BMW 128i Coupe

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Description: NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I can't wait to drive the 1-series M coupe after streaking around town in this 2012 BMW 128i. The tight chassis, weighted, responsive steering and athletic demeanor all

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I can't wait to drive the 1-series M coupe after streaking around town in this 2012 BMW 128i. The tight chassis, weighted, responsive steering and athletic demeanor all are good signs for the performance version.

Still, this entry model is plenty stout. I love the six-speed manual, which takes what could be a potentially boring little car and enlivens its spirit and that of the driver. The shifting is smooth, easy and eager. It makes the pilot want to nail the throws and feel the interaction. I didn't really drive this thing hard, but it feels like it needs some hard cornering and intense maneuvers to really be at its best.

The straight six is reasonably powerful for this application, and merging on to the freeway is easy and brisk if the driver wants to move with verve. The brakes return a solid bite, and the body is quite composed. I like the looks and subtle curves evident in the doors. It's a sharp execution for the segment.

My only quibble is the price. I realize this is still a luxury-level BMW, but it seemed a little Spartan and the price a touch steep with a sticker of more than $36,000. Small cars can be premium and luxurious--no argument there. It just seems like this car commands its sticker because it has three certain letters on the badge. I feel as if I've been in Hyundais and Fords that cost less and have more extras.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: The 1-series is certainly a fun and entertaining package. The car is Exhibit A in how a small coupe should handle and behave. The six-cylinder is strong and willing, meshed with a terrific six-speed gearbox with nice short throws.

Greg sort of hit nail on the head in that the interior does have a rather Spartan feel, harking back to German cars from 20 or 30 years ago. Obviously it's more updated than that, but manual seats in a $36,000 car? I think not. No satellite radio in a $36,000 car? Really?

No question this is a fun, more than competent car that engages the driver during every mile driven. But for this price, you can find less expensive cars that deliver just as much fun in a more comfortable package.

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Both Greg and Roger hit on the fundamental problem with the BMW 1-series: It's too expensive. Knowing it had that reputation, I deliberately didn't check the sticker or our as-tested price before I spent an evening in the car, since I wanted to evaluate based on its driving merits. And there are a lot of them.

The 128i drives like an E36 3-series, and that's a high compliment in my book. The engine makes all the right sounds, and the shifter feels directly connected to the torquey powertrain as God intended. Steering is well weighted and direct, and the brakes are BMW-good. The 128i offers an engaging, visceral driving experience that's been engineered out of most new cars, including those built by BMW.

The problem is, the 128i is also equipped like an E36 3-series. The infotainment system is mediocre at best, the interior plastics are chintzy in some places and there's little to break up the design elements. Note that I don't have a problem with a fun-to-drive car that's lightly equipped. I do have a problem with said car costing $37,000.

ART DIRECTOR TARA KLEIN: I had a blast spending my commute in this 2012 BMW 128i coupe. When I wasn't crawling in accident-riddled rush-hour traffic, I took advantage of the chance to really push this puppy.

This car is a pure pleasure to pilot. Shifting this BMW was a breeze and loads of fun. I felt right in tune with this car, feeling instant responses to my actions with respect to the gearbox, steering and brakes. The impeccable engineering allowed me to focus on the genuine enjoyment of driving, and that is a difficult find these days.

BMW did an excellent job carrying the sporty, strong nature of the 1-series performance to the exterior design. The mildly curved body lines and updated lighting give the 1-series a sleek, athletic yet upscale look. This car is full of energy even while it's parked.

My one gripe concerns the interior. Other than the fact that I expected a better material mixture and composition, it was simply not that intuitive. I found myself having to search for some controls because of hit-and-miss labeling and/or odd placement.

All in all, I was very impressed with the character that this little car churns out. I do agree that a little more needs to be done to reach the sticker-price level, but a few additional features and a touch of interior refinement would easily get it there.

Options: Black Boston leather ($1,450); sport package including 17-inch style 370 with mixed-performance tires, sport seats, sport suspension and shadowline exterior trim ($1,300); titanium silver metallic exterior paint ($550); comfort access keyless entry ($500); heated front seats ($500)

Photogallery BMW 128i Coupe:

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