Everyone knew the BMW 1M Coupe was going to be good, but many now rate it as one of the best cars ever to emerge from BMWs M Division.
That gives the M135i – hottest among the current 1-Series line and proudly displaying the M badge on its concave rump – quite a lot to live up to.
Even more so as you cast your eye across its bodywork, for the M135i is already hobbled by being a 1-Series, to some eyes.
We think its a grower, squinty headlamps and all. BMWs flame surfacing approach improves when dressed up with a body kit, and Alpine White paint suits the cars sharp creases. Crouching down on 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels it might not have the wide-arched, bulldog aggression of the 1M, but it certainly looks the part.
The driver-focused interior is inviting, despite heavy use of dark plastics. Leather sports seats and chunky steering wheel contribute to an ideal driving position, as comfortable as it is sporting. And while it still can’t square up to Audi on sheer quality, it still feels like an unerringly solid environment, ready to handle whatever road you choose to throw at it.
While a six-speed manual gearbox is standard, our test car featured BMWs optional eight-speed Sport automatic. What it lacks in traditional involvement it more than makes up for in speed, ease of use and control at your fingertips.
Most of the time youll be glad of the auto ‘box – the ferocity with which the 320 bhp M135i leaves the line and punches through the air leaves little time to think about gearchanges. Stand on the throttle from rest and youll pass 62 mph in little over 5 seconds.
The six-cylinder growl is a welcome auditory contribution in a world of four-pots and diesels, and the paddle-shift is satisfying to use. In fact, unless you consider yourself a traditionalist, wed really encourage the auto option – its as sophisticated as it is fast.
The M135i handles well too. Shown a twisting ribbon of bumpy tarmac it remains composed, even when pushing hard. The speed-sensitive steering is accurate and lets you dart from apex to apex with a mere flick of the wrist. An uprated set of brakes also inspires confidence, should you find yourself approaching corners a little too quickly.
Price as tested: 31,410 (approx.)
Combined mpg: 35.3
CO2: 188 g/km
While not as rapid – or rabid – as the 1M, the M135i is an intriguing sports hatch, blessed with license-losing performance and a welcome dash of practicality.
Some may wish for a more traditional silhouette – a coupe version of the 1 Series is rumoured in some quarters, so that might be worth waiting for – but the M135i is still just about the most exciting car BMW makes right now.
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