Back in 2012, BMW’s newly created M Performance division launched the M135i. The first foray into the performance car market by the 1 Series, the high class hot hatch represented a kind of halfway house between mainstream models and BMW's halo M cars. However, with 316bhp, it wasn’t short on firepower.
The 2015 facelift of the BMW M135i gains all the changes made to lesser 1 Series models, plus a 6bhp boost in power and some added kit. That means the same headlights and LED taillights, updated interior and revised bumpers, as well as M135i-specific dual exhausts and 18-inch alloy wheels.
BMW doesn’t claim any specific chassis tweaks, and to all intents and purposes, the new M135i feels much the same to drive as its predecessor. That’s no bad thing though, with the free-revving straight-six engine all but eliminating turbo lag, feeling enormously eager in almost any gear, at almost any sp
Peak torque is delivered from just 1,300rpm, making it immensely fast in a straight line. The0-62mph sprint takes just 5.1 seconds – or 4.9 if you (like 80 per cent of 135i buyers) spec the excellent eight-speed ZF auto.
However, it’s the manual that makes most sense at this price point. Like all 1 Series models, the gearbox does feel slightly notchy, but at just over £31,000, the M135i remains one of BMW’s best kept secrets. It undercuts the near-£40k Audi RS3 andMercedes A45 AMG by more than £6,000, and offers similar straight line speed to Porsche’s fabulous Cayman S. The VW Golf R will pose the biggest problem for BMW, though, offering four-wheel drive traction and similar power, for around £1,000 less.
It’s ever-so-slightly more economical, too. The Golf will average 39.8mpg, while the manual M135i can only return 35.3mpg. If you drive either of these cars as they’re intended, you shouldn’t expect to see more than 25 or 26mpg between fills, either.
That said, the kudos of rear-wheel drive will be enough to tempt many buyers. It’s got astounding levels of grip with all the traction and stability systems switched on, and more than enough power to light up the rear wheels when you flick everything off.
Throw the car into a bend, and it feels extremely nimble, while it’s perfectly comfy on the motorway. It’s worth noting that our test car came with the £515 adaptive dampers, which we’d thoroughly recommend opting for across the range.
As we reported last week, all BMWs now feature sat-nav as standard. DAB radio, leather and Bluetooth are also included on the M135i, as is the emergency e-Call system, which BMW rolled out last year.
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