BMW 1 Series convertible (2008-2014)
"The convertible BMW 1 Series is stylish and well made, while it handles as well as the rest of the range."
- Involving rear-wheel drive handling
- Good looks
- Low running costs
- Cramped rear seats
- High asking price
- Slow operating roof mechanism
A stylish, well-made four-seat convertible, the BMW 1 Series convertible offers almost every one of the coupe’s fantastic driving characteristics, with its rear-wheel drive set-up really filling a gap in the convertible market. Fitted with quite considerable extra chassis stiffeners, the BMW's smallest convertible is always comfortable, even when driving on roughly surfaced roads. It’s offered with a broad selection of marvellous 1 Series engines that have been tried and tested elsewhere in the range, including the very economical 120d diesel. Despite some shiny interior finishes, the interior is well made, but it does tend to feel a little dark with the roof up. The baby BMW 1 Series convertible comes in five specifications – the entry-level ES, SE, performance model M Sport, Sports Plus and Exclusive Edition.
This model has now been replaced. You can read our full review of the new BMW 2-Series Convertible here
MPG, running costs & CO2
If you want to keep running costs down, you should pick from the diesel engines on offer. Even so, BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technology means that the ever popular performance-focused 135i M Sport is capable of returning 32.8mpg in fuel economy and emits 200g/km CO2. We’d recommend the SE 120d diesel for the best balance of strong performance and lower running costs, returning 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 132g/km, so annual road tax is in band E, so won’t be very expensive. BMW also offer a 50,000-mile, all-inclusive service package for a few hundred pounds, which is very good value if anything does happen to go wrong.
Engines, drive & performance
This is a BMW – of course it’s great to drive. Plus, the 1 Series convertible loses very little compared to the coupe, only with the added bonus of top-down, wind-in-your-hair thrills. Unlike many other convertible cars, the 1 Series doesn’t suffer from any rattles or irritating body shake when driving on one of the UK’s many poorly surfaced roads, the car always managing to maintain great rigidity. The rear-wheel-drive set-up and standard manual gearbox are both enjoyable to use, whether you’re navigating along a winding country road or cruising along the motorway. It goes without saying that the 135i M Sport model is the most powerful in the range, with the best performance – it’s able to go from 0-62mph in only 5.6 seconds.
Interior & comfort
The ride in the 1 Series convertible is firm but rarely uncomfortable, striking a good balance between soaking up bumps and keeping body roll to a minimum to keep the handling sporty. However, the top-of-the-range performance-focused M Sport models are more uncomfortable because of their more aggressive sports suspension set-ups and larger alloy wheels. Every engine on offer is quiet, and you get less wind noise when the roof is down than you do in the Audi A3 Cabriolet. There is a wind deflector that clips in place, but because it goes over the rear seats, it turns the car into a two-seater – so you have to choose between extra friends or less wind buffeting. Also, it only comes as an option, which is unfortunate because all bar the entry-level Audi A3 Cabriolets get a wind deflector provided as standard.
Practicality & boot space
As the BMW with the smallest dimensions plus a folding roof, the 1 Series convertible was never going to be the most practical car on the market. But it isn’t entirely a waste of space, with the biggest problem only really being that the back seats are too cramped and tight. There’s only limited headroom when you have the top up, with taller passengers really have to slouch and ending up really rather uncomfortable. The back seat is really only suitable for (small) children. And, as in common in convertibles, the roof folds away (albeit neatly) into a 45-litre compartment in the boot, immediately knocking down the boot space to 260 litres, which is decidedly average, so take the quoted 370-litre figure with a pinch of salt. The roof also takes a fairly lengthy 22 seconds to fold away, but admittedly it can be operated at speeds of up to 31mph. Wind buffeting is kept to a minimum when the roof is down, though.
Reliability & safety
Customers expect a lot from a premium brand like BMW, and while high quality is a common trait of BMW’s cars, the manufacturer has underperformed in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. BMW itself only managed to place 15th in the manufacturers ranking, down a place from 2012, making it the lowest ranking premium car maker, with costs and ride quality letting it down. The latter is understandable for a company so committed to producing ultimate driving machines – and they come at a cost. The fixed-roof 1 Series entered the top 100 cars rankings at 54th, which is troubling as cars rarely go up the chart after their first appearance, which is when they’re newer and more novel. Again it was ride quality and this time lack of practicality. So what are the positives? Well, there are many, starting with the 1 Series feeling very strong for a convertible, with very little of the chassis wobble common to open-top cars. And in reality, reliability is rarely a problem with BMWs. The 1 Series convertible has yet to be put through the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, but as the old hatchback that this car is based on scored highly for adult safety we expect this will be just as good. Four airbags come fitted as standard, with roll hoops hidden behind the rear seats that pop out if the car's electronics detect that the car is going to roll over. You also get traction control, electronic stability control, a selection of braking aids and a system that cuts the fuel supply and unlocks the doors if a crash is detected.
Price, value for money & options
The 1 Series is priced higher than many of its rivals, including the Volkswagen Eos and Renault Megane C-C, but it offers class-leading road manners and a range of excellent fuel-efficient engines. Standard equipment is quite poor considering the asking price, but all models get air conditioning and a USB port as standard. Top-spec M Sport models are loaded with accessories, including a leather sports steering wheel, sports seats, large 17-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension.