• M135i is not a full-blooded M car, rather 'powered by M'
  • LED daytime running lights mean there's no need for foglamps
  • Rear lenses incorporate an L-shaped LED side light
  • Twin tailpipes provide a sonorous straight-six soundtrack
  • Side-skirt extensions are part of the M Performance aero kit
  • Interior varies little from the entry-level 1-series
  • Three-seat bench is the only rear seating configuration on offer
  • Low-set front seats ensure plenty of headroom
  • Load space netting costs an extra £90
  • Eight-speed automatic gearbox is a £1600 option
  • Standard-fit BMW Professional radio system includes Bluetooth connectivity
  • Straight-line performance is remarkable, especially considering the M135i's asking price
  • Stopping power is equally commendable
  • Turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six develops 315bhp
  • M135i rides firmly but is easy enough to live with
  • Transition from understeer to oversteer can prove clumsy
  • M135i feels closer to the normal 1-series than an M car but is a thoroughly impressive and entertaining companion

The M135i is available with a choice of three or five doors. You get leather upholstery and a three-berth rear bench as standard; other 1-series offer a strict four-seat option. Shame. We can’t help thinking M135i owners might quite like individual rear chairs.

Access to the rear in the three-door is quite good, thanks to the long side doors and easily folded front seats, which can be motored forwards and backwards via a handy button on the backrest – but only if you’ve spent £600 on the right option.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
There is an additional 12v socket in the passenger footwell

Space in the back is acceptable rather than good – probably not ideal if you’re likely to carry bulky child seats or more than one average-size adult with any regularity. But if you’re choosing to spend £30k like this, such considerations are probably secondary anyway.

The situation up front is much better. Like every 1-series, the M135i seems over-specified for legroom and headroom thanks to generous adjustment on both the seat and steering column. The driving position is all but flawless and quite unlike a hatchback in its low-slung cosiness.

The way that the cabin has been appointed and equipped is less impressive. There are precious few traditional performance flourishes to distinguish it from a lesser model in M Sport trim, and plenty of gadgetry remains on the options list that other hot-hatch makers wouldn’t dream of omitting. Enough, at any rate, to mean that not many M135is will come in at their £30k starting price. 

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