Like the more pedestrian models that sit below it in the 1 Series range, the BMW M135i is a very different kettle of fish from its predecessor. Gone are the big six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, replaced by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that's coupled to a four-wheel drive system.
That means the lairy, tail-happy handling of the M140i is gone, but don’t worry. In its place is a confidence-inspiring grasp of the road that allows you to fire the M135i out of tight bends with far less drama. Let’s also note that, while inclement conditions would slow your progress considerably in the old car, the same can’t be said of its successor.
So, what’s the secret behind this reformed behaviour? Well, up front, there’s a limited-slip differential that boosts traction off the line and when you’re accelerating out of corners, while the rear wheels can receive up to 50% of the engine’s power if the electronics feel it necessary. The final link in the chain is an eight-speed automatic gearbox with manual paddles so you can take control of gearshifts.
That engine change brings another benefit: more interior space. The compact arrangement of the M135i’s oily bits means there’s more leg room and a bigger boot than in the previous model. Of course, there’s still a pair of sports seats and a chunky leather steering wheel up front, as well as the top version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system.
All this mechanical metamorphosis brings the M135i right into contention with swanky hot hatch rivals such as the Audi S3 and Mercedes-AMG A35, both of which also run 2.0-litre turbocharged engines, automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive. Don’t forget, however, that the Honda Civic Type R gets along very well indeed with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox.
But, back to the BMW. Over the next few pages you’ll find out how much fun the M135i is, what it’s like inside and what you get for your money. And, whichever hot hatch takes your fancy, don’t forget to look at our New Car Buying pages for handy savings.