Our test car came fitted with BMW's ZF automatic gearbox, and although there’s no doubt that the manual gives an extra level of interaction, we simply can’t fault the eight-speed unit. It’s quick and responsive and the ratios are well spaced to make full use of the motor’s broad powerband. The gearbox is also now capable of making multiple downshifts in one go, giving even greater control.
Dynamically, the M140i feels almost identical to last year’s M135i, but that’s no bad thing. Compared with its firmer competition it feels unique, thanks to a chassis that makes the most of its rear-wheel-drive layout. The front axle is super-responsive and gives the BMW impressive turn-in speed. There is a little mid-corner lean, but once the body settles you can lean on the car’s innate traction to fire it out of bends.
There are limitations though. On really rough roads there's a point where the suspension finally cries enough and fails to react to multiple inputs. Mid-corner this can cause the car to feel unsettled and loose, and combined with the lack of a limited-slip diff and its overly light variable-ratio steering, a Mercedes A45 AMG or Volkswagen Golf R would leave the BMW for dust on a bumpy rural road.
That said, the must-have optional adaptive dampers give a surprisingly forgiving ride on all but the most broken surfaces. Even in Sport mode, the M140i feels comfortable enough around town, shrugging off smaller imperfections with relative impunity. As a day-to-day proposition, it’s in a different league of comfort and refinement compared with the Focus and Civic.
Should I buy one?
Despite not being as sharp as the latest crop of hot hatches, the M140i still has the ability to put a huge smile on your face. No, it’s not as tied down as a Focus RS, and no, it doesn’t have the point-to-point pace of Golf R or the outright grip of a Leon Cupra. But on the right road none of that matters.
With its inherent rear-drive balance, smooth six-cylinder motor and beautifully judged eight-speed gearbox, guiding the M140i down your favourite B-road is a rewarding experience. And even though it's not exactly cheap, coming it at £31,875, it still feels like a genuine giant-killer.
2016 BMW M140i review
Location Berkshire; On sale Now; Price £31,875; Engine 6 cyls, 2998cc, turbo, petrol; Power 335bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 369lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1505kg; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 39.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 163g/km, 29% Rivals Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R