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BMW 1 Series convertible 2008 review

The BMW 1 Series drop-top will arrive in Australia in June.

There's a guaranteed way of attracting attention in the land of oranges. Drop the top on BMW's new 1 Series convertible and head out on the highway ... Spaniards (at least those around Valencia) love it. Trucks honking on the motorway, truck drivers offering a friendly wave and motorcyclists giving the universal thumbs-up sign. It's all seems a natural reaction to the latest in BMW's ever-increasing stable.

It might have been winter in Europe, but with the sun making an appearance on cue at the international launch for the 1 Series convertible, it was the perfect time to go topless for some real open-air driving.

The little drop-top will arrive in Australia in June along with the other “emotional” model of the line-up, the coupe. Prices are expected to range from $60,000 to $85,000. As the first premium convertible for the compact segment, the 1 Series will be available in five different versions in Europe, including a diesel. But Australia will get just two — the 125i and 135i.

Unfortunately, at the launch, the spanking 135i was not made available. However, it was only a momentary disappointment as on the fabulous winding roads of Spain, the 125i proved to be every bit impressive as its looks suggested.

Powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six, the 125i is so much more than just a leisurely outing. It's a fun and engaging drive, delivering 160kW and 270Nm of torque. It feels best around 4000rpm to 4500rpm and it takes you just an instant to fall in love with the soundtrack that comes with the powertrain. The burble gets your heart racing every time, especially when amplified with the roof down. Work it around the corners and everything feels like it falls into place, moving in time to the melodic tune.

The steering is direct, with good feedback, handling feels impressive (easily absorbing the few bumps found on the Spanish roads) and you don't have to worry about intruding rattles, wind or road noises — not even from the run-flat tyres.

This leaves your ears free to anticipate the popping note. There was, however, some slight understeer noticeable on slippery roads.

Fitted to a six-speed manual and with the added benefit of rear-wheel-drive, the 125i is a car for a keen driver looking for some enthusiastic motoring. A six-speed auto is also available at an extra cost. While the 125i is probably a bit like eating vanilla ice cream, there is a chocolate-flavoured 1 Series available — the ultimate, otherwise known as the 135i and featuring the same engine as the 335i.

With an exciting straight-six twin-turbo complete with 225kW and 400Nm from as low as 1300rpm, BMW 1 series product manager Falko Radomski says it would be very hard to improve on this for the line-up, ruling out an M version anytime soon. The 1 Series is aimed at a younger demographic with an active lifestyle, but BMW believes there is interest among older buyers for the convertible, especially among fans of its famous 1960s and '70s 2002 model.

While transformed into a modern convertible with its own 1 Series family traits, the convertible has the eye-catching and sporty looks of today, acting as a spiritual successor to the classic 2002. There's the powerful low shoulder line, muscular wheel arches, a long bonnet and an upright A-pillar, all contributing to the striking appearance. The front section of the convertible has the same characteristics as the coupe, but beyond that, changes have been made.

Jump inside and its been designed with a boat deck in mind as the shoulder line runs all the way around the car, surrounding the entire passenger compartment. The interior possesses the expected BMW DNA with a quality setting, although the dash does seem simple and better storage spaces wouldn't go astray.

There's more room than you'd expect for a convertible, although the rear would be a squashy setting for a tall passenger when the roof is on. And you must choose your back seat companion wisely as it does get cosy.

Opting for a soft-top rather than the increasingly popular folding hardtops means customers are recognised as convertible drivers even with the roof on — a look-at-me trait many potential owners are after.

It also means BMW was able to keep the weight increase to just 120kg over the coupe.

Retracting the roof takes 22 seconds, a process that can be started while travelling up to 40km/h, with the ability to accelerate up to 50km/h. This means it's almost a Clark Kent switch as you can go about your normal city driving. When slipping the roof away, boot space is reduced from 305 litres to 260 litres — enough room, BMW trumpets, to fit “two snowboards, four pairs of skis, two golf bags or one large and one small suitcase.”

The airconditioning adjusts to convertible mode — and the heated seats are a real blessing in any wintry conditions.


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Range and Specs

135i 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,810 – 23,870 2008 BMW 1 Series 2008 135i Pricing and Specs
125i 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $11,999 – 18,000 2008 BMW 1 Series 2008 125i Pricing and Specs
135i Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,000 – 24,868 2008 BMW 1 Series 2008 135i Sport Pricing and Specs
120d 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $8,950 – 8,983 2008 BMW 1 Series 2008 120d Pricing and Specs
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Lowest price, based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months

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