My 1 has just under 14k on on it and its been in for everything under the sun. The fuel pump, the window reg. Motor, radio still doesn't work right, you name it, and the recalls. I could not drive my car at night for a month while I waited for recall replacement taillight, and let me add they provided a car for only a week. Terrible service. I have never (even at gm dealer) had service that was so rude, unprofessional, and unaccommodating.
Screamin'
rEddie2,08/27/2010
My wife always wanted a BMW Convertible. We assumed the lease on this one from the original owner. We absolutely love the performance of this car, but have been a little disappointed with the quality. The tail-light assemblies have been replaced 3 times, the third brake light lens just shattered while driving down the road. Those were replaced under warranty, but it is disappointing considering.

More about the 2008 BMW 1 Series
More About This Model

Some of us on staff remember the time when BMWs were austere in design and driven by real enthusiasts who appreciated a sprightly, agile and communicative car. Guys and gals who'd have the steering wheel in one hand while working the four-speed manual with the other. Today's Bimmers are still great cars, but some feel that the quintessential sport compact, the 3 Series, has gotten too big, too loaded up with gizmos and too likely to be driven by those who care more about the badge on the hood than the car's sporting capabilities. You know who we're talking about — Ultimate Driving Machine "drivers" who've got a Starbucks in one hand while working a Blackberry with the other.

That's why we can't help but feel a connection with the BMW 1 Series, including our test car, the top-of-the-line 2008 BMW 135i convertible. The "1" is a reincarnation of sorts, a compact, basic "three-box" design that harkens back to the original sport sedan, BMW's 2002, which was produced from the late 1960s to the mid-'70s. Of course, the new 1 Series and its twin-turbocharged 135i are light-years ahead of the old 2002 in terms of luxury features and acceleration, but the spirit of a relatively small, nimble and highly communicative road car remains.

Unfortunately, most will likely agree that the 1 Series just isn't pretty. The styling is downright strange — witness the "someone-just-poked-me-with-a-sharp-stick" face, the sagging, pregnant-cat-like lower character line and the mid-'90s Hyundai Elantra taillights. Every time we think we've fallen in love with the 1, these mirror-shattering styling cues snap us out of our reverie.

But a spirited blast along a mountain road is usually enough to make us forget about the 1's aesthetic issues. Like an old 2002tii, this Bimmer's beauty comes into sharp focus when you're behind the wheel.

Used 2008 BMW 1 Series Overview

The Used 2008 BMW 1 Series is offered in the following submodels: 1 Series Coupe, 1 Series Convertible. Available styles include 135i 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl Turbo 6M), 128i 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl 6M), 135i 2dr Convertible (3.0L 6cyl Turbo 6M), and 128i 2dr Convertible (3.0L 6cyl 6M).

What's a good price on a Used 2008 BMW 1 Series?

Price comparisons for Used 2008 BMW 1 Series trim styles:

  • The Used 2008 BMW 1 Series 135i is priced between $7,981 and$7,981 with odometer readings between 101826 and101826 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2008 BMW 1 Serieses are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2008 BMW 1 Series for sale near. There are currently 1 used and CPO 2008 1 Serieses listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $7,981 and mileage as low as 101826 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2008 BMW 1 Series.

Can't find a used 2008 BMW 1 Seriess you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used BMW 1 Series for sale - 12 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $19,788.

Find a used BMW for sale - 4 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $19,501.

Find a used certified pre-owned BMW 1 Series for sale - 3 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $14,193.

Find a used certified pre-owned BMW for sale - 10 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $11,195.

Should I lease or buy a 2008 BMW 1 Series?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out BMW lease specials
Check out BMW 1 Series lease specials