The M135i had a headline-grabbing starting price of £29,995 in manual form when it was first introduced, but prices were "realigned" not long afterwards, with the list price climbing to just over the £30k mark and a little more standard kit being added, including a DAB radio.
Nevertheless, the M135i represents outstanding value for money at that price. It's £10k cheaper than the limited-run 1 Series M Coupe was when it was new, despite being just as quick. And even when fitted with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, it's a good £5000 less than its closest rival, the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, which comes only with a dual-clutch automatic ’box.
Part of the reason why it appears so reasonably priced is that, despite the spec realignment, the M135i isn't exactly generously equipped as standard. You do get Dakota leather upholstery, sports seats, dual-zone climate control, the four-mode Drive Performance Control, an M Sport body kit and bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels fited with the sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, but being asked to pay extra for things like rear parking sensors is a bit hard to swallow. Nevertheless, if £30k is your budget, we’d quite happily drive around in an M135i in its lowest spec or thereabouts.
All the extra grunt does come with added expense beyond the sticker price, too. But even in these terms, the M135i is about as competitive as it’s possible to be while wielding six turbocharged cylinders.
Opt for the slightly more expensive automatic and the CO2 emissions descend to 175g/km (from 188g/km in the manual). That’s only 6g/km more than Ford managed to extract from the Focus ST’s new four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. We also managed an admirable 41.4mpg on our touring run – slightly more, in fact, than the ST achieved.