BMW 130i M Sport
Although it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
Here’s a rarity for Greatest Drives – a BMW that’s not an M car. In truth, the 130i is not far off. With a 3.0-litre engine and 261bhp on tap, it’s definitely got the performance credentials. Add an M Sport package, including 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and matching steering wheel, plus aggressive body mouldings, and it’s practically there.
It looks impressive from the outside, with a purposeful nose and long bonnet, but the cabin is a bit disappointing. While the quality is excellent, the layout isn’t all that pleasing or attractive. It is rather plain, and a long way from what we’d consider sporting.
Press the start button and the naturally aspirated straight-six engine fires into life with a deep growl. On the move, though, it’s clear the 130i doesn’t like low speeds. A heavy clutch and gearbox, plus a sensitive throttle, make the car hard work in traffic – but that’s of little consequence here. On open roads, it picks up well, responds precisely to throttle inputs and sounds superb.
It’s a pity, then, that the stiff suspension and damping cause the 130i to be fidgety on rough roads. The car bounces and skips where other hot hatches, including the MINI, are better controlled.
On the circuit’s smooth tarmac, the rear-wheel-drive layout helped the BMW shine – but it tended to weave disconcertingly under heavy braking. There was also a fair amount of body movement through corners, and the 130i lacked the agility of the best hot hatches.
Still, it was surprising to see the 1-Series so low down the pecking order – proof that this year’s Greatest Drives crop has no real bad apples.
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M Sport - currently readingAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350ZA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper SNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HPAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
- 16Porsche 911 GT3 RSThe hardcore Porsche 911 GT3 RS is an unequivocal supercar. With incredible performance, the only doubt is its real-world usability - and price tag
- 17Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Team R27If you thought the Megane was impressive, the hot Renaultsport Clio R27 manages to force its way into the top 5 with sheer poise
- 18Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraThe Lamborghini was the most expensive car on test. Luckily the super-light Gallardo was also the most rewarding to drive
- 19Honda Civic Type RThe Type R version of the Honda Civic is not only the best hot hatch, its chassis makes it one of the best drivers' cars, full stop
- 20Audi R8The hottest car of the year, the Audi R8 isn't perfect, but driving it is such a thrilling experience, you won't care
- 21Porsche Cayman SDespite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title