The 2013 BMW 135is is everything right with an upscale small car. It’s powerful, classically designed, keenly appointed and it drives with a healthy dose of attitude.
The little BMW series is all about performance, and it’s in your face about it. Among several options are two turbocharged engines that produce 300 and 320 horsepower, respectively, both with six-cylinder engines and six-speed manual transmissions standard.
The top-line 135is coupe, with the 320 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission, was my weekly driver. I avoided getting in trouble.
What’s not to like? Like other BMWs, the 135is is ideal for the open road and it’s race-car fast, with 0-60 mph performance in about five seconds. While not quite warp speed, the little BMW shoots through traffic. It bolts along on freeway ramps and during lane changes with authority. Like all BMWs, the steering is stiff but in complete control.
I like how the BMW 135is corners and I like the easy-to-use controls and dials. Shifting is smooth and precise. There are no blind spots. And there a few little touches, including backlit door handles and small eye shades on the headlights, that shows BMW remains at the top of its game.
BMW is up to industry standard with its technology features, including iPod input, Bluetooth, etc., and its signature workmanship gets strong marks for the stability and traction control systems.
The BMW 1 Series is also at he top of the segment charts in many other areas, but it’s not perfect. Priced approaching $45,000, shouldn’t BMW use less hard plastic on the console? What about a back-up camera or side mirror avoidance detectors?
The BMW 1 Series is technically a four-seater, but its coupe status further inhibits backseat passengers who don’t have a lot of room anyway.
Depending upon engine size and choice of coupe or convertible, manual or an optional seven-speed, dual-clutch automated transmission, the BMW 1 Series is rated at 18 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the freeway. The exception is the 135is at 25 mpg on the highways. The car has a big, powerful engine, of course, but gas mileage has never been BMW’s strong suit.
The BMW 1 Series has a good share of competition, from the Hyundai Genesis Coupe to Nissan 370Z to the Audi TT — all with plenty to offer. But the BMW is the only rear-wheel drive offering in the bunch from Europe. That’s likely to mean something to niche buyers.
What Others Say:
“The 1 Series is a simple, straightforward little package that takes the driving experience seriously.” — Kelley Blue Book.
“If a tiny rear seat and lack of a power retractable convertible top don’t bother you, the 1-Series might be a more compelling choice over the larger, costlier 3-Series. BMW’s entry-level car delivers most of the 3-Series excellent driving dynamics and upscale cabin appointments at prices that undercut the brand’s volume leader by up to $10,000.”
“On the street, the 1-Series is impressive, handling with balance and poise, a noticeable but not excessive amount of body roll, high overall grip, and ready acceleration. — CarConnection.com.
“The BMW 1-Series likely isn’t the most practical car you’ll shop for, either, but it does offer up advantages over more traditional sports cars. It’s a great daily driver, for one, something that can’t always be said of a two-seat, stiffly sprung sport coupe or roadster.” — MotorAuthority.com
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words
“The BMW 1 is not a bargain, but the German automaker has always been a prime automotive example of getting what you pay for. In this instance, a fine car.”
BMW 135is, 2013: Facts & Figures
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6, 320 horsepower.
Gas Mileage: EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg (manual coupe).
Article Last Updated: July 10, 2013.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.