BMW’s return to the hot hatch segment with this M135i might scare some rivals but will it scare the A45 AMG?

Yes, it has been a while and for most die-hard BMW hot hatch fans there was a time recently that they actually started looking elsewhere for a new replacement for their ageing 1-Series hot hatch. Well, good news came a few months ago when BMW AG unveiled the all new 1-Series and they did a good job with its new design language (this is just our opinion). Now comes news of a HOT 1-Series. The ‘M’ tuned 135i.

Now in its third generation, the BMW 1-Series features a dynamic design, roomier interior, a raft of cutting-edge technologies as well as BMW’s trademark agility and superior performance.

It features a shorter bonnet and significantly more space within a footprint almost identical to that of its predecessor. At 4,319 millimetres, the new BMW 1-Series is five millimetres shorter, 34 millimetres wider and 13 millimetres higher. At 2,670 millimetres, the wheelbase is 20 millimetres shorter.

There have been a number of design changes including a new standard LED headlight arrangement, a more wedged shaped silhouette and a pronounced ‘shark nose’. At the front, the BMW kidney grille is larger and, for the first time in this model range, the kidneys merge in the middle.

Viewed from the side, the BMW M135i features a distinctive window graphic enhanced by two character lines. One runs below the door handles from the front wheels to the rear wings, while the other starts in the lower part of the front door before lifting towards the rear quarter. In addition, the greenhouse is elongated with the traditional Hofmeister Kink now incorporated into the C pillar.

Better interior and luggage space

The front-wheel-drive architecture with transverse engines and a lower centre tunnel offers the occupants more space than in the predecessor. This applies especially to those in the rear seats. Access is easier and there is an extra 33 millimetres of knee-room available. Rear headroom is up by 19 millimetres when the outward opening panoramic sunroof is fitted.

Rear passengers also enjoy 13 millimetres more elbowroom, while the driver and front passenger get an extra 42 millimetres in this respect. Luggage compartment capacity rises by 20 litres to 380 litres (1,200 litres with the rear seat bench folded down). The minimum width of the luggage compartment has also increased by 67 millimetres. An electrically operated tailgate is now optionally available for the BMW 1-Series for the first time.

A cockpit for the driver

Situated immediately in front of the driver is the instrument cluster along with the accompanying central Control Display to the left. Designed for touch operation, it is oriented towards the driver and positioned optimally in their field of view. The controls for the heating, air conditioning and new hexagonal air vents are grouped together in the centre console below the Control Display. With the Start/Stop button and gear selector lever now also located in the control panel in the lower section of the centre console, all the controls relating to driving functions are clustered together in one area. This includes the iDrive Touch Controller used to control the infotainment system. In front of the selector lever is a storage area which can be specified with the Wireless Charging option for smartphones.

The interior has more space and features high-quality materials throughout, driver-focused controls and innovative details, such as backlit trim strips. The BMW 1-Series with optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional (standard in the M135i) features the new BMW Operating System 7.0 – with optional gesture control – which can be controlled via the larger 10.25 inch central control display.

Sexy 19-inch wheels

This new BMW 1-Series is available with a wide range of new light-alloy wheels, including – for the first time – the option of wheels with a diameter of 19 inches. The SE model has 16-inch light-alloy wheels as standard. The Sport models feature 17-inch light-alloy wheels whilst the M Sport moves up to 18-inch light-alloy wheels as standard. The BMW M135i xDrive comes with bespoke Cerium Grey 18-inch light-alloys, whilst newly designed 19-inch light-alloy wheels are optionally available for this and the M Sport model.

BMW i3s technology shared

The new BMW 1-Series features the actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation (ARB) technology used in the BMW i3s. This is the first time it has been used in a combustion-engine car and it has the effect of significantly improving traction when pulling away, cornering or when driving in the wet. The system works in close tandem with the DSC system to significantly reduce power understeer.

ARB is assisted in its task by BMW Performance Control (yaw moment distribution). This feature, which is also included as standard on the BMW 1-Series, gives it more agile handling by intelligently applying the brakes at the wheels on the inside of the bend. This suppresses any initial understeer and gives the car neutral steering behaviour. Alternatively, drivers can engage the DSC system’s propulsion-optimised Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) setting, which allows a greater degree of slip at the driven wheels and thereby paving the way for a ‘sportier’ driving style.

A rigid body

Making intelligent use of aluminium – for the bonnet and tailgate for instance – combined with high-strength steels, has enabled BMW to shave as much as 30 kilograms off the weight of the new BMW 1-Series compared to its predecessor, at the same time as further increasing the torsional stiffness of the body structure.

Suspension options

Besides the standard suspension and the M Sport suspension with 10mm reduction in ride height, the new BMW 1-Series can also be specified with the Adaptive suspension including VDC (Variable Damper Control) as an option (not available in conjunction with 19-inch alloy wheels or the M Sport Plus Pack). This lets the driver choose from two different damping response settings via the Driving Experience Control switch, namely Comfort – for better ride comfort in poor road conditions – or Sport for a very sporty drive.

The M135i power unit

The newly developed 2.0-litre unit under the bonnet of the M135i is BMW Group’s most powerful four-cylinder petrol engine. It delivers 306hp with the help of BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and peak torque is 450Nm. It accelerates from zero to 62mph in 4.8 seconds, while top speed is limited to 155mph.

The M135i xDrive returns 35.3-34.4mpg and emits 157-155g/km of CO2 but this is of no concern to the Malaysian owner who wants to rip up the tarmac with his M135i……or maybe it is a her!