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BMW M135i review: Meet the fastest 1

BMW's M135i is a pocket rocket that really speaks to driving enthusiasts - in a female voice.

BT_20200306_BMW2_4053243.jpg
The heart of the M135i is the huge power output, and how the car's all-wheel drive system, which BMW calls xDrive, is so good at putting it all to the ground.

BT_20200306_BMW2_4053243.jpg
The heart of the M135i is the huge power output, and how the car's all-wheel drive system, which BMW calls xDrive, is so good at putting it all to the ground.

Singapore

THE new BMW M135i may look similar to the base model BMW 118i, but that's where the two part ways. Costing an extra S$95,000 over the 118i and packing 306 horsepower from its 2.0-litre, turbo four-cylinder petrol engine, it's as fast as the previous-generation M140i, despite having an engine only two-thirds the size.

The heart of the M135i is the huge power output, and how the car's all-wheel drive system, which BMW calls xDrive, is so good at putting it all to the ground.

Completely docile at low speeds, the car's true performance character comes to light when you lean on the accelerator. The engine's power seems to keep building exponentially, as though the car is being shot from a very long and powerful elastic band.

What's more, the car driven here is what BMW M dealer Performance Munich Autos retails as the Speed Edition, which for S$10,100 over the base price gets you matte black 18-inch BMW M Performance wheels plus run-flat tyres, a full complement of aerodynamic sills and skirts in gloss black, and a pretty unique pair of titanium and carbon fibre exhaust pipe trims.

The colour of the car on this page is also not part of the standard lineup, and to get your M135i in the same Storm Bay Metallic finish, you will need to fork out an additional S$2,470.

Its performance credentials are right on the money, but the 1 Series hatchbacks are also about practicality. The interior is spacious, the headroom is generous, and the boot's loading sill is low and wide so getting all that serious shopping loaded up is easy.

More interestingly, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which is the brand's fancy name for voice operated control, is easier to use than ever. Of course, the usual buttons and switches are in the standard places, but voice control is a lot more fun, especially when it is as good-natured as the BMW lady. The default activation trigger is the phrase, "Hey, BMW!" but you can customise it to anything you like, so you can effectively give your car a name (I went with "Sparky").

When spoken to, the car asks what you would like to do. In the name of testing, I relentlessly spammed it with questions and suggestions all the way along my drive home. If I questioned my wife the same way, I would have been sleeping on the couch that night. But Sparky remained unruffled, and maintained the courteous tone of a five-star hotel concierge.

I complained that I was feeling hot. Sparky politely informed me that she would lower the temperature in the cabin. I also asked Sparky to change radio stations, activate the music on my USB drive, select specific songs, and set up navigation routes. She even suggested that I activate the car's Sport mode when I moaned that I was bored.

The M135i's competition is somewhat lacking at the moment, with the cheaper and slightly less powerful Volkswagen Golf R lagging slightly in tech and refinement. The Audi S3 is a small sedan that might be worth a look if you prefer four doors over five, but it costs nearly 10 grand more, and ultimately uses the same engine block as the VW Golf R.

The BMW M135i isn't a car built on cosmetic add-ons and much of what you pay for is found under the hood. For genuine hot hatch enthusiasts, it's probably the chart topper of the moment. Sparky, you were sparkling.


BMW M135i xDrive

Engine 1,998cc, turbocharged in-line 4 cylinder
Power 306hp at 4,000rpm - 6,250rpm
Torque 450Nm at 1,750rpm - 5,000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Efficiency 7.5L/100km
Agent Performance Munich Autos
Price S$243,888 with COE
Available Now

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