- Published: Wednesday, 30 September 2015 12:39
The face-lifted BMW M135i still packs a punch and is probably one of BMW’s most convincing, and affordable, driver’s cars available
SINGAPORE - There aren’t many cars which can hit 100km/h from a standing start in under five seconds, but this little hot-shot from BMW certainly can. Unsurprisingly, it’s still the fastest 1 Series you can buy.
The BMW M135i — a face-lifted version of the 2014 model it’s replacing, joins the ranks of the X5 M50d and X6 M50d. These three models from the MPA (M Performance Automobiles) range blur the lines between the regular mainstream Beemers and full-on ‘proper’ M cars.
The face-lift’s most notable updates are its newly designed frontal air intake which look bolder, new LED headlights and taillights, and bigger chrome exhaust tips. Despite the changes, it still remains a rather different looking machine when compared to German hot hatch competitors like the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R.
Though the 1 Series may not be the prettiest hot hatch to begin with, the M135i model does everything else well. It’s blisteringly quick, grips like its on rails (even when you push it very hard) and stops like you’ve hooked a rope around a tree. You can choose to drive it sensibly and in Eco-Pro mode or Comfort setting, or go wild and switch to Sport.
In the hot hatch arena, the M135i remains a unique proposition. Its 320bhp of power is sent entirely to the rear wheels, in contrast to most hot hatches which are either front or all-wheel drive.
That might be intimidating to some, but the car offers great levels of grip and poise, especially with all the traction and stability systems switched on. If you’re feeling naughty, it also has more than enough power to light up the rear wheels when you flick everything off.
In Sport mode you can immediately feel the car start to get a little twitchy, and keener to kick the tail out if you apply too much throttle too soon. If you’re brave (or daft), another press of the button brings it into Sport+ mode which turns down the traction control system a notch, the more to squeeze random laughs from those who really enjoy driving.Regardless of driving style, the M135i impresses in most driving situations. It is a realistic compromise over a two-seat sports car. It has an excellent drivetrain and driving dynamics, but it still can comfortably fit five people plus cargo with its 300-litre boot capacity (this goes up to 1,200-litres with the rear seats folded completely flat).The M135i is proof that not all sports cars are stripped-down two-seaters that can only hold minimal cargo. And while purists tend to see this as the price of admission, the M135i nonetheless comes with a decently-made cabin too.
On the inside, the car has matt blue stitching and aluminum dash trim detailing on the side panels and dash. The cloth ‘Hexagon’ seat trim pattern looks great and the usual (and/or unusual) thick steering wheel is wrapped in leather. It comes with automatic start/stop ignition, Park Distance Control (PDC), additional 12-volt power sockets and sport seats as standard.
The standard model retails at $213,800 - pay about $30K more and you’ll get electric seat adjustment with memory, dual-zone air conditioning, sports automatic transmission, BMW’s iDrive system with navigation and the ConnectedDrive suite of features, and adaptive M suspension, all of which our test car had.
In summary, the M135i isn’t a car that shouts “look at me”, instead it keeps it rather low key with 18-inch alloy wheels with blue brake calipers, and the famous three-stripe (metallic blue, light blue and red) trademark. Under all that, and the the M135i has everything the carmaker has earned its reputation for — including the inline six-cylinder engine, rear wheel drive and great performance — wrapped up in a hot hatch.
BMW M135i (5-door)
ENGINE 2,979cc, in-line 6, turbocharged
MAX POWER 320bhp at 5,800rpm
MAX TORQUE 450Nm at 1,300-4,500rpm
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic
TOP SPEED 250km/h
0-100KM/H 4.8 seconds
FUEL EFFICIENCY 8.0L/100km
PRICE $240,800 with COE