BMW M135i review
The BMW M135i is the fastest and most powerful 1 Series money can buy
The BMW M135i is the fastest and most powerful 1 Series money can buy. With its rear wheel drive layout and well-sorted chassis the standard 1 Series is already a class leader when it comes to handling, but the M135i adds a stunning 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine, stiffer suspension and sportier styling. Available in three and five-door body styles with a choice of either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox; the 135i is more than £5,000 cheaper than its key rival the Mercedes A45 AMG.
Our choice: M135i 3dr manual
The BMW 1 Series has always stood out in the conservative family hatch sector and with its prominent kidney grille and large headlights the latest car is no different. With a wide stance on the road and flared wheelarches it’s already a sporty looking hatch. The 135i takes that a step further with its subtle body kit, although, at a glance it could easily be mistaken for a cheaper conventional 1 Series in M sport trim. Look harder though, and you’ll spot the 135i’s telltale twin-exit exhausts, blue brake callipers and grey mirrors. Inside, an excellent driving position, well laid out cabin and upmarket materials make the sporty BMW feel special, while standard equipment includes Bluetooth, leather seats and climate control.
With its amazing engine at the heart of its appeal, the 135i is a joy to drive. The silky-smooth six-cylinder revs all the way to 7,000rpm and has a sweetly tuned exhaust note. It’s quick, too – 60mph arrives in just 5.0 seconds, but with 450Nm of torque at just 1,300rpm, it’s the in-gear response that’s really astonishing - especially with the closely stacked ratios of the eight-speed automatic. Choosing the auto adds nearly £1,500 to the price but with decent manual control, crisp shifts and steering wheel mounted paddles it’s nearly as good as the double-clutch equipped A45 AMG. Still, opt for a manual and you won’t be disappointed, as it offers a weighty but enjoyable shift action. The 135i’s other big selling point is its beautifully balanced rear-wheel drive chassis. Accurate and fast steering is matched to agile handling and lots of grip. Body control isn’t quite as good as the A45 AMG, but with a decent ride, the BMW’s performance and handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement.
The BMW 1 Series has the maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating, with 91 per cent for adult occupant protection. All versions get six airbags, seatbelt reminders and ESP fitted as standard, while options like lane departure warning and a radar-assisted braking system - which brakes the car at very low speed to avoid a collision - are impressive additions to the long list of safety kit. BMW models are generally very reliable – a few faults have been reported, while BMW’s M division is famed for its rigorous hi-speed testing of new models.
Despite its focus on performance and handling, the 135i is just as practical as any other 1 Series. The second -generation of BMW’s big selling hatch has a 30mm longer wheelbase. but even with its bigger dimensions, the 1 Series is still a fraction cramped in the rear compared to the VW Golf. Boot capacity has been increased by 30 litres to a total of 360 litres – that’s 19 litres up on the Mercedes A Class; although the 1,200-litre seats folded capacity is 43 litres smaller than the high-roofed Mercedes. Still, the 1 Series boot is a very handy shape and there's no shortage of cubbies around the cabin, either. The M135i comes with runflat tyres as standard.
Any hot hatch with a price tag around the £30k mark can seem a little expensive but when you consider it has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine and offers near supercar like performance, the M135i is a bit of a bargain - even more so when you take into account the fact that it’s over £5,000 cheaper than the A45 AMG. When it comes to running costs, decent residuals and fixed priced servicing are big plus points and despite higher emissions, the BMW’s lower price ensures company car drivers will have similar monthly tax bills to the cleaner Mercedes A45 AMG. Expect to be averaged around 26mpg, though.