Hammer time: The prestige hatch which packs a wallop
When the bride arrives home bursting with enthusiasm, it means one of two things. Traditionally it’s a successful day at the shopping centre, but sometimes it’s derived from sheer driving pleasure.
“The only question I have is whether we get it in white or black.”
That’s an emphatic tick for the BMW M135i from a woman who’ll savagely cull any vehicle from our future purchase list for the most minor indiscretion.
Cup holders which can’t also handle a bottle. Cross.
Stereos which don’t enable quick radio station changes. See ya.
Slow to get off the line. Not a chance.
BMW’s pocket-rocket struck an immediate chord across various criteria. Being prestige is always a good start, but adding fuel to the fire was the pure beast that is the M135i.
This has the goods to join hot hatch alumni, although it requires some deep digging into pockets. Asking about $70,000 drive-away, it’s a lot of buck for bang.
Wearing the hallow ‘M’ badge is worth its weight in gold for BMW faithful.
Interior features aren’t overtly athletic to maintain comfort levels, although setting it apart from the base model 118i are sports front seats trimmed in high-end leather and a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon system which is additional to the standard dual 10.25 colour screens, dual-zone aircon, smartphone charger as well as Apple CarPlay.
Externally it has a mesh grille rather than the traditional struts, 19-inch alloys, big air intakes, gloss black finishes on the front and back aprons, as well as a rear spoiler.
Other niceties like heated seats, lumbar support, auto tailgate and panoramic sunroof are available in optional packs.
White is the only complimentary external colour, metallic options include red, blue, black, grey or silver which add at least $1000 to the bottom line.
Service packages are available, with the basic coverage over five years or 80,000km costing $1550.
Warranty coverage remains three years and unlimited kilometres. That’s in-line with most prestige marques, although Mercedes has joined most mainstream manufacturers at five years.
The 1 Series received five stars last year with high scores for adult and child protection. Most of the primary safety tech is included, like autonomous emergency braking which can stop the vehicle or dramatically slow it down if a collision is detected when travelling forward or in reverse, head-up driver display that projects speed and other vital information onto the windscreen and automatic parallel parking.
Annoyingly radar cruise control is part of two enhancement packages which start from $2900.
Both front seats have integrated headrests and better all-round bolstering. They not hardcore race seats, rather figure-hugging and cosseting.
Large colour screens showcase the improved technology. Once accustomed to the set-up it’s relatively easy to find your way around, although simpler with the smartphone mirroring function (just for Apple users, the Android function is yet to be introduced).
This hatch is 5mm shorter than the previous model yet there is more interior space for passengers. Two adults can find ample room in the back if those in the front remain mindful.
The ride is sporting, so expect to feel the bumps, lumps and ruts. Crossing railway lines comes with a thud, but that’s essentially hot hatch territory.
Boot space is at the smaller end of the scale at 380 litres, but the rear seats do drop 60-40.
Gone is the straight-six, replaced by a sprightly turbocharged four-cylinder unit that sends power to all four wheels rather than just the rear pair.
Enthusiasts will lament the loss of rear-wheel drive in favour of the front-bias all-paw grip, but those who simply like to look and sound good will find no issue.
The M135i is quick. On paper the famed 0-100km/h sprint time is less than five seconds. Not so long along that was regarded as the benchmark of really fast cars.
Upgraded brakes and steering are standard fare and combined with a rorty sports exhaust the little hatch thrives on a boot-full of jandal combined with rapid changes in direction.
Some testing rural roads were chewed up and spat out liked an American redneck discarding tobacco. While the eight-speed automatic seldom puts a foot wrong, it is fun to make use of the paddle shifters and listen to the aural delights of pushing up into the rev range.
The steering is light, perhaps not as direct as other Beemers, but still accurate.
Testament to our driving enthusiasm we returned average fuel consumption of 8.4 litres/100km. Slightly higher that the official figure from BMW yet still relatively thrifty.
I need to get places fast and everyone should hear me coming.
Hot hatch performance and prestige kudos. What’s not to love?
MERCEDES-AMG A35 $75,750 D/A
One step down from the raucous A45, this all-wheel drive hatch is equally impressive on the road with a 2.0-litre 4-cyl pumping out 225kW/400Nm. Beautifully appointed, it can rip to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and has a five-year warranty.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R $55,490 D/A
Looking slightly more sporty than your standard Golf, this is pure weaponry. Brilliant real-world hot-hatch performance with a 213kW/380Nm 4-cyl turbo, all-wheel drive and dual-clutch automatic. The 0-100km/h time is 4.8 seconds, and the warranty is also five years.
Probably a shade short of hot-hatch status, the M135i remains a fun and engaging offering. Boasting a brilliant soundtrack it possesses impressive dynamics without the comfort sacrifices
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $70,208 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/unlimited km, $1465 for 5 years/80,000km
SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, blind spot and lane departure alert, rear cross-traffic alert, head-up display (good)
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 225kW/450Nm
SPARE None; inflation kit