Caught in the classifieds: 2014 BMW M135i
If you're after a quick performance car but don't fancy a two-seater sports car, your safest bet has to be the BMW M135i. Built on the F20/F21 platform, the M135i is highly regarded as one of the most affordable rear-wheel drive performance cars currently available on the market. If you stop and really think about it, you'll realise that the M135i doesn't have any real competition. You could argue that its closest competitors are the Audi RS3 and the Toyota GT86, but the former is all-wheel drive and the latter is considerably slower and less practical.
I'm a huge advocate of the M135i because I think they represent amazing value for money. Although there's currently an example listed our website for £11,500, I've chosen this particular example, listed at £15,500, because it's got half the mileage of the cheaper one, which will matter should you decide to resell it down the line. Obviously, I've chosen a manual example because it's a small, rear-wheel drive hatchback, so it's best enjoyed when you're rowing through your own gears.
If you're a fan of understated performance then you'll definitely love the BMW M135i. It's a special car with plenty of sporty features that are instantly recognisable only to petrolheads and massive car nuts. Most people can tell it's an M-package car, but not many can discern that it's an actual M135i. At the front, that aggressive bumper with those huge air openings is a dead giveaway. Even regular M-package cars don't have that sporty of a front bumper.
From the sides, you may be able to recognise that those are M-specific wheels and not some cheap knock-offs. If we're talking about dead giveaways, then the back end is this car's most recognisable feature. Apart from an M135i badge you also get a small hatch spoiler and a dual exhaust setup. Everything else is pretty much the same as it is on the regular 1-Series.
I think white suits the M135i extremely well. It does mean that you have to wash it quite often to keep it clean and shiny, but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages at least in my opinion. The M135i's core strength lies in the fact that it offers understated performance without being too shouty or over the top.
Inside, the m135i is pretty much identical to the regular 1-Series, but I mean that as a compliment. Out of all the sporty performance hatchbacks from manufacturers like Mercedes and Audi, the M135i is definitely the best built. The materials feel the nicest and the fit and finish are superb. The Audi RS3 comes close to matching the BMW, but it falls short since the iDrive system in the BMW is better, or at least it is to me.
The BMW has the best driving position too. Unlike in the Audi, you sit nice and low in the car so you have a good feel of what the car is doing underneath you. The seats themselves are really comfortable and provide decent support. I won't say they're as good as proper ‘M’ bucket seats, but they definitely feel the best in this category. The steering wheel feels perfectly shaped too and it's the right size. It's really easy to get comfortable and the M135i, since almost everything in the cockpit is adjustable or is already in the correct position.
Elsewhere, you get a pair of practical rear seats and a quite generous boot. Compared to something like a Toyota GT86 or an Audi TT, the rear seats are actually usable, but getting inside in this 3-door hatchback variant is a bit tricky. Otherwise, this is genuinely a car that you could daily drive 365 days of the year without getting tired of it or annoyed by any of its foibles.
Engine and Performance
The M135i uses a 3-litre turbocharged N55 straight-six engine, producing 315 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. It sends its power to the rear wheels, but you were able to option it with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Obviously, the xDrive versions will be much more capable come rain or shine, but they won't be as enjoyable or playful as this rear-wheel driven example. As I mentioned, this car uses a 6-speed manual gearbox but you can also find examples with the brilliant ZF 8-speed automatic. The auto will be better at performing daily drive duties such as crawling through traffic, but the 6-speed manual will obviously be more enjoyable should you encounter a twisty stretch of tarmac or want to go on a spirited drive.
Performance figures for the m135i are as follows: it will do 0 to 62 mph in just 5.1 seconds and flat out it'll be travelling at a limited 155mph. Those are seriously impressive figures for such a small and compact hatchback. In the real world, it feels every bit as quick as those numbers would have you believe. The engine provides plenty of mid-range torque but it's not shy at the top of the range either. It makes a lovely straight-six engine noise too. There are plenty of aftermarket exhausts out there should you wish to further improve its already excellent sound.
It doesn't come with an LSD, but you can still get the tail to squirm around out of second gear corners if you give it a boot-full. The balance is superb though, and there's minimal understeer which is less than what can be said for the Audi RS3. The M135i rewards you for good driving, and it'll place a massive grin on your face each and every single time you drive it.
Model: BMW M135i
Trim: Manual 3dr (F21)
Why buy one
For the money, there is nothing else I'd rather have over the M135i if I was in the market for a practical performance hatchback. Plus, they're fairly economical and they seem to hold their resale value extremely well. Find excellent deals on used BMW M 135i cars for sale right now on DesperateSeller.co.uk.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 9.5 out of 10