Cars - BMW

Road tests and reviews of the latest BMW models available in South Africa

2016 BMW M 135i

By Franky Johnson

The BMW 1-series range has recently been given a make-over for 2016 with a host of changes both visually and mechanically, and is set to attract more premium customers to its fold than its successful predecessor. At the top of the range is the potent M 135i Sports Hatch 5-door model, which is the model we feature in this road test.

The BMW 1-series Sports hatchback retains the brand’s trademark rear-wheel drive, the only car in this compact class to do so, while the new Styling changes for 2016 give the M 135i a more handsome and more muscular appearance.

Changes include adaptive LED headlights, wider kidney grilles, larger air intakes, revised front and rear bumpers and far more eye-catching tail-lights, Ferric Grey wing mirrors and dual black chrome exhausts. Adding to the sporting theme are 18-inch M light double spoke alloy wheels wrapped in low profile 245/35 Sport tyres for the front wheels and wider and lower ones at the rear.

The interior remains typical BMW with a touch more panache thanks to chrome and gloss black detailing around the centre console. The sophisticated design of the upper centre console with the controls for the radio and climate control system, is foremost in accentuating the premium ambience on board the new BMW M 135i.

Furthermore, the door sill finishers with aluminium inserts that feature “M 135i” lettering match an interior design that expresses the sporty nature of the BMW M 135i. The interior details include leather Dakota black upholstery, Velour floor mats, an M leather 3-spoke steering wheel with multifunction buttons, the BMW Individual roofliner in Anthracite, gear selector and handbrake with leather gaiters, M driver footrest, speedometer, a manual handbrake and electrically adjustable driver’s seat with two memories.

As in all premium BMW’s the M 135i comes with a full house of electronics and driver aids, some standard and others from the options list. Included is the 23cm iDrive display screen with Professional satellite navigation and ConnectedDrive and a seven-speaker stereo with DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and reversing camera.

Cabin space and ambience is good, the front seats are comfortable enough, though a little more bolstering would be a plus during bursts of enthusiastic driving. Getting into the back seat is reasonably easy, and they have the benefit of rear air vents, two map pockets, slender door pockets, a tiny cubby hole, a 12-volt outlet and grab handles. Rear head and legroom are both acceptable and will seat three adults, but more comfortable for two.

The BMW M 135i has a 360-litre boot, large for a 5-door hatch, and it is expandable to 1 200 litres when the 60/40 split rear backrest is folded down.

At the heart of the new BMW M 135i is the straight six-cylinder petrol engine with Twin Scroll Turbo technology, Valvetronic, Double VANOS and High Precision Injection. From a capacity of 2 979 cc it delivers 240 kw at 5 800 rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1 300 rpm and drives the rear wheels through a ZF sourced dynamic eight-speed automatic sports transmission with gearshift paddles integrated in the steering wheel.

According to the specs, the BMW M 135i will blast its way off the line and pass the 100 km/h mark in just 4.9 seconds and onto a top speed electronically limited to 250 km/h. Open the driver’s window during performance tests and the sweet sound from the dual exhausts is music to the ears.

Average fuel consumption in the combined cycle is given as 7.5 litres/100 km, however the trip computer on the test car gave me a much higher reading of 11.1 litres per 100 km when driven enthusiastically, and the CO2 emissions level at 175 grams per km. The exclusive power train for the compact BMW M Performance car also features a customised cooling system, M performance control and engine sound tuning.

Start the turbo inline-six and it’s quickly apparent just how smooth, linear and torquey the engine is. Working with the slick changing eight-speed paddle-shift automatic, the engine picks up strongly from 1 200 rpm, after which it can be driven sedately around town, or when the road opens up, it can just give it its head, and the performance is exhilarating. Sitting 10mm lower on BMW’s adaptive M suspension, the M 135i’s ride is, overall, genuinely impressive.

At 120 km/h on the highway, with the engine sitting at 2 000 rpm, there is a bit of road noise from the run flat tyres, but nothing disturbing.

Meanwhile the M 135i’s four-mode control’ system, with a choice of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport-plus, also impacts on drive-train settings and the adaptive suspension. Engaging Sport or Sport-plus does add a bit of weight to the steering, but it feels much sportier than in Comfort mode, as it's sharper and more responsive.

Travelling at fairly high speed on twisty roads makes it real fun to drive, as the BMW M 135i is so balanced, immediately responds to driver’s commands, and stays almost flat through the tightest of bends.

In the stopping department the standard four-piston front and two-piston rear M sport brakes are progressive, delivering powerful retardation to match the performance, while the pedal action is smooth and consistent.

In A Nutshell

The 2016 BMW M 135i Sport 5-door hatch 8-speed automatic represents a small, high-performance car, that is great fun to drive, and with the practicality of a five-door hatchback, that you would probably need to look no further than the new 135i Sport 5-door. It has the looks, the power and the comfort and the basic price is right there in the ballpark. The recommended retail price of the 2016 BMW M 135i Sport 5-door hatch 8-speed automatic is R543 000 however the press vehicle was loaded with R156 543 of options making the final price R699 543, which includes BMW’s 5-year/100 000km Motorplan.

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