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Car reviews - BMW - 1 Series - Convertible range

Launch Story

BMW logo19 May 2008

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

IN THE same way the 1 Series Coupe returned BMW to its compact two-door roots, its soft-topped stablemate, the 1 Series Convertible, is claimed to represent BMW’s first compact premium convertible since the ’02 Series of more than 30 years ago.

Launched last week ahead of its simultaneous Australian release alongside the 125i and 135i Coupe this week, BMW says the open-top version of its smallest model – the only rear-wheel drive model in its class – draws its inspiration from the ’02 Series convertible.

Pricing for the three-variant 1 Series Convertible range was announced on the eve of its Australian debut in Melbourne in late February, with the 120i Convertible’s 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine lowering the drop-top BMW’s entry price to $52,900 in six-speed manual guise – $1500 less than the 125i Coupe, the cheapest of two six-cylinder 1 Series Coupe variants.

That is $3000 more than Audi’s 118kW entry-level A3 1.8 TFSI Cabriolet auto – pricing for which was announced on the eve of the BMW launch, despite being three months away from Australia – while a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with manual-shift function adds a further $2600 across the 1 Convertible range.

At $49,900 for the 1.8 TFSI S-tronic and $54,900 for the 2.0 TFSI manual, the all-new A3 cabrio is expected to be the most direct rival for BMW’s newest model. So much so that BMW points out buyers must pay $1300 extra for a fully-automatic roof folding function like the 120i Convertible’s. The 1 Series Convertible also comes with Boston sun-reflective leather, which is claimed to lower their surface temperature by up to 20 degrees on a hot day.

A 1.6-litre version of the A3 cab later this year will further encroach on the price territory of Australia’s top-selling small prestige convertible, sister company Volkswagen’s Eos coupe-convertible, which shares its basis with the new A3 soft-top and is priced from $47,990 (TDI) and $49,990 (TSFI).

The A3’s semi-automatic roof takes a class-leading nine seconds to open or close, while the fully automatic 1 Series roof takes more than double that (22 seconds) but can be operated at speeds of up to 40km/h – a feat matched only by Holden’s Astra TwinTop 2.2 ($45,490). The topless A3 offers the same 260 litres of luggage space as the 1 Series Convertible, but the BMW’s boot shrinks to 205 litres when its roof is stowed.

The 1 Series Convertible is forecast to notch up between 700 and 800 sales in the remainder of 2008 – compared to 400-500 examples of the 1 Series Coupe, which comes with just two engines. BMW already holds 150 orders and the base 120i should be the most popular variant.

Of course, that is well short of the 1700-odd 1 Series hatches expected to be sold in the whole of 2008, and about half the number of Eos and Astra convertibles sold last year.

BMW says a high proportion will be “conquest” sales to young people, females and non-premium buyers in the market for drop-tops as diverse as Renault’s Megane CC ($44,490), Ford’s Focus Coupe Convertible ($45,490), Peugeot’s 307 CC (from $47,990), Saab’s 9-3 Convertible (from $65,500), Volvo’s C70 Convertible (from $69,950) and even Nissan’s 350Z Roadster (from $73,990).

Sales of BMW’s own Mini Cooper Cabrio ($37,500-$51,100 manual), two-seater Z4 roadster (from $78,200) and 3 Series Convertible (from $94,900), launched here in March last year, could even be affected.

But the German maker say the latter’s increase in size and (price, due partly to) its folding hard-top, have made room for a new, more compact four-seater soft-top convertible – one with a unique-in-class rear-wheel drive layout, near-50/50 weight distribution and a flat rear deck that’s straight from BMW’s convertible design book.

Excluding the X1 mini-SUV that has now been officially confirmed for production, the convertible completes the four-bodystyle 1 Series range (which, ironically, was first previewed itself by a compact roofless concept car), which was first seen here in five-door hatch guise in October 2004.

As the fourth model to appear from BMW’s two-year-old Leipzig plant in Germany (following the 3 Series sedan, 1 Series Coupe and 1 Series sedan not sold here), the 1 Series Convertible is claimed to be as torsionally rigid as the two-door coupe upon which it is based, but the legacy of body reinforcements in its floorpan, A-pillars and bulkhead is at least an extra 100kg of kerb weight.

The 120i manual weighs in at 1430kg (auto 1460kg), has a drag coefficient of 0.33Cd, fuel capacity of 53 litres and turning circle of 10.7 metres. It sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 9.2 seconds (auto: 10 seconds), has a top speed of 214km/h (auto: 212km/h) returns ADR81/01 fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km (auto: 8.2L/100km) and emits 194g/km of CO2.

Standard 120i Convertible safety equipment include twin front airbags and twin front-side (thorax) seat-mounted airbags, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), brake assist (BA), cornering brake control (CBC), dynamic stability control (DSC), dynamic traction control (DTC), front seatbelts with pretensioners and load-limiters, four height-adjustable head restraints, tyre pressure monitoring and integrated pop-up rear rollover hoops (the A3 cabrio’s are fixed).

Apart from leather upholstery, standard 1 Series Convertible features also includes “256” start-spoke 17x7.0-inch alloy wheels with 205/50-section run-flat tyres, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, LED tail-lights, sports front seats with height adjustment, a front armrest, “Comfort entry” folding front seats, a multi-function leather (and height/reach-adjustable) steering wheel and automatic air-conditioning with “Convertible mode”, which is claimed to be the most powerful ventilation system in its class and can fully replace cabin air three times in a minute.

At base level there is also standard cup-holders, cruise control, trip computer, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, power windows/mirrors, a stop/start button, rear parking sensors, wind deflector, “BMW Professional” AM/FM/CD player with AUX-In connection and USB/audio interface, oil level indicator, a 12-volt boot outlet, front seatback nets, luggage floor straps, front footwell and reading lights, titanium-look interior highlights, illuminated vanity mirrors and Bluetooth phone preparation.

The 125i auto costs $55,500 – $600 more than Audi’s upcoming 147kW A3 2.0 TFSI manual.

Powered by the same detuned 160kW/270Nm 3.0-litre straight six as the 125i Coupe(as opposed to a 2.5-litre straight six, as in the 325i sedan), the 125i Convertible weighs 80kg more than the 120i cabrio and has a less slippery 0.34Cd drag coefficient thanks to wider rear wheels (17x7.5-inch, with 225/45-section rubber). It also consumes an extra litre of fuel per 100km (9.1L/100km auto and manual) and emits 217g/km of CO2.

But it sprints to 100km/h 2.5 seconds quicker in 6.9 seconds (auto: 7.5) and has a significantly higher top speed of 237km/h (auto: 236km/h).

The 125i Convertible adds extended DSC functions like the “pull-away assistant” hill holder and brake drying and readiness, “Chrome Line” exterior details, “262” star-spoke alloys, chrome-plated “BMW” door sills, high-gloss black interior trim, front seat heating (a $685 option for 120i customers) and a visible matt-chromed twin exhaust outlet.

The mid-range 125i costs $10,500 more than the 120i at $63,400, while the flagship 135i, powered by BMW’s lauded 225kW/400Nm 3.0-litre direct-injection twin-turbo petrol six, costs $78,400 (auto: $81,200) – $7000 more than the identically-engined 135i Coupe.

Not unexpectedly, the PULP-fuelled 135i Convertible is almost as quick Despite a kerb weight of 1600kg (auto: 1610kg), BMW quotes 0-100km/h acceleration of 5.6 seconds (auto: 5.7) and a 250km/h top speed for both transmissions. Both versions also return 9.8L/100km fuel consumption, while CO2 emissions are at least 233g/km.

The extra $15,000 over the 125i also scores 135i Convertible buyers 18-inch “264” star-spoke alloys with 215/40 (front) and 245/35-section (rear) run-flat tyres, M Sports suspension ($800 on 120i and 125i) and an M Aerodynamic package comprising chrome kidney grille, side sills, more aggressive bumpers (with no foglights) and black-chromed exhaust outlets.

The 135i also gets bigger vented brake discs (338x26mm front, 324x24mm rear) gripped by six-piston front and two-piston rear callipers, plus bi-Xenon headlights with washers ($1820 extra for 120i/125i buyers), and powered front seats with lumbar adjustment and driver’s memory.

Buyers of the 135i Convertible can choose between the basic Titanium interior look, the 125i’s “piano” black or Cashmere silver, Walnut light wood or Poplar grain grey wood interior trims, while an Aluminium glacier silver highlights package can be had as part of an M Sport Package - $2800 for the 120i, $2300 for the 125i and $1100 for the 135i.

The acoustically-designed, 1260g/m2 soft-top (which is said to be almost as thick as a steel roof) can be had in either beige, black or anthracite silver colours, in addition to nine metallic exterior paint colours and three non-metallics, for a total of 12.

Other options include metallic paint ($1600), front parking sensors ($675), adaptive headlights with turning light ($860), “comfort access” remote control ($1250), the BMW Professional navigation system ($4200) and Bluetooth Business phone preparation ($500).

BMW’s TeleAssist feature, introduced in 2006, comes standard on cars fitted with the latter two options, and includes (free for the first year’s subscription) functions like: emergency call with automatic vehicle location, transmission of the car’s position and important vehicle data to BMW Group Roadside Assistance, the ability to send navigation destinations (and phone numbers) to the car via PC instead of entering them in the car, and call centre information on restaurants, hotels, etc sent directly to the car’s navigation system.

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