Wow, what a great little convertible. I was amazed by how quiet this BMW 128i was with the top down at speeds up to 80 mph. It handled the wind noise much better than the new BMW Z4 roadster we recently sampled. Although the Z4 featured BMW’s twin-turbo I-6, I had a lot more fun in the 128i.
The cloth top is simple and almost feels old fashioned these days, much like the normally aspirated engine. There are plenty of faster convertibles on the market (including the BMW 135i), but this 128i feels like the perfect mix of practicality, speed, and price. Yes, it’s expensive, but that awesome BMW-ness is worth the cash for those who like to drive. If you’re just looking to cruise with the top down, there are cheaper alternatives.
This 128i rode surprisingly well for a car equipped with BMW’s notorious sport package. Our Four Seasons BMW 135i coupe, equipped with sport package, felt much less forgiving over the same roads. Still, your best bet is to skip the sport package unless you live in an area with perfectly smooth roads.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Unlike Phil, I can’t say that I enjoyed the 128i more than the Z4, but that might just be because I didn’t get to spend very much time in the 1-series. If I had, it’d be a tough call, because both droptop Bimmers are heaps of fun. The 128i doesn’t have the Z4’s (or the 135i’s) twin-turbo straight six, but this normally aspirated engine still sounds fantastic and begs you to keep the revs high. The six-speed stick encourages you to play, too. 1-series gearboxes are notably better than other BMW boxes I’ve shifted (although I’ve not driven a 3-series recently); the movement is still nice and slick, but the annoying slop is gone in these cars.
The 1-series isn’t the most masculine-looking automobile, but it looks fairly tough in this bright blue hue. In fact, if I were going to buy a 1-series, I think I’d spec it just like this car, but with one additional option – heated seats – and possibly without the sport package. Otherwise, this bare-bones 128i is very good. No nav, no iDrive, no bling – just a sweet-handling, nicely balanced, droptop that fits you like a glove.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I had the 128i convertible over the weekend and made the mistake of trying to squeeze four adults into it. Thankfully the weather was nice enough to open the top; otherwise my rear passengers would’ve had to dip their head forward to keep from hitting the roof. I don’t know why these small cars have rear seats. In order to fit four passengers comfortably, the people up front have to give up so much leg room that nobody is happy.
The 128i convertible is perfect for a two-person cruise though. Drop the top, sit back and go through the gears. The BMW inline six sounds great and with 230 hp has plenty of oomph. The six-speed manual transmission is silky smooth; and the ride is nice until you hit a rough patch of road, then it rattles your fillings in part thanks to the sport package.
As tested, our 128i convertible came in at $38,125, which is still a little pricy for my taste and not the biggest bang for the buck.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
2009 BMW 128i Convertible
Base price (with destination): $34,625
Price as tested: $38,125
Montego blue metallic paint $550
Sport package $1300
-17″ wheels, sport seats, sport suspension
Gray poplar wood trim $500
IPod and USB adapter $400
BMW assist $750
18 / 28 / 21 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 3.0L DOHC in-line six-cylinder
Horsepower: 230 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 200 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm
Weight: 3494 lb
17 x 7-in front; 17 x 7.5 in rear; aluminum wheels
205/50R17 front; 225/45R17 rear tires