By Jeffrey Mills
In 2012, BMW released the second-generation of their entry-level luxury hatchback, the 1-series, codenamed the F20. With a number of different diesel and petrol options, the flagship of the range, until 2017, was the M135i. We were lucky enough to spend some time with this amazing machine. Currently priced from around R360 000 up to around R480 000, all with varying specifications and mileage.
In 2016, BMW introduced the facelifted version of the M135i (later to be changed to the M140i). These changes were mainly cosmetic with the biggest changes coming in the form of a new front bumper and headlights as well as new rear bumper and taillights. The M-sport variants of the 1-series are quite sporty but one may argue that they can appear to be somewhat subdued when compared to rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 or the Honda Civic Type-R. The biggest criticism that the 1-series has always been faced with is the “simplistic” interior in the top of the range model as it is no different from other models lower in the range but the interior is still premium feeling. One thing the F20 generation has never faltered in is the practicality department. The 5-door hatchback layout as tested provides ample space and the boot is just as spacious as its competitors. With plenty of adjustability in steering wheel and seating position, the car is perfect for day-to-day errands.
The area where the M135i stands out from the crowd is with its powertrain. The M135i is equipped with BMW’s N55 engine which produces 240kW of power and 450Nm of torque from a 3.0L inline-six. The car can either have a manual or like the vehicle we tested, the 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox which we feel suits the car perfectly and allows the car to be more daily-usable. Being rear-wheel drive, the car feels quite balanced and when fitted with the M-sport exhaust, brings the car to life when pushing it. Direct competitors for this car are the A45 from Mercedes and the Golf R from Volkswagen but what this car offers that others on the market don’t is the unique combination of having a big engine in the front and being pushed with its rear-wheel drive layout which really makes this car feel special.
To conclude, the car is a perfect all-rounder. It may not be as aggressive-looking as its competitors or offer as much of a premium interior as them, the car has plenty of technology and a comfort and driving dynamic that makes it lively and quite hard to resist. With BMW switching to a 2.0L, all-wheel drive set up in the latest M135i, I would say that this platform will be sorely missed as it gave an offering that no one else could beat for the money. I personally would not just recommend one; I would love to own one myself!
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