BMW 1-Series

We take to the road in the new drop-top version of the BMW 1-Series.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

This Convertible is a glamorous new addition to the BMW 1-Series line-up. There’s plenty of clever technology crammed into its compact frame, too – including the German brand’s energy-saving Efficient Dynamics system. In punchy 125i guise, the car is capable of returning nearly 35mpg. Opt for the120d diesel, and you can expect economy figures of up to 55.4mpg. Either way, that makes the BMW a tempting prospect – although with mid-range prices coming in at around £26,000, so it should!

Hats off to BMW. The drop-top version of the 1-Series has been a long time coming, as it’s now nearly four years since the five-door hatchback model was launched. But the newcomer has been well worth the wait – just take a look at the design!

As well as a fabric roof, the car gets a punchy engine with a strong blend of economy and performance. The lid folds flat in 22 seconds to reveal a striking profile, which only serves to accentuate the 1-Series’s already strong shoulder line. Flared wheel-arches, a rear spoiler and sporty side sills complete the dramatic silhouette. With the top down, occupants are shielded from the wind, while the clever climate control system automatically adjusts the cabin temperature according to conditions outside the car – so the driver and passengers never feel the cold.

Our tests also showed the roof mechanism is completely idiot-proof, and can even be operated at speeds of up to 30mph. Once up, it doesn’t block out the wind noise entirely, but sound insulation is pretty good.

One thing that’s virtually impossible to ignore, however, is the size. Although this represents a considerable part of the car’s appeal, it’s also the cause of some of its main problems. While the interior is well bolted together, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a bit cramped.

Soft-touch plastics and high-gloss black trim on the dashboard create a premium feel in the cabin. But the handbrake is irritatingly close to the central armrest, and the rear view mirror sits so near to the headlining that there’s barely enough room to make any adjustments.

Light is restricted with the hood up, as the wide C-pillar and steeply raked rear screen both limit visibility.

Still, the seats are well bolstered, particularly when covered in optional leather. This luxury doesn’t exactly come cheap, adding around £1,000 to the list price. Yet for those buyers who plan to spend a lot of time in the sun, that might be a price worth paying – the leather is treated with sun-reflective technology to prevent thigh burn in the summer.

Room in the back is restricted, particularly at shoulder height, where the space narrows, making the rear bench a more practical choice for children. Families would struggle with the limited boot, though – it has a capacity of 260 litres with the roof down, and rises to 305 litres when it’s raised.

As with the saloon on which it is based, the new convertible handles well and, despite a hint of understeer, tackles tight corners with ease. The ride is smooth and feels firm only when the road surface really deteriorates. The steering is well weighted, if a little light at high speeds.

Sadly, the purposeful 215bhp 125i petrol variant we drove doesn’t have BMW’s automatic stop/start technology, as this is available only on four-cylinder models. However, the whole range benefits from other features of the energy-saving Efficient Dynamics system. And when fitted with the slick six-speed manual box, this car should return an impressive 34.9mpg.

When the 1-Series Convertible hits showrooms in April, only two petrol models will be available: this 125Ci and a 168bhp 120Ci. Two more petrol options will follow a few weeks later, though, in the shape of an entry-level 141bhp 118i costing £22,325 and a range-topping 302bhp 135i M Sport, at £32,405. These will sit alongside a turbocharged 120d diesel.

The 125Ci we drove carries a hefty price of £26,195 – and so it’s clear that the 1-Series Convertible is a truly attractive option only for the seriously committed drop-top fan.

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