When the BMW 1-series was debuted in the US as a 2008 model, comparisons were immediately made to the iconic BMW 2002. We were skeptical of this little coupe trying to cash in on the legacy of classic BMW models, but as we got behind the wheel of this BMW Mighty Mouse, we quickly realized it stuck to a successful sports car formula. This equation references classic BMW performance and yet moves the marque forward. When you get behind the wheel of the 2012 BMW 128i it’s like hearing your favorite Eagles song, it takes you back to a simpler time. This time capsule also teaches a new generation what a sports car can be.

The micro-sized sports car that is the BMW 128i has proved very popular since its introduction for the 2008 model year. The 128i is a new take on the BMW philosophy of excellent handling and superb engineering. Whereas many models in the line are now turbocharged, the 128i stubbornly sticks to the naturally aspirated inline 6. In addition to this, BMW "roots album" presents the full package for a driver that wants a car with two distinct personalities: a) a cheap and "chuckable" sports car and b) a pleasant everyday driver. These personalities always meet in the middle and never force the driver to pick which he wants.

More details on the BMW 128i after the jump.

  • Driven: 2012 BMW 128i
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Inline- 6
  • Transmission:
    6 speed Automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    230 @ 6500
  • MPG(Cty):
  • MPG(Hwy):
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection
  • Displacement:
    3.0 Liter L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    149 mph
  • Layout:
  • Price:
    $41, 025
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


Driven: 2012 BMW 128i Exterior
- image 411461

On first examination, we were somewhat confused about the shape of the 128i. Initially it seemed like the 1-series was a 3 series that had been rear ended. As we stared at it, we gathered appreciation for its short wheelbase and long hood.This classic shape calls back to such automotive Mona Lisas like the 2800CS or the 2002. In addition to this shape derived from heritage, the 128i also exudes a subtle aggressive nature due to its low stance and high door line. This feeling continues as you walk towards the trunk and see a small trunk lid that drops a hint on the speed this car can attain. More hints of this speed exist as you see two exhaust pipes that poke out of the rear end as well as in the 17 inch wheels and the 4 wheel disc brakes (11.8 in discs front and back.)

Overall, we love the restrained but aggressive shape of the 2012 BMW 128i. The somewhat simple shape reminds us of the classics yet does not seek to cash in on their legacy and forges a new path for the sport compact.


Driven: 2012 BMW 128i Interior
- image 411460

As soon as you settle into the comfortable six way power seats, you are presented with a interior that is very somber. The particular model we tested was equipped with walnut trim accented by black leather interior that was a bit dull, but its simplicity is charming. When you hit the road, it is clear that the engineers from Munich have methodically made sure that every essential button is easily within reach. What surprised me the most was the ease in which my 6’5 frame fit in the driver seat. When I was planted there, I didn’t feel like I had to bend my neck at a 35 degree angle to see well ...anything. The problem was in such a small car (104.7 in wheelbase) my seat position made this car a three seater. Have no fear, cargo room is here, because the back seats can fold forward to give you extra cargo room.

This car was so quiet it could moonlight as a recording studio.

Entertaining ourselves as we cruised was refreshingly simple since the model we tested had navigation and XM radio options ($2,100 and $350 in options). This system was an absolute breeze to use and even when you push the speakers to the limit, it is up to the task. Helping the atmosphere out was the fact that even as we drove on Los Angeles roads (that are world renowned for their likeness to the lunar surface), there was little road noise and the suspension was pleasantly firm. Even at highway speeds the cabin noise never comes close to unbearable. This car was so quiet it could moonlight as a recording studio.

We absolutely love this very simple, if not serious, interior. It is like your favorite restaurant; you have to dress up and enter a mature environment, but once you sit down you realize that you’re still with your friends and nothing has changed.


Driven: 2012 BMW 128i Drivetrain
- image 411462
As keeping with the BMW tradition, this car rises like a phoenix in the corners and has so much grip in the bends that it feels like the tires ooze molasses.

The performance is where the 128i really struts it stuff. Although based on the frame of the 3-Series, our model weighed a staggering 143 pounds less than a 328i sedan. In addition to this, BMW has extensively used aluminum components like the front suspension and subframe. This lack of girth helped the car feel like driving mercury, it felt fluid yet in control at all times. This fluidity is based on a near perfect weight distribution (51.3%/48.7% rear). As keeping with the BMW tradition, this car rises like a phoenix in the corners and has so much grip in the bends that it feels like the tires ooze molasses. In addition, the brakes (11.8 inches) are perfectly suited to this car and easily stop it without a tantrum. Our car came equipped with the M-sport package( $2,450) which made it even more fun. The fun did not stop with the exceptional handling; wait until you touch the right pedal.

The engine that powers this little scamp is a 3.0 liter inline six that produces 230 horsepower and 200 ft/lbs of torque. This may sound somewhat anemic, but in a 3,285 pound car, it’s like taping a bottle rocket to a hot wheels car. The model we tested came with a six speed Steptronic automatic transmission which handled this engine perfectly. This engine/transmission combination propelled us to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. The real fun occurs when you put the transmission into Sport mode. put your foot to the floor, and hear this engine roar all the way to its 7000 rpm redline.

We think that the performance of the 2012 BMW 128i’s performance is so understated, which adds to the brilliance of the car as a whole. Rather than making much ado about nothing, this car exudes a quiet sophisticated confidence.


Driven: 2012 BMW 128i Exterior
- image 411467

When we stepped out of the 2012 BMW 128i, we were genuinely sad that our time in this Bavarian Mighty Mouse was at an end. Even though this car is the size of a shopping car, it maintains the intrinsic BMW qualities of exceptional engineering and sports car handling. The pot got sweeter because even though our test car came out to a whopping $41,025 (which is more expensive than a comparably equipped Mercedes Benz C300 - $39,935), it definitely offers the complete package. Unlike the Benz, the 2012 BMW 128i serves up the ’greatest hits’ of BMW and combines an understated exterior and mind boggling performance. We thoroughly enjoyed the 2012 BMW 128i, whose serious performance and practicality make this Mighty Mouse a welcome addition to the TopSpeed garage.

  • Leave it
    • Hefty Price
    • Limited Use Backseats
Thomas Nelson
About the author
What do you think?
Show Comments


  (1) posted on 09.5.2012

What is BMW thinking by not having a limited slip differential in this car. It is not even an option.

A rear wheel drive coupe without LSD? Not so "ultimate" for the ultimate driving machine eh?

  (647) posted on 09.9.2011

Just for a record, they are not yet releasing any i-series vehicle. The car looks like a 3-series. It’s a great thing that this vehicle offers a better fuel economy.

  (474) posted on 09.9.2011

Yeah, I either, I cannot figure out on where do BMW based the platform of this car. I think its kind of gas guzzler. And it seems that its aerodynamic need modification.

  (1) posted on 08.27.2011


Your VW GTI is NOT faster than the BMW 128i.

Car and Driver recorded:

0-60mph - 5.8 sec
1/4mile - 14.5@98mph

And your GTI handles better? LOL okay sure buddy.

  (4) posted on 08.10.2011

I test drove one of these last summer when looking for a new car. I was not too impressed. Not at this price at least. I honestly felt it was about $5k too expensive.
I drove a 328 Coupe and 128 back to back and the 328 is a much more complete car. The interior of the 128 felt pretty cheap for BMW standards.

In the end, I ended up with a GTI which is faster than the 128, handles better, and has a near-equal quality interior to the 128. And for $5k less...

Now, a 135...

  (595) posted on 08.10.2011

Aside from the fact that is not a gas guzzler, I also like the interior of the car, especially the steering wheel. It looks comfortable to handle. O the other hand, I think the pricing is the big thing here. Compare to Mercedes, which is their competition, it is more expensive.

  (580) posted on 08.10.2011

Wow! It’s good to know that it offers a fantastic handling. I like the decent styling of the car and its awesome figure performance. Well, let’s just see if this car will be lined up for future production.

  (412) posted on 08.10.2011

Is this vehicle based from the i-series? Well, the styling of the car is kind of impressive as well as its speed performance. I think it’s a great bonus that it offer a better gas mileage.

Car Finder: