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The BMW M140i is the fastest and most powerful 1 Series money can buy

Sitting at the top of the small car tree, the BMW M140i is currently the fastest and most powerful 1 Series money can buy. It’s not quite as hardcore as the previous-generation 1M Coupe, or the BMW M2, but with 335bhp, it certainly packs a punch.

In 2016, BMW changed the name of the car from M135i to M140i, adding more power, stiffer suspension and improved efficiency in the process - but it's still essentially the same car.

The beauty of the M140i is that it offers all the practicality of the standard 1 Series, with the added firepower of a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six. All models are rear-wheel drive, helping make it one of the finest handling hatchbacks on sale.

There’s only one specification to choose from, although buyers do get the option of three or five doors, as well as a manual or automatic gearbox. Those wanting a sportier looking model may be tempted to opt for the 2 Series-based M240i. It gets exactly the same power output, but is a tenth of a second faster to 62mph.

Despite BMW recently upping its prices, the M140i is still cheaper than its key rivals, the Mercedes A45 AMG and Audi RS3. It’s not quite as fast, but what it lacks in straight-line speed, it makes up for in the corners.

All models now get sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth, 18-inch alloy wheels and an M Sport bodykit. Leather sports seats, climate control and rear parking sensors are also included, though you’ll need to pay extra for keyless entry, adaptive dampers and a reversing camera.

Our Choice 
M140i 3dr manual

Engines, performance and drive

4.8

With its amazing engine at the heart of its appeal, the M140i is a joy to drive. The silky-smooth six-cylinder revs all the way to 7,000rpm and has a sweetly tuned exhaust note. It’s quick, too – 62mph arrives in just 4.9 seconds, but with 500Nm of torque at just 1,300rpm, it’s the in-gear response that’s really astonishing - especially with the closely stacked ratios of the eight-speed automatic.

Choosing the auto adds nearly £1,500 to the price but with decent manual control, crisp shifts and steering wheel mounted paddles it’s nearly as good as the double-clutch equipped A45 AMG. It’s ever-so-slightly faster, too, shaving 0.2 seconds from the manual’s 0-62mph time.

Still, opt for a manual and you won’t be disappointed. It offers a weighty but enjoyable shift action, and a perfect driving position for those wanting a sporty ride.

The M140i’s other big selling point is its beautifully balanced rear-wheel drive chassis. Accurate and fast steering is matched to agile handling and lots of grip. Body control isn’t quite as good as the Mercedes-AMG A45, but with a decent ride, the BMW’s performance and handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

3.7

Considering the M140i has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine and offers near supercar like performance, the hot 1 Series can actually be considered as a bit of a bargain. Even more so when you take into account the fact that it’s cheaper than the Mercedes AMG-A45 and new Audi RS3.

When it comes to running costs, decent residuals and fixed priced servicing are big points and despite higher emissions, the BMW’s lower price ensures company car drivers will have similar monthly tax bills to the cleaner Mercedes. The auto M140i falls into the 28 per cent BiK bracket – the manual is 30 per cent.

Quoted fuel economy for the auto car stands at 39.8mpg, but don’t expect it to average too much more than 26mpg in mixed motoring.

Interior, design and technology

3.6

The BMW 1 Series is no beauty, but it certainly stands out in the conservative family hatch sector and with its prominent kidney grille and large headlights, and the latest car is no different.

Facelifted in 2015, the 1 Series was given new front and rear lights, as well as tweaked bumpers and new exhausts, and in 2016 the M135i became the M140i.

With a wide stance on the road and flared wheelarches the M140i takes the standard car’s sporty styling one step further with its subtle body kit. The grey alloy wheels are unique to the 3.0-litre straight-six, although, at a glance it could easily be mistaken for a cheaper conventional 1 Series in M Sport trim.

Look harder though, and you’ll spot the M140i's telltale twin-exit exhausts, blue brake callipers and grey mirrors. Inside, an excellent driving position, well laid out cabin and upmarket materials make the sporty BMW feel special, while standard equipment includes sat-nav, Bluetooth, leather seats and climate control.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

3.8

Despite its focus on performance and handling, the M140i is just as practical as any other 1 Series. The second-generation of BMW’s big selling hatch has a 30mm longer wheelbase, but even with its bigger dimensions, the 1 Series is still a fraction cramped in the rear compared to a VW Golf.

Boot capacity has been increased by 30 litres to a total of 360 litres – that’s 19 litres up on the Mercedes A Class; although the 1,200-litre seats folded capacity is 43 litres smaller than the high-roofed Merc.

Still, the 1 Series boot is a very handy shape and there's no shortage of cubbies around the cabin, either, helped by the fact that BMW’s Extended Storage package is now standard across the range.

Reliability and Safety

3.9

The BMW 1 Series has the maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating, with 91 per cent for adult occupant protection. All versions get six airbags, seatbelt reminders and ESP fitted as standard, while options like lane departure warning and a radar-assisted braking system - which brakes the car at very low speed to avoid a collision – are impressive additions to the long list of safety kit.

BMW models are generally very reliable, too, although a few faults have been reported. The manufacturer came 21st in our 2016 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, one place behind Vauxhall and three behind Mercedes. Owners praised their cars for performance and road handling, but questions remained over practicality and running costs.

Last updated: 
18 Oct, 2016
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