A real depth of talent

BMW 135i
BMW 135i

BMW has played a blinder with its stunning M135i. With 316bhp on tap from its six-cylinder 3.0-litre turbo engine, it’s a hot hatch of the top order, getting to 62mph from rest in 4.9 seconds. Comprehensively fettled suspension, steering and brakes give it real depth of talent.

As Toyota has demonstrated with its GT86, the modest power, back to basics option is one that has met with critical acclaim. There is, however, a good deal of fun in sending 316bhp to your rear wheels. The 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine is one heck of a motor and offers near supercar acceleration figures. In fact, it’ll rocket to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds and keep going to an electronically limited 155mph. In fact, it’s not that much slower than BMW’s macho 335bhp 1M Coupe model but looks so much more discreet.

Of course we could discuss for ages whether a car that makes going fast this easy is a more satisfying choice than a vehicle that’s slower but which makes you work for the performance, but let’s just say that different people like different things from their hot hatches and coupes. Besides, this BMW can be surprisingly flexible. Press the Sport button and you immediately notice the steering weight up and the throttle response sharpen. Press the button once more and you’ll find Sport+, which partially disengages the stability control and offers an even spikier throttle pedal. Suddenly the M135i will feel as if it has teeth.

If you saw the BMW M badge and expected pumped-up wheel arches and a front air intake that looks as if it would ingest children, think again. This is a different take on the M-car theme. Rather than being positioned as a fully-fledged M model, think of the M135i as a halfway house. It’s got plenty of M-specific go but not all the dressing that comes with it. It gets a set of re-profiled bumpers, side skirts with subtle creases and modest air vents in the front spoiler. Ferric grey mirrors and chromed exhaust pipes complete the look.

Don’t think that just because it’s an M135i and not a 1M that it’s in any way half-baked. The steering and suspension have been thoroughly fettled, with a different rack and unique front geometry, while the springs and dampers have all been beefed up. Plus there are meatier brakes and model-specific alloy wheels and tyres, differently sized front to rear. It’s a root and branch job.

Make no mistake, this is a mightily impressive car. You’ll need to look past the unprepossessing styling and concentrate on the BMW M135i’s sheer capability. It can turn its hand to almost anything. It’s crushingly fast, offers the keen driver real options at the wheel, yet can trundle up a motorway while showing better than 45mpg on the computer. It’ll run four kids to school in perfect safety and has a boot big enough for a week’s shopping on the way back.

Yes, you can easily buy a more extrovert performance machine for this sort of money but the M135i is the sort of car you’ll feel extremely smug about driving just because it’s so much smarter than anything for remotely comparable money. I never thought I’d get so enthusiastic about a BMW 1 Series, but this is a very special vehicle. You owe it to yourself to have a try.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: BMW M135i

PRICE: £29,995

INSURANCE GROUP: 40 [est]

CO2 EMISSIONS: 188g/km

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 4.9s / top speed 155mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 35.3 mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: DSC+ stability control, ABS, six airbags

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: length/width/height mm 4322/1762/1421.