While the BMW M135i looks understated, it’s a brute of a car. Making 316bhp from its 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine, it eclipses the 276bhp Vauxhall Astra VXR and the 296bhp four-wheel-drive Audi S3 for horsepower.
And unlike those cars, the BMW is rear-wheel drive, so it should be the default choice for keen drivers who prefer to do without the safety net of four-wheel drive. But it’s no maniac – regardless of how hard you bury the throttle, the M135i remains composed, while the superb optional eight-speed automatic gearbox (£1,600) manages the power perfectly.
Unlike the raucous 1 Series M Coupe, this hatchback is very well suited to everyday driving. Just flick past the ECO-PRO and Comfort driving modes to Sport and you immediately notice the steering weight up and the throttle response sharpen.
Press the button once more and you’ll find Sport+, which partly disengages the traction control and further improves the hatchback’s driving dynamics.
Although devastatingly quick, the acceleration always feels manageable – it’s you driving the car, not the other way around. The 0-62mph sprint takes 4.9 seconds, which is only a tenth of a second slower than a Porsche 911.
The 135i looks the part, too. As with all M cars, its styling is discreet, not ostentatious. It gets a set of sculpted bumpers, side skirts with big creases and gaping air vents at the front. Ferric grey mirrors and chromed exhaust pipes complete the look.
At £29,995, the M135i costs more than most current hot hatches. But when you consider it’s £10,000 cheaper than the limited-run, 335bhp 1M Coupe, it looks like remarkable value.