• 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

A halfway house. Nearly, but not quite, an M-car. A midway compromise between the standard range and a full-blown product.

That’s what the M135i looks like being on paper, and that’s what it turns out to be in practice: a car that retains the mainstream 1-series range’s sensible appeal, but with the wick turned up to cast a larger glow than you’d expect of a regular model.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
This is a very entertaining and enjoyable car

It’s a compromise that works as well. This is an entertaining, enjoyable car.

Inevitably, however, the lack of bespoke M division engineering and components leaves the M135i feeling far more like a conventional BMW than an M product. Of the two paths, the normal 1-series is the one to which the M135i remains closer.

Nevertheless, this is a fine driving companion and a car with both a spectacular set of performance numbers and a determinedly alluring price.

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