This year, more than most, has been a good one for the hot hatch genre. The Focus RS has hit its stride, the A45 AMG has had a power hike and yet another RS-tuned Audi has stolen the headlines for its astronomical price tag. Yet despite BMW’s sporting pedigree, the previous-generation M135i never quite sold in the same numbers as the mainstream Audi S3, for example. Could this revamped model be about to change that?
Up front, the M140i uses a three-litre straight-six with a twin-scroll turbo. The result is an impressive 335bhp and 369lb ft of torque, which is more than enough for a hatchback, and puts it in the realm of old BMW M cars such as the 1M and E46-era M3. That torque figure is even the same as the marque’s current doyen of the sports coupe sector; the M2.
As you’d expect from a motor with this much power and torque, it is unbelievably rapid when you push the throttle. But apart from being a motorway cruiser, it’s very well-suited to country B-roads, too, as it can settle into a steady cruise or prime itself for a quick overtake with just a moment’s notice.
Even more impressive is the sensation that you’re at the helm of a naturally-aspirated BMW, such is the degree to which the lag of the turbocharger has been refined. The paaaaarp of the exhaust on upshifts in Sport+ mode, while not as pronounced as DSG-equipped rivals from Audi and VW, never fails to put a smile on your face either.
Once you get used to the M140i’s electrically-assisted variable ratio steering, it becomes easy to place the car on the line you desire through the corner. The chassis loads up in a predictable manner, making it simple to predict the hatchback’s next movement. The brakes also inspire huge confidence in wiping off speed, with their massive discs and blue M-branded calipers one of the few visual clues that give away the car’s extraordinary performance from the outside.
Special mention must be made of the eight-speed ZF gearbox attached to the demo car I drove. While on paper no less than eight forward gears sounds a bit excessive, in real-world use the car is never dumbfounded by the choice of ratios on offer, with third and fourth the best overtaking gears. The stubby, sleek shifting paddles are also a great joy to use as the BMW clunks home another gear and surges forward.
The 140i is a well-proportioned hatchback, and with a kerb weight of 1505kg, it’s not obese either. It’s a handsome design which manages to marry the trademark large BMW kidney grilles with lovely touches such as the BMW script within the headlights. Those who want to be noticed in their new car, however, will likely be disappointed with the lack of visual pizazz compared to performance rivals such as the Focus RS and Civic Type-R.
However, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the subtle visual cues that mark out the M140i as not just another 116i. These include the Ferric Grey mirror housings, grey alloy wheels and the split twin rear exhausts. Order your M140i as a debadged model painted in Glacier Silver like our test car, and you’ll have a great sleeper hot hatch.
If you fancy a more exciting colour, a range of £550 extra colours can be applied, including the gorgeously opinion-splitting Valencia Orange.
The muted theme extends to the interior too, and while there are choices with which you can liven it up, there’s nothing as garish in here as an A45 AMG, for example. Compared to rivals from Ford, Honda and (dare I say it) even Audi, the cabin quality feels unassailable. It’s properly put together, with every dash component feeling sturdy and of high quality.
As the M140i is pretty well-equipped as standard (with sat-nav, DAB radio and Bluetooth prep along with climate control among the highlights), there is very little you might wish to add to it. However, the harmon/kardon sound system (£600) sounds phenomenal and the also-option glass sunroof (£895) do much to improve the overall interior ambience.
While the M140i isn’t as efficient as the more powerful A45 AMG, it does come with fixed price servicing to soften the financial cost of fuelling the 3.0-litre six. Add in the usual accoutrements of a car in this class such as start-stop and the fuel economy for the automatic comes in at 39.8mpg.
During our road test on a mix of urban and rural roads however, we never got higher than 25mpg. That low figure, however, can be expected to improve once the running-in phase has been completed.
The M140i can be ordered in both three-door and five-door variants, with BMW’s extended luggage space standards across the 1-series range. Boot space is around 20 litres more than that of the A-Class, so you can fit in quite an amount of odd-shaped things in there.
Boot capacity has been increased by 30 litres to a total of 360 litres – that’s 19 litres up on the Mercedes, although the 1,200-litre seats folded capacity is 43 litres smaller than the high-roofed Merc.
VALUE FOR MONEY
As the M140i is a relatively new model, you can expect several years out of it before the next generation is released. In addition, it improves upon the previous M135i in every way, from fuel-economy to roadholding.
The price difference between three-door (£31,875) and five-door (£32,405) is negligable too, though we would recommend the five-door if you plan on carting the family around. At these prices, the BMW undercuts its direct rivals from Audi and Mercedes, while offering an attractive hatchback with devastating performance.
As a result, the M140i isn’t just a practical performance hatchback – it’s also a great steer and comes equipped with a sonorous exhaust note and solid interior.
OVERALL VERDICT: 25/30
With thanks to John Clark BMW for the M140i to review. If you’d like to learn more about their range, visit www.john-clark.co.uk/bmw.
- If you would like to lend a vehicle to Motormessenger to review, please get in touch using the Message Us tab.