With a turbocharged engine and a £40k price, the 1-series M Coupé is unlike anything else from BMW’s M division.

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series M Coupé
Smallest M-car promises a return to old-school thrills

Can the BMW 1 Series M Coupé, with its antiquated origins, deliver?

  • First Drive

    BMW 1 Series M Coupé

    Quicker than an M3 in most real world conditions and more rewarding when you want it to be
  • First Drive

    BMW 1 Series M Coupé

    With a turbocharged engine and a £40k price, the 1-series M Coupé is unlike anything else from BMW’s M division.
22 April 2011

What is it?

Although the M Coupé is based on the recently facelifted 135i Coupé, much has changed in the transformation to M-car – not least the chassis, which is largely taken from the bigger, more expensive M3. And more than anyone else, the likeable German’s reputation is riding on how well it is perceived.

What’s it like?

It’s one of the best-looking M-cars in some time. Much effort has gone into modifying the 1-series coupé’s steel body to accommodate its upgraded chassis and give the M Coupé a much more muscular appearance than the 135i. In the metal, it looks bulldog tough.

On light throttle loads it is extremely tractable and can pull taller gears at moderate speeds. It’s a big departure from the peaky delivery of past M-cars and will give the M Coupé a wider appeal than has previously been the case with BMW’s more extreme performance models. Just don’t expect the sort of heavenly throttle response you get in an M3.

Peak power is put at 335bhp, developed at a low (by M-car standards) 5900rpm. It is sufficient to provide the 1495kg M Coupé with 224bhp per tonne; that’s 38bhp per tonne shy of the 1580kg M3 coupé.

What moulds the new M-car’s solid levels of performance more than anything, though, is its torque – 332lb ft of it from 1500-4500rpm. That compares with 295lb ft at 3900rpm for its long-established normally aspirated V8 sibling.

Sending drive to the rear wheels is a conventional six-speed manual gearbox – the one and only choice offered. Operating in combination with an electronic M differential, the ’box has a typical BMW feel, with a long-winded clutch action and relatively long (if precise) throws.

To really succeed, however, the M Coupé also needs to deliver on the handling front. Initial impressions are overwhelmingly positive. Even on tricky sections of blacktop, the M Coupé is deceptively fast, possessing the sort of grip to carry big speeds through corners with true authority. And it achieves this while providing the sort of feedback you won’t find in any rival, RS3 included.

The steering is old-school heavy in its weighting and extremely direct. In combination with the altered front suspension geometry – which includes increased camber, altered offset and a greater number of aluminium components – it turns in far more eagerly than the 135i Coupé, and as lateral forces build it continues to track faithfully, allowing you to correct your line with small adjustments.

The M Coupé feels more firmly planted than the 135i, but it’s not overly fidgety. In fact, there’s a surprising amount of composure built into the suspension, most notably under compression, where it manages to soak up all but the worst bumps with authority.

And no caveats about the brakes. The M Coupé uses the same 360mm front and 350mm rear ventilated and cross-drilled steel stoppers as the M3. They’re monstrously powerful, hauling it up from big speeds with real conviction. They’re mated to a pedal with proper feel and a decent amount of travel.

Should I buy one?

The longer you spend at the wheel of the M Coupé, the more you come to appreciate its overall ability. Its focus is perhaps a little broader than we’ve come to expect from BMW M, but when it arrives in the UK next month it’ll be just as keenly sought after. It’s not a junior M3, as many suggested it would be. No, it has its own distinct character and, in real-world terms, is a good deal faster than its more expensive sibling.

BMW 1 Series M Coupé

Price: £39,990; 0-60mph: 4.9sec; Top speed: 155mph (limited); Economy: 29.4mpg (combined); CO2: 224g/km; Kerbweight: 1570kg; Engine, cc: 6 cyls in line, 2979cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
59

27 April 2011


" The steering is old-school heavy in its weighting and extremely direct. In combination with the altered front suspension geometry – which includes increased camber, altered offset and a greater number of aluminium components – it turns in far more eagerly than the 135i Coupé, and as lateral forces build it continues to track faithfully, allowing you to correct your line with small adjustments."

A very long winded way to explain how the steering works well, while conveniently omitting the obvious gorilla in the room when it comes to performance cars; steering feel. Kable doesn't want to upset anyone and come out and say that this new breed of M car has no steering feel. Just tell the truth when you write a review Mr Kable- and that includes not being truthful through omission. thanks j

27 April 2011

"A different kind of M-cars"... The stupid kind!

27 April 2011

I have never wanted a car more than i want this one.... I love it. Brilliant!

27 April 2011

For a small car its kinda heavy, an M3 is less than 100kg heavier.

Mini Countryman 2.0D Cooper SD ALL4 4WD - 1470kg

BMW 1 Series M - 1495kg.

27 April 2011

BMW really had lost the plot on handling on some of its recent offerings (5 series, 6 etc) I'm really glad that this one is well resolved. I really like it.

27 April 2011

I really like this, just a good honest fun car.

507

27 April 2011

Having driven the car I must say that it feels very solid and well made in stark contrast with japanese performance cars. I would not like the the new M Coupé to weigh less since the solid feel is part of its important quality of being perfectly usable as an every day car with very smooth, low rev tractability. You could fool almost anyone that this is just a small, well made premium car offering a reasonably comfortable ride. The use of your right foot suddenly tells a different story though. It is so nimble and sports car like in every way apart from its very useful back seat. Its handling is a text book lesson how it is done and I think it suits UK driving conditions extremely well.

27 April 2011

Autocar: "The longer you spend at the wheel of the M Coupé, the more you come to appreciate its overall ability. Its focus is perhaps a little broader than we’ve come to expect from BMW M, but when it arrives in the UK next month it’ll be just as keenly sought after. It’s not a junior M3, as many suggested it would be. No, it has its own distinct character and, in real-world terms, is a good deal faster than its more expensive sibling."

The way I read this......... it's gone soft. More of a GT than an M.

It would appear that BMW are now chasing Audi and not forging their own path as they used to.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

507

27 April 2011

I don´t think you beat Porsches at Hockenheim with a "soft car", drive it and see for yourself! I have friends owning "super cars" who have just put in orders for the 1 M, sometimes even two because the wife wants one for herself due to its compact size.

27 April 2011

[quote 507]I have friends owning "super cars" who have just put in orders for the 1 M, sometimes even two because the wife wants one for herself[/quote]

I'm sure it's fantastic to drive, and I'd love to test it, but IMHO aesthetically it still jars, and the interior is plain - well just plain dull. Bottom line - this car is £40,000. Forty thousand pounds! "Money / sense" arguments apply.

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