One of the greats: The BMW M135i


I once read an automotive book many many years ago, in it was this quote, “A good car is like an extension of your body.” These words struck a chord with me and embedded themselves into my brain as i grew up. It sounds all rather Cliché now, but when you think about it, there is quite alot of truths in those words.

Fast forward a number of years later, i find myself standing next to the door of the M135i. I know there are alot of naysayers (myself included), about the naming convention of this car, specifically to do with that letter “M” next to the numbers. I won’t go into too much detail but, yes, it deserves to be there. Some might want to compare it with the 1M, but that’s not being fair to the M135i, for a proper fight, let’s wait for the 2M (or M2) to arrive before we bring up the baby M.

 

Visually, the 3 door’s have always been the better looking of most hatchbacks and this 1 is no different. The elongated windows, the longer doors and those frameless windows all help to raise the appeal of the 1 Series. The 4 door might have an edge on practicality, but this just looks much better. The awkward “Angry Bird” headlights remain, but when fitted with the more menacing M-Sport front bumper, look much better. Specially designed lightweight 19″ shoes barely hide the 4 and 2 pot brakes and give the M135i a squat and purposeful stance.

To understand this car though, you need to open the door, get in, thumb the starter button and awaken the 320 horses sitting up front. The car barks into lift and settles into a low burble. It sounds… good…

It feels good inside too, the seats are nicely supportive although it would have been nice to have it partly covered with some Alcantara. All the controls fall into place easily, and thumbing through the iDrive brings up a pair of gauges for more flair.


The first thing that you notice when you start to move off is just how quick the steering is, equipped with BMW’s variable-ratio geometry as standard, you’d think, maybe perhaps it would loosen up once you get on the road, but no, the steering remains just as quick. It is the fastest steering rack i have even experienced on a road car and gives the M135i a very dart-like character.


The steering feel though requires a bit of pondering, it is both sharp and slightly dull at the same time. The sharpness comes from the very low ratio steering rack, the car reacts almost instantly to all your inputs and corrections. The slight dullness, is how much output the steering gives to the driver. It has a good amount of weight to it but might lack that extra bit of road feel. You still know what’s going on under the wheels, but a bit more feedback would have helped.

That said, as a driver’s car, i really cannot fault the M135i in any other way. It is such a joy to bring it out and just blast around anywhere and everywhere. It really is a small compact weapon, a small compact weapon with 450Nm’s of torque at your disposal and decent mileage to boot. It really is a blast.


You see some gaps in traffic, carve out an imaginary line in your head, squeeze the throttle, and BOOM, the little car just traces out that line with such tenacity and with a lovely soundtrack to match. Lift off the throttle and the exhaust emits little explosions on the overrun. Some road users might now be giving you strange looks as you fly by them in the smallest sized BMW currently on sale, while those in the know keep their distance.

The grip is fantastic, the balance is spot on, and the way the car leans into each corner feels just right. Turn into a corner, and as the front end digs in, and as you straighten out, squeeze the throttle and move on to carve the next corner. With just 4.9 seconds needed to hit 100km/h from standstill, get ready to say goodbye to your license if you drive “enthusiastically” too often. The brakes also do a pretty good job of hauling the car down from speed and unless you are on a track, probably won’t be using them to their fullest potential.

Naysayers, just go take a test drive. You’d find the character of this car just oozes out M-Division magic for this car to deserve the “M” badge.


Overall conclusion? Definitely one of BMW’s best. The last time i had so much fun in a car, it was the Z4M Roadster and this little hatch slots right behind that German hot rod. The more you drive this car, the more it just wants to wrap around you, almost like an extension of your body.