Good things come in small packages with the new M135i.
The baby BMW 1 Series is set to come to Ireland in three-door guise, and Motors went to Munich to try out the range-topping version. With 320bhp and a whopping 450nm of torque, the 135i is seriously rapid when provoked. On unrestricted Autobahn we cruised effortlessly at 250km/h - with power to spare! More importantly, back in the real world, the six-cylinder petrol-powered M135i was just as happy to potter about on city streets.
The mark 2 three-door 1 Series uses the same floor plan as the latest five-door version, so it is clearly bigger than the original car. The car has large headlights, or eyes, as BMW says. The side-on view is impressive as the pillar-less doors and strong glass line make the car look purpose-built as a three-door. Again, the design team is keen to point out the 'Shooting Brake'-like proportions of the three-door. At the rear there are strong horizontal lines that help the car sit low on the road. Irish cars will come in five-seater guise with a conventional three-seat rear bench (40/20/40 split), although a two-seat bench is available.
Inside access to the front is easier thanks to the longer doors, although the reach back for the safety belt requires a warm-up and some stretching - I perfected an underarm approach that worked best. The interior features a boot that can hold 360 litres (an increase of 30) and when the seats are down there is 1,200 litres of cargo space. There is 21mm more rear knee room than the mark 1.
On the road the M135i is not an actual 'M' car like the M3 or M5 but rather a very civilised, comfortable car that has been tweaked to handle the extra power. The perfectly balanced chassis is fantastic and versatile as you can select from a number of driving modes: Eco-Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Each driving mode does as you'd expect to the engine mapping.
At €49,270 the M135i is not a cheap machine, but it is joyous and so flexible in terms of adapting to your mood. The way it delivers power to the rear wheels inspires confidence. The steering is precise and sharp (two turns lock to lock), while the suspension keeps the wheels in contact with the road in a sophisticated manner.
For those on the first rung of the BMW ladder there is good news: the latest car gets a new entry point, namely the 114i. This four-cylinder, 1.6-litre petrol engine produces 102bhp and 180nm of torque while delivering close to 50mpg on average. Auto Stop/Start is standard on all cars.
Since its September launch last year, close to 100,000 second-generation 1 Series cars have been sold globally. Three-door sales start in late September. The 114i ES will cost €24,730, but there is a range of diesel (116d/118d/125d) and petrol versions (114i/116i/125i/M135i) available with a number of trim levels. We can expect an all-wheel-drive 'X Drive' version in the not too distant future also. The new three-door 1 series is an impressive machine that drivers will enjoy, especially if they can afford an M135i.