One of the finest-handling four seat cabrios available, but not as much of a driver's car as the Coupe

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series

Measures up on comfort and space, but the BMW 1 Series is still boring to drive

  • First Drive

    BMW 120d xDrive

    Adaptive four-wheel drive adds winter safety and dynamic interest to the BMW 1-series’ solid base at a potentially attractive premium
  • First Drive

    BMW 125i M Sport

    Slip through the six-speed manual gearbox and progress feels swift and incredibly smooth

What is it?

It’s a new, compact, four-seat cabriolet from BMW – the first premium compact cabrio, BMW claims – and anyone who likes driving will find the it very easy to like. That’s because the 1-series Convertible is a much more enjoyable driver’s car than a VW Eos or a Volvo C70, and it’s likely to be a better steer than the new Audi A3 Cabrio too. And that’s about the size of the fledgling compact four-seater cabrio class, neatly enough.

What’s it like?

The range begins with the £22,325 118i ES and ends with the £32,405 135i M Sport. All models should be available from the car’s April UK on sale date; our test car was a £26,195, 215bhp 125i SE.

This middle-sitting option uses BMW’s 3.0-litre straight six, which dominates the 125i’s driving experience like only a BMW six can. Instantaneous throttle response, creamy linearity of power delivery and an unburstable mid-range are its hallmarks, and it makes this little open-top feel both desirable and expensive.

The car’s cloth hood goes from folded to unfurled in 22sec. In place it allows a little more wind rustle into the cabin at motorway speeds than a folding metal roof would, and it’s a minor hindrance to over-shoulder visibility, but it’s light and easy to package, leaving the 1-series with a pretty profile with the roof down, and a respectable 305-litre boot.

Interior accommodation is pretty good. There’s enough legroom in the cabin for medium sized adults to sit line astern, although shoulder room in the back is limited.

And driving the 125i is, without question, an enjoyable exercise. This car weighs over 1600kg, so the engine’s 215bhp never feels all-that-generous, but it does have a pleasingly neutral handling balance, strong levels of grip, and feels much more agile and entertaining than most small four-seater cabrios.

It’s a good car then; the problem is that it just isn’t the driver’s car that the 1-series Coupe is. Couldn’t be: Munich had to sacrifice body rigidity to make it, and so it isn’t as stiff, doesn’t turn in to corners as crisply, doesn’t ride bumps as imperviously – just isn’t as quick or as nimble.

Should I buy one?

If you think that it’s worth sacrificing a few of the fundamentals of a fine driver’s car for one in which you can sunbathe, go ahead; you’ll be buying one of the finest-handling four-seat cabrios on the market at any price.

But, if you like driving, you’ll also be buying the wrong 1-series. Just as Porsche did with its 911 and Nissan with its 350Z, BMW has taken one of its greatest driver’s cars and, for us, only really reduced its core appeal for the sake of a little more sun.

If you do buy one, just don’t test drive the Coupe beforehand: that way you won’t know what you’re missing.

Join the debate

Comments
11

27 January 2008

I suppose the argument is whether you have the BMW 125 Con or the A3 con.

27 January 2008

My answer would be neither.... buy a second hand 6 series or 3 series convertible.

27 January 2008

[quote napple]My answer would be neither.... buy a second hand 6 series or 3 series convertible.[/quote]

Nah - they are all a bit nasty.

Don't want to look like a footballers wife.

I like the new Volvo C70 though - nice piece of design and surely that's what one purchases such a car for is it not?

27 January 2008

I love driving so would never buy a car that is compromised in this way, especially for the sake of style. If I want to get open top motoring I'll go out on my motorbike which is also ludicrously fast - and luckily I'm young fit and healthy so don't look ridiculous in my leather romper suit unlike most bikers.

Don't get me wrong, I would buy an open top car - I'm thinking Caterham, Elise, Atom etc. However these cars are status symbols and style icons bought by recruitment consultants and estate agents. If you want open top driving thrills buy a car that was designed to be open top, or a bike.

27 January 2008

Interesting how discussions about the merits of a car so often get side-tracked about its "so called" image and the type of people that might drive it (usually in a derogatory sense).

As for the 1-series convertible, its back end apart, it looks alright and going by Matt Saunders's report, is a pretty good steer for a convertible. But I've always thought going for convertibles in the UK is rather pointless, given the usual weather.

Roll on Global Warming.

28 January 2008

[quote oaffie]

I love driving so would never buy a car that is compromised in this way, especially for the sake of style.  If I want to get open top motoring I'll go out on my motorbike which is also ludicrously fast - and luckily I'm young fit and healthy so don't look ridiculous in my leather romper suit unlike most bikers.

Don't get me wrong, I would buy an open top car - I'm thinking Caterham, Elise, Atom etc.  However these cars are status symbols and style icons bought by recruitment consultants and estate agents.  If you want open top driving thrills buy a car that was designed to be open top, or a bike.

[/quote] You're being ridiculous! How exactly is this car compromised? Surely an Atom is far more compromised - yes its a great fast car, but using your argument its the Atom I would trade in for a motorbike if I was desperate to go 'ludicrously fast'.

6 October 2011

While I don't necessarily disagree with previous posts, I think the Autocar advice that the 125i SE is one to avoid is misleading when in their review they go on to extol the creamy engine, etc.

They should have made it clearer that in their view the Cabriolet is the one to avoid, not specifically the 125ti SE - I am sure the 120d or 123d cabrios are similarly compromised.

I think this just underlines the point generally that you either buy a cabrio for the image (so save some money and get a 118d) or a coupe for the driving experience, in which case the 135i would be fine.

Never could understand the M3 or previous-gen Z4M convertibles - probably most were autos or SMG anyway, so an auto 3.0-litre version would probably have suited most owners better.

6 October 2011

[quote toptidy]

Never could understand the M3 or previous-gen Z4M convertibles - probably most were autos or SMG anyway, so an auto 3.0-litre version would probably have suited most owners better.

[/quote] I'm not sure what you mean by previous generation Z4M, there's only been one as far as I know, but the Coupé and Roadster were only ever available as 6 speed manual. Roadsters by definition have a roof that goes down; beyond that, I guess, it's down to personal preference.

6 October 2011

[quote oaffie] If I want to get open top motoring I'll go out on my motorbike which is also ludicrously fast - and luckily I'm young fit and healthy so don't look ridiculous in my leather romper suit unlike most bikers.[/quote]

But you make yourself look ridiculous by your comments instead.

6 October 2011

[quote Overdrive] I've always thought going for convertibles in the UK is rather pointless, given the usual weather.[/quote]The UK buys more drop tops than sunny countries because we value the odd sunny day unlike Southern Europeans who tend to hide from the sun.

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