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 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.
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
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.