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Reductive surgery: the new BMW M135


new BMW M135

BMW’s updated hot hatch loses more than just the letter i from its bootlid for the 2024 facelift. Ken Pearson wonders if less can be more…

Let me get this bit out of the way, because there is nothing that I loathe more than an article about a new car that is more focussed on what came before than the car you came to read about. So with that in mind, allow me to say that the pre-facelift BMW M135i had more power (306 bhp), torque (332 lb ft), gears (8) and badges (7) on the boot than the new iteration. 

The re-christened M135 comes with 296 bhp and 295 lb ft (400 nm) from its de-tuned 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that has had to be altered to comply with the latest round of Euro emissions regulations. Performance still goes to all four wheels through BMW’s xDrive system, but there are now 7 gears in the box. The xDrive badge is also one of two that leaves the tailgate, with the other being the “i” that used to follow the model designation, owing to that letter now being reserved for electric models like the i4, which makes sense to me.

But the big takeaway is that the new hot 1 Series is less potent than before. How is that an improvement? Well, to find out I am banning myself from making cheap comparisons to the model which has just been replaced.

The new M135 is no slouch, with a 0-62 mph time of just 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155 mph. That is respectable by any standards and places the car firmly in the ballpark of its closest rivals - the new Audi S3 and the Mercedes-AMG A 35. Peak torque is available from 2,000 - 4,500 rpm while full power is on hand from 5,750 - 6,500 rpm, so the engine should be able to make quick progress through the ratios of the new 7-speed twin-clutch transmission. 


new BMW M135
new BMW M135
new BMW M135

The key changes that have led BMW to give the car a new model code are to be found on the chassis itself, and this is more likely to make the difference for a reworked hot hatch than a few horsepower being gained or lost; there’s increased body rigidity, new anti-roll bar mounts and updated shock absorbers, along with a 20% change to the caster angle of the front wheels which will improve cornering stability and feedback through the steering wheel. As standard, the car rides on M Adaptive suspension with 18” wheels attached, but there are two 19” designs available.

Coming later this year is the M Technology Package that will come with modified suspension, a further stiffened chassis, 19” forged alloys, uprated brakes and some yet to be specified “lightweight measures” that should shave a few kilos of the current 1,625 kg kerb weight. We all know that the recipe of a circa 300 bhp output and all-wheel drive works wonders for hot hatches, bringing an impressive turn of pace to cars that still have room for five people, child seats or 380 litres of luggage or shopping to fit in the boot, completing the mundane drives as well as the exciting ones. The M-fettled 1 Series always looked appealing as a collection of statistics, but with the new F70 generation, it looks more appealing as a piece of design too.

The rear end gets new lights with four arrow-shaped segments that look reminiscent of the headlights in the new M4 to my eyes. Flanking the new diffuser trim is the quad-exit exhaust with silver tips as standard, although these can be turned black as part of the M Sport Pack Pro. This option package also darkens the headlights and adds red brake callipers that provide a power boost of 5 bhp* each. An M-specific lip spoiler with raised outer edges sits at the top of the tailgate. 


new BMW M135
new BMW M135
new BMW M135
new BMW M135

My favourite design feature of the new model is hidden in plain sight by the rear doors: a number 1 that is pressed into the black trim. The side profile is almost unchanged, but the front has had more than just a light nip and tuck. New LED lights in a slimmer cluster feature twin vertical running lights which bear a striking resemblance to those found on the current Kia Ceed. That, to me, is not such a bad thing as it makes a change from the nondescript horizontal running lights that are commonplace in this segment.

The bumper has been totally redesigned and now features downturned, rather than upturned edges. The difference in wording may be slight, but having the widest part of the grille at the bottom rather than the top makes the new car look more focussed than before. The kidney grille has been slightly reduced in size and now features horizontal slats. Both upper and lower grilles are finished in black to match the rest of the new M135’s exterior trim.

There have been tweaks aplenty inside too, with the car gaining the 9th generation of BMW’s iDrive infotainment and the curved twin-screen display that is steadily making its way across the entire model range. Being a new car that is going on sale in 2024, the displays are home to the air conditioning controls as well. The screens sit above a new backlit trim element that carries the colours of the M stripes. Three lines of stitching on the dashboard carry the same three colours and the optional M Sports seats even gain an illuminated M badge just below the headrest. Overall, the cabin looks like it will be a nice place to spend some time, especially when manually selecting each of the car’s 7 gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.


new BMW M135
new BMW M135

The new BMW M135 is on sale now with prices beginning at £43,600 and deliveries set to begin in October. Standard equipment for the UK has been confirmed already and includes heated front seats, the Harman Kardon surround sound system, rear privacy glass and traffic sign assist among other things. This can quickly rise with the addition of packages and individual options. A Ken-Spec M135 without every single option box ticked comes to £48,990. Split folding rear seats make up £175 of that price, amazingly. 

However, the optional cabin equipment is not as important as what the powertrain has to offer as standard, and that is the go-to hot hatch formula of five seats, four wheel drive, (almost) 300 horsepower and a compact footprint. Will anyone notice the reduction in power and torque in the real world? I’m not so sure, but aren’t BMW renowned for understating their power outputs anyway?

*Disclaimer - red brake callipers do not add 5 bhp each. We all know that red seatbelts do.


 

Stats: new BMW M135

Engine: 2.0 litre in-line 4-cylinder turbo

Peak power: 296 bhp at 5,750 - 6,500 rpm

Peak torque: 295 lb ft at 2,000 - 4,500 rpm

0 - 62 mph: 4.9 seconds

Top speed: 155 mph (limited)

Kerb weight: 1,625 kg

Gearbox: 7-speed twin-clutch auto

WLTP fuel consumption: 36.7 mpg combined

Fuel tank: 49 litres

Price from: £43,600

On sale: Now

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