From £19,0759
Rear-drive balance, a smooth six-pot motor and a beautifully judged eight-speed gearbox: the M140i is as rewarding as the car it replaces

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    2016 BMW M140i review

    Rear-drive balance, a smooth six-pot motor and a beautifully judged eight-speed gearbox: the M140i is as rewarding as the car it replaces
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Neil Winn - Autocar
13 October 2016

What is it?

Despite not being a ‘proper’ M car, the M135i has become something of a cult classic among the automotive community. First released in 2012, it’s one of those machines that doesn’t look particularly exciting on paper but offers a truly special driving experience. It is, without doubt, one of our favourite hot hatches.

So why, you might ask, has BMW gone to the effort of replacing the M135i with the new M140i? After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, it turns out that BMW is well aware of this idiom and has embraced it, choosing to update the current car rather than overhaul it. The badging has been altered to bring the M140i in line with its M240i and 440i coupé siblings and the sonorous 3.0-litre engine has been replaced with an even more powerful 335bhp six-cylinder motor - up 14bhp. No downsizing here, thank you very much.

Producing the same 369lb ft as the BMW M2, the M140i promises to be quick in a straight line, but you can’t help wondering if BMW should have considered updating the chassis, too (only minor tweaks have been made to the damping). Especially when you consider that the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R and Seat Leon Cupra 290 have all moved the hot hatch game on considerably in recent years. 

What's it like?

Unsurprisingly, with its six-cylinder turbocharged engine producing the same power and torque as the iconic 1M Coupé, the M140i is properly quick in a straight line. If you can get it hooked up (made all the more difficult thanks to the absence of a proper limited-slip differential), the hatch can complete the run from 0-62mph in just 4.6sec, a considerable 0.3sec quicker than the model it replaces.

However, despite this remarkable turn of speed, it’s the engine’s flexibility that’s most impressive in the real world. Unlike the Focus RS or Civic Type R, you can barely detect the signs of forced induction, with the six-cylinder motor responding almost instantaneously at any revs. We came to love this linearity in the M135i because it allowed the BMW to play two very different roles: long-legged GT cruiser and M car screamer. This characteristic has not only been retained but also accentuated in the M140i. 

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

Join the debate

Comments
26

13 October 2016
I know this isn't the first time, but BMW's naming policy is getting silly. That's before even considering that the 2 series relates to two completely different cars.

In this day and age of downsizing and turbocharging, I think I prefer Volvo's approach with their T/D2/3/4/5/6 etc relating to relative power output.

13 October 2016
Why is it not called a 133 or 134? That would make more sense just round the BHP and put the number on the end of the series, the numbers now are nonsense.

13 October 2016
This, and its brother the M240i, are by far the best cars BMW make nowadays.

Hopefully they don't completely mess it up when they replace them.

 

 

13 October 2016
This is without doubt the performance bargain of the year. £32k sounds a lot for a 1 series but that is before any discounts and you are getting around 20% off these! So realistically £26k for a classic 6cyl rwd BMW with stonking performance and pretty good economy also.

Will also be the last rwd 1series so a future classic.

13 October 2016
ewanmac76 wrote:

This is without doubt the performance bargain of the year. £32k sounds a lot for a 1 series but that is before any discounts and you are getting around 20% off these! So realistically £26k for a classic 6cyl rwd BMW with stonking performance and pretty good economy also.

Will also be the last rwd 1series so a future classic.

how do you get 20% off?

Red Devil

13 October 2016
Have a look at coast2coast and you will see what deals can be had. Quite incredible.

13 October 2016
Hi Red Devil, 20% isn't the sort of discount you'd realistically be looking at for this car...

More like 25%, least that's what I got off mine - picking it up this Sunday so this article couldn't have come at a better time :)

Can't wait!

46 cars and counting

13 October 2016
Just to note - it's technically a completely new engine - B58 vs N55 in the M135, so not really 'fettled'

13 October 2016
The naming policy makes perfect sense, all BMW is doing is badging most of their cars as if they had the equivalent naturally aspirated engine or the engine that power would be expected to be produced from. In the case of the 140i, its 3.0 turbo engine is equivalent to a standard tune 4.0 N/A engine. Same with the 330i for example where its 2.0 turbo engine is equivalent to a N/A 3.0 engine. Of course, BMW could have badged the 140i a 130ti and a 330i a 320ti (to differentiate it from a 320i) etc etc. As for basing the badge around the power, if BMW done that with the current 3 Series for example, the 330i would have a lower number than its predecessor.... not good from a marketing perspective. Mercedes has a similar naming policy, as does Jaguar.

14 October 2016
Saucerer wrote:

Of course, BMW could have badged the 140i a 130ti and a 330i a 320ti (to differentiate it from a 320i) etc etc.

I like this suggestion, but in part I'm swayed by the cool old 2002ti.

I know the badging (sort of) relates to equivalent NA power output, but I don't see the justification in changing from the old 135i to 140i. As someone else stated, the power increase doesn't justify it and you'd expect a new engine to have a little more power than an old engine anyway. And the vast majority of people don't care whether it's a new or old engine anyway. All just marketing b*llocks.

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