BMW M140i

Small hatchback packs a big engine

8.3
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 9 reviews
  • Best engine in class
  • Only rear-wheel drive car in class
  • Future classic
  • Rear seats are a bit cramped
  • Boot space below par
  • You don't really care about the cons once you set off
 

£31,195 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

35 MPG

Review

The BMW M140i is the most powerful version of the 1 Series that has a fantastic engine and is the only rear-wheel drive car in its class. The Audi RS3 and Mercedes A45 AMG are similar to the BMW in terms of pace but are more expensive, while the Volkwagen Golf R is a bit cheaper but can’t quite match the premium feel of the sporty 1 Series.

The interior is similar to the one in the regular 1 Series and that means it’s robust, well thought out and everything is controlled by the latest version of BMW’s iDrive system. The sport seats provide excellent support and the boot is decent in size, too.

Driving the M140i is described as incredibly engaging and fun, especially when compared to the Audi S3 with is frequently called “lifeless”. The front grips well and the rear-wheel drive makes sure you have all the traction you need to get out of the corner as quickly as possible. The optional adaptive dampers are relaxing in Comfort mode, but the regular suspension should be good enough for most roads.

The straight-six powering the M140i is regarded as one of BMW’s best ever and the fact that it is used in one form or another in almost all of the company’s model range should be enough to tell you how confident BMW are in that engine. It delivers fantastic response and pulls from as low as 1300rpm while producing a silky smooth soundtrack. It’s the star of the show.

For a base price hovering around £30k, the M140i comes with some decent kit and has been given more aggressive bumpers, brake callipers that are painted blue and large alloy wheels in stylish gunmetal grey. Those little touches make it much more desirable for enthusiasts without making it too noticeable.

There are very few differences between the M140i cabin and the regular 1 Series one. You get high-quality materials, but some cheap plastics are still to be found. While it may be a huge improvement over the old 1 Series’s interior it still doesn’t quite match the one in the A45 AMG for  fit and finish. Instead, the M140i dashboard is slightly tilted towards the driver to showcase it’s focus on functionality rather than style.

Some reviewers disliked the regular 1 Series seats for being too small, but the M140i comes with body-hugging sport seats with electrically inflatable side bolsters for perfect support for any driver. Other sporty touches over the regular car include a liberal sprinkling of M badges, a shortened gear lever for the manual gearbox and a sports steering wheel.

BMW M140i passenger space

Similarly to the regular 1 Series, the M140i has good amounts of space for the driver and front passenger but is not so spacious for those sitting in the back. It still more spacious than an A-Class but less so than a Golf R.

Because the M140i is rear-wheel drive the transmission tunnel takes most of the legroom for the rear middle seat passenger.

BMW M140i boot space

The boot in the M140i is about as big as those in rivals and is in a usable shape as well. At 360-litres it is slightly less capacious than the one in the S3 and Golf R, but bigger than the 345-litre A-Class boot. With the rear seats folded you get a decent 1,200 litres.

Being the only performance hatchback with rear-wheel-drive means the M140i is great to drive. Because a good part of the drivetrain is in the back the little BMW is blessed with almost perfect weight distribution which gives that nice feeling of balance that all performance cars strive for. The front of the car, unencumbered by differentials, has huge reserves of grip and as a result the speed at which the M140i can corner is very impressive.

Rear grip is also very good and there’s an optional limited-slip sports differential that lets the M140i exit corners in eye-pleasing and police-teasing back end slides. For those of us who are not professional racing drivers, the regular open differential does the job just fine.

Compared to its closest rivals the Golf R and Audi S3, the M140i is huge fun to drive even though it might fall behind the four-wheel-drive competitors on a slippery road.

The 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine powering the M140i is probably the last big engine to power a compact performance hatchback and that’s a shame because it’s great. After a facelift in 2016, the M140i received 15hp and has the same power as the M240i – 340hp.

That amount of power, coupled with rear wheel traction is enough for a 0-62mph sprint in just 4.8 seconds. If you opt for the highly praised eight-speed automatic the time drops to 4.6 seconds. The manual gearbox has also been improved with the facelift and makes the driver feel connected to the car, but the auto is faster to shift and also effortless in town.

The impressive pace doesn’t come cheap and expect real world fuel economy of around 25mpg. BMW says it will average 36mpg (39mpg with the auto), but you’d have to be really, really careful. CO2 emissions of 179g/km mean a £230 yearly road tax bill.

Euro NCAP tested the regular 1 Series in 2011 and it scored the maximum five stars without much difficulty. It was commended on protecting child occupants, but received some criticism on pedestrian protection.

The latest stability and traction control systems along with bigger M Sport brakes come standard and as optional extras you can specify active cruise control, park assist, lane-keep assist and adaptive LED lights.

The M140i is the most expensive version of the 1 Series that you can buy and as a result, it comes with good levels of standard equipment. Bearing in mind that BMW usually keeps the best kit for the options list, the M140i gets sports suspension, 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust pipes, leather seats, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity as well as DAB digital radio.

Conclusion

While not the best in any particular discipline the M140i has a range of qualities that may sway you into buying one over the cheaper Golf R. It’s the only rear-wheel-drive car in its class and also the one with the biggest engine and in the eyes of enthusiasts those things matter more than boot capacity or how comfortable it’s on a motorway cruise. The VW also has a lower class brand image than the BMW that is surprisingly cheaper than the Audi and Mercedes rivals in the face of the RS3 and 45 AMG. The M140i, then, sounds like quite the bargain.