• 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

While the M135i comes as standard with Drive Performance Control, which provides a range of driving modes from Eco Pro through to Sport+, it can also be specified with £515 worth of electronically controlled adaptive M Sport dampers that bring faster reaction times. Sport and Sport+ modes tighten up the car's body control, add a little weight to the variable-ratio steering and progressively dial back the stability control system's eagerness to intervene. We suspect most owners will settle for the default Comfort mode (most of the time) and Sport (on more interesting, well surfaced roads).

The M135i doesn’t ride on runflat tyres, instead getting very serious-sounding and extremely grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sports. But, still, its ride retains a firmness and jiggle to its body that, say, a Ford Focus ST would smooth out to greater effect.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
The sticky tyres provide plenty of lateral grip but can wear quickly

It is, however, extraordinarily better than the previous-generation BMW 130i, and quite bearable even in its firmer settings, which provide far tighter control of the M135i’s body movements.

There’s never much discernible road feel through the steering, but it’s smooth, accurate and quick, providing a quicker ratio once you get off-centre than it does at the straight-ahead. It’s a common trick that gives straight-line stability allied to a feeling of agility once you’re on lock. The M135i tipped our scales at 1545kg, yet it turns with the willingness and accuracy of a car a couple of hundred kilos lighter, no doubt aided by the fact that only 52 per cent of its weight is on its front tyres.

Typically, we’ve found 1-series to be quite pleasingly balanced and adjustable at their limit, but seemingly the M135i would be overly tail happy were it to wear the same width rubber on the front as the back. As it is, it’s a rather enjoyable steer down most roads, with just the right level of adjustability when you get serious.

The M135i brakes well, pulling itself to rest from 60mph in just 2.6sec in the dry and comfortably under 3.0sec even in the wet.

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