Would you pay $500 extra per door to upgrade from a BMW 1-Series to a BMW 3-Series? Some would say that choice is obvious. In Canada, it’s a possibility only because of an engine option not available in U.S.-bound 3-Series sedans. BMW’s 2.5L inline-six generates 200 horsepower and 180 lb-ft. More importantly, it creates a $6,500-lower MSRP than if the base 3-Series were a 328i as it is south of the border.

However, just because BMW Canada is willing to slot the 2.5L straight-six in to the 3-Series doesn’t mean the 1-Series will be similarly kitted out. Indeed, as in America, the basic 1-Series is the 128i with 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, a fairly wicked powerplant capable of chucking the 128i up the road nicely. As a result of losing out on the 123i moniker, there’s no $6,500 price drop for the 1-Series and its base price cuddles up nicely with the 323i at $33,900. Yes, that’s just $1,000 less than the least expensive 3-Series.
In semi-traditional style, let’s start a Top 5 – a Double Top 5 – to assist in coming to a conclusion: BMW 128i or BMW 323i, which will it be? An examination of pros and cons begins below.
#5 – The 128i is the quicker car. 0-60mph comes up in less than six seconds.
#4 – Youthful exuberance always leads to a coupe.
#3 – Even with more power, the 128i is more fuel efficient than the 323i, but only by a nose in city driving. Each car, with a manual tranny, is rated at 6.9L/100km on the highway.
#2 – Doesn’t everybody want the better-looking car? The 128i is more purposeful and more together, although bettering the current 3-Series sedan hasn’t been a challenge for anyone.
#1 – It’s better to buy the least expensive house on the nicest street in the neighbourhood than the nicest home on the worst street in the neighbourhood.
#5 – Everybody, even self-proclaimed BMW haters, has always had a place deep down in their heart that wanted, wants, and will want a BMW 3-Series.
#4 – A basic BMW 323i without sports suspension or supersized wheels is inevitably going to be a smoother-riding machine than a BMW 128i.
#3 – You have friends? Give them their own doors to open.
#2 – Quit acting like there’s something wrong with 200 horsepower. The largest-engined non-M 3-Series in 2000 was a 328i with a sufficient 193 horsepower.
#1 – Though slightly more expensive than the BMW 128i, the 323i is less expensive than the Audi A4, Infiniti G37, and Mercedes-Benz C250.
#5 – You could’ve had a 3-Series for an extra $20/month or so.
#4 – The 128i should be a lot quicker. But at 3,232 pounds, each of the 230 horses is pushing around some serious heft for such a small car.
#3 – Not the prettiest headlights, are they? No, they’re not.
#2 – You’ll miss every one of the lost 4.5 cubic feet of passenger space.
#1 – BMW’s 323i is just one way to get more car for your money at this price level.
#5 – Obvious much? Everybody and their dog already has a BMW 3-Series.
#4 – Everybody and their dog already has one of the least attractive cars in the category, a BMW 3-Series.
#3 – 16-inch wheels in a 2010 BMW 3-Series? Haha. Teehee.
#2 – Unless it’s de-badged, everyone will know your BMW 323i has less umph than a ho-hum V6 midsize sedan.
#1 – Three-two-three makes it sound like you’re driving a mid-90s Mazda compact.
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  1. If they'd just give those cars names like BMW Zora and BMW Xena or something I wouldn't get so confused reading the article

  2. Worst part is the size of the 1-Series. It is too heavy and too big on the otuside to be a small BMW but not big enough inside to be a 3-Series.

  3. The 128i is a great car and if you can afford a 135i then you got a M3 at the price of a 3 series 😉

  4. I know I'm a bit late to the party, but my 128i is a very solid ride, and the 135i is a rocketship (or M1, if you will.)

  5. well actually the 128 and the 135 both use the same 3.0L inline six and the 135 is not that much faster it just costs more. The answer is to buy a used 330 and be out spending only half of what a new one costs.

  6. My mom got a 128, my girlfriend has a 323, both are nice comfortable cars,
    and cost less per month than my father in law s 2010 4 cyl Accord.
    After driving a BMW, you never go back to Japanese cars.
    Myself I have a 335, it s the most satisfying car I had so far.

  7. @Anonymous (10-10-08 5:03 PM)
    You are completely wrong. The 128 is normally aspirated while the 135i has a twin turbo and is much faster especially with JB4 you get another 80HP to the wheels while keeping the car completely stock, that is about 400HP to the flywheel.. You do not know what you are talking about at all.

  8. Guys,

    Just one quick ''Daddy'' advice. Both cars are great but if you have 1-2 kids dont even consider getting the 128 over the 323…I learned the hard way.

  9. Just picked up a 323i. First BMW. After three weeks I will never go back to buying anything domestic or Japanese. The car is awesome for what I need. Needed a car with some room for the family. With two hundred horses the car has plenty of umph for driving in Toronto, great on the highway, and with the Luxury package included has just enough of the frills you need. Best of all … it makes you want to drive … handling is great … just enough road feel … nice tight steering basically point and the car moves.

    Also, … the 323 looks way better than the 1 series. That's not a knock on the 1 series which is also a good looking car.

  10. I have been using the 323 as a loaner vehicle for about a week now so I will throw in my 2 cents. Overall I think it is a "nice" car, styling is pretty bland but so are most of the 3 series. Interior is pretty bare-bones but it is functional and practical. Power wise…eesh…I was not impressed. Now, granted, my regular car is a 335i with upgraded performance package so we're talking about 330HP and torque compared to 200 HP on the 323 but still, I wasn't impressed. I have driven cars with similar HP as the 323 that definitely "felt" quicker, the acceleration factor just isn't there.

    As I said it is a "nice" car but I have been counting down the hours until I can get my 335 back!

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