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.