1 Series M in the Market

The 1 Series M has few direct competitors. With its 2+2 seating and $47,000 starting price, the Audi TTS is in the same ballpark, but its performance trails the 1M's, and you can't get a manual transmission. The new 2012 Audi TT RS comes exclusively with a manual transmission and all-wheel drive, and it boasts zero-to-60 times closer to 4 seconds, but it costs almost $10,000 more.

All the same, the 1M seems a car for BMW fans, but I wouldn't buy it without first testing the 135i and M3. If you're OK with the small size, the 135i will deliver nearly as much fun off a racetrack, and the M3 is more versatile. It's also thirstier, rated at 14/20 mpg with a manual transmission versus 19/26 mpg for the 1M and 20/28 mpg for the 135i. Whatever you do, act now, because the 1M will be sold only as a 2011 model.

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