BMW M140i (2015-2019) review
The M140i isn’t your usual hot hatch – it packs a big 3.0-litre engine that powers the rear wheels making it somewhat rare. It’s a shame that the rear seats are cramped and a lot of features cost extra.
What's not so good
BMW M140i (2015-2019): what would you like to read next?
If you’re looking for a hot hatch that’s posh and luxurious but also great fun on a twisty road, the BMW M140i is a good shout, especially if you’re a keen driver. It doesn’t quite have the extreme looks of something like a Mercedes-AMG A35 but it compensates with a truly engaging driving experience.
You won’t immediately notice its performance credentials from behind the steering wheel, mind. While everything feels sturdy and well built, you certainly don’t get the same high-tech futuristic cabin that you’d get in a Mercedes-AMG A35. Nonetheless, the buttons in the BMW are easy to locate and use and the whole dashboard has a slight tilt towards the driver making it feel a bit like you’re sitting in a sports coupe.
Where the BMW M140i wins many points is it’s iDrive infotainment system that’s very easy to use thanks to a rotary-dial controller positioned near the gear lever so you rarely have to take your eyes off the road to operate its functions. Not only that but M140i models get BMW sat-nav as standard that’s really fast at picking a route for you or finding a detour.
Unfortunately, the M140i also gets rear seats that are quite cramped compared which alternative. If you go for a three-door model you have to squeeze yourself behind the front seats in order to get in, and while the five-door model resolves this, what remains is the fairly limited legroom and dark and dingy feeling you get due to the small rear and side windows.
In terms of luggage space, the M140i is actually great thanks to a boot capacity that’s ahead of the Mercedes-AMG A35 and a lot of other alternatives. The rear seats also split-fold as standard so your M140i can cope even with a visit to IKEA.
The next M140i will be four-wheel drive so this might be your last chance to own a rear-driven performance hatchback.
A big reason why the BMW M140i has such a lovable character is that it has a comparatively huge engine for its class – a 3.0-litre straight six petrol. As if the capacity wasn’t enough, it’s also turbocharged to produce 340hp – a fair bit more than the 306hp Mercedes-AMG A35. 0-62mph takes 4.6 seconds in the M140i, which is slightly quicker than the AMG A35, although that’s only in perfect conditions – if it’s even the tiniest bit greasy, the Mercedes will probably be quicker thanks to its superior four-wheel-drive grip.
The other side of the coin is that the BMW M140i is hugely more enjoyable to drive in a series of fast corners when you compare it to just about any alternative. It’s playful without feeling scary and the linear power delivery of the big engine means that loss of grip is gradual and totally controllable. But, again, when it’s wet outside, you won’t be so quick and the four-wheel drive Mercedes-AMG A35 will inspire more confidence.
Out on the motorway, you never forget that the M140i is a sporty car – it’s a lot stiffer over bumps compared with a regular 1 Series even with the adaptive dampers switched to their most relaxed setting but it’s never downright uncomfortable so you’re unlikely to be put off.
While the BMW M140i gets plenty of desirable equipment as standard such as the brilliant iDrive system, the fanciest driving aids are in the options list alongside other desirable kit such as a reversing camera. In fact, just a small detour through the options ends up adding thousands to your price so make sure to check out our BMW M140i deals to see how much you could save after you’ve specced it to your taste.
Space in the BMW M140i’s back seats is just about usable – especially if you go for a five-door model – but your middle passenger will be left with barely any space for their feet
The BMW M140i has just as big a boot as the standard 1 Series, so when you’re tired of cycling you can fold the back seats down and fling your bike in the back
There’s just as much space in the BMW M140i’s front seats as in the standard 1 Series, so you won’t have any trouble getting comfortable if you’re very tall. The low-slung sports seats make you feel a smidge more cocooned than in the standard car, too, and they hold you more securely in place in tight corners.
There’s plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel to help you find a comfortable driving position, but adjustable lumbar support – to help stave off backache on long drives – costs extra across the BMW M140i range.
Go for a sportier-looking three-door BMW 140i and you’ll find there’s enough space for adults to climb in the back once you’ve moved the front seats out of the way. It’s reasonably easy to lift in a bulky child seat, too, but a five-door model will be a much better bet if you regularly carry passengers in the back. Its extra doors make it much easier to strap in a child and you won’t have to climb out just to let your friends jump in the back seats.
Both three- and five-door versions have just enough space for a six-foot adult to sit behind an equally tall driver, but three-door cars feel a little more claustrophobic in the back as a result of their smaller side windows. There isn’t quite enough space to comfortably carry three adults side-by-side, either, and the tall lump in the rear floor means there’s very little space left over for you middle passenger’s feet.
The BMW M140i comes with roomy front door bins and a fairly generous glovebox. There are two cupholders in the centre console and a reasonable amount of space under the centre armrest to tuck a few valuables safely out of sight.
Go for a five-door model and you get two small storage bins in each of the rear doors, but all BMW M140i models come with a folding rear armrest with two built-in cupholders.
The BMW M140i comes with a 360-litre boot that’s slightly larger than in an Audi S3 Sportback, but not quite as big as the Honda Civic Type R’s surprisingly practical load bay. The boot opening is reasonably wide, but there’s a very tall lip that makes it quite tricky to lift in heavy luggage. It’s large enough to carry a few small suitcases or a large baby buggy and a decent number of soft bags, though.
All models come with two-way split folding rear seats so you can carry one back-seat passenger and some long luggage at once. You can upgrade to a three-way (40:20:40) split if you need to regularly carry long items and two passengers in the back, however.
With all the back seats folded flat, the BMW M140i’s boot grows to 1,200 litres. That’s slightly ahead of the Audi S3 Sportback and significantly more generous than the rather pokey loadbay you get in a Ford Focus RS. It’s roomy enough to carry a bike with both its wheels attached.
There’s no annoying step behind the back seats so it’s easy to slide in some heavy boxes, too. You get a netted cubby on one side of the boot and a few tethering points and shopping hooks to stop smaller items rolling around.
The BMW M140i blends the small size of a 1 Series with the performance of a 3 Series, but it isn’t quite as much fun to drive as some less restrained hot-hatches
The BMW M140i’s six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel-drive layout make it a rather old-school hot hatch compared to some high-tech four-wheel-drive alternatives
The BMW M140i comes with a turbocharged 3.0-litre engine that produces 340hp. This six-cylinder engine is smooth, responsive and will blast this compact hot-hatch from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds – whether it’s fitted with a manual or automatic gearbox. That’s only 0.2 seconds slower than the four-wheel drive Audi S3.
On the subject of gearboxes, you get a six-speed manual as standard but can upgrade to an eight-speed automatic if you’d prefer not to change gears yourself. The manual isn’t particularly smooth, but the automatic is responsive, changes gear smoothly and, as a result, makes a much more rewarding choice. It’s certainly easier to live with if you find yourself regularly stuck in heavy traffic.
In terms of fuel economy, models fitted with a manual gearbox return a claimed 36.2mpg while automatic versions edge slightly ahead with 38.2mpg. In normal driving conditions, however, you can expect both to manage a figure in the high twenties.
The BMW M140i is faster than the likes of the Honda Civic Type R, but it doesn’t feel quite as nimble when you’re carving through a series of tight, twisty corners. The steering doesn’t give you a particularly good idea of what the front wheels are up to, either, and the standard suspension is a little too firm for you to make the most of the turbocharged six-cylinder engine’s near-instant shove.
Pay extra for the adaptive dampers, and the BMW M140i is both more sporty on a country lane and more comfortable on a long motorway journey. Wind and tyre noise are both reasonably well muted, too, and you won’t hear any annoying drones from the exhaust when you’re cruising along at 70mph. Unfortunately, adaptive cruise control that’ll brake for you is only standard in top-spec Shadow Edition cars.
The BMW M140i’s no more difficult to drive around town than the standard 1 Series. The light steering – that makes it feel slightly less sporty than alternatives on a back-road blast – comes into its own when you need to manoeuvre through heavy traffic.
Sadly, rear visibility is far from the BMW M140i’s strong suit – squeezing into a tight parking space may be a slightly nerve-wracking experience as a result. Rubbing salt into the wound is the fact that a reversing camera costs extra – even in top-spec Shadow Edition models.
It’s a similar story when it comes to some key safety equipment. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection is only available as part of the optional Driving Assistant pack. Even without this, the BMW 1 Series – on which the M140i is based – earned a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP – but this was back in 2012. It’s worth considering that the testing procedure has been made significantly stricter since then.
The BMW M140i’s interior looks fairly smart and everything’s easy to use, but it can’t hold a candle to the high-tech screen-fest you get in the latest Mercedes AMG A35