|Few cars have been as avidly awaited as BMW’s new 1-series of cars. Until this year, BMW offered only the Z3 and Z4 two-seaters for those who wanted a BMW-branded smaller car. The venerable BMW 3-series has a much larger footprint than the new series, and so lovers of nimble, gas-sipping sports cars have been hopping from foot to foot in anticipation.
So I was thrilled to get a chance to spend a week with the flagship BMW 128i convertible This is the car that is BMW’s response to high fuel prices and the trend towards smaller cars in America.
Yet, after a week in the car, I’m conflicted about it. Here’s the story – it’s a great, fun car. The 128i handles like a dream small car. It’s nimble, yet solid. It loves to turn and it’s easy to park. And it’s got plenty of power, thanks to BMW’s legendary DOHC inline 6-cylinder engine. The convertible top works like a charm, and the car generates very little road noise with the top up or down. Inside, it’s all BMW comfort and modern conveniences. What’s not to like?
My gripe is that many great BMW cars of bygone decades made great use of lower-displacement 4-cylinder engines. Cars like the legendary 2002 and 318i had powerful and punchy 4-cylinder engines. Had BMW chosen to use one of the 4-bangers it puts into its 1-series cars offered for sale in the rest of the world, I think it would be almost as fast and just as much fun to drive, but lighter and easier at the fuel pump.