For me, the great thing about BMW’s plan for a hot 1-Series is not just that there is going to be an M version of the coupe/two-door saloon (view it how you will), but that it’s going to be ‘in the tradition of the very first M3’.
You’ll remember the first M3, of course. Some lads from our sister title Pistonheads have driven one to the Classic Le Mans this weekend and brought it to the office the other day.
It still looks fabulous and, in its smallness, seems now more relevant than ever. At 1200kg it was light, and a touch under 200bhp from its highly-tuned four pot was ample.
I very much doubt either of those numbers will be so small this time. A 135i coupe already runs in at 1530kg and 302bhp. What I hope is that M division has the confidence to feel that it doesn’t just have to blitz the power of the rest of the range. It has other models – M5, M6 the Xs – that do that.
I’d love to think that when BMW talks about the affordability and purity of the original, it really means it. Keep it light, keep it simple, remember that handling and fun are not the same as power and grip.
So far, I’m encouraged that in our spy shots the 1M’s wheels – although large in diameter – don’t look too wide at the back, and not too much wider than the fronts. No bonnet bulge either, and the exhausts only exit one side. There’s no massive engine, in other words.
In my ideal spec a 1-Series M would be a four-pot (I suspect it’ll have to be, though I’d rather it wasn’t, turbocharged) making perhaps 240bhp, and I’d want to find a way of taking the weight down to 1250kg, less if at all possible. It’d be completed by a slippy diff, Alcantara wheel and gearlever, tight seats and a £25k asking price.
Forget the fact a Ford Focus RS is more powerful. Ignore the fact a Renaultsport Megane might lap the Nordschleife more quickly. These things mean nothing when it comes to poise, agility, balance - all the things that make a great car, like the E30, or a Peugeot 205 GTi or Lotus Elise, or a great bike like the Ducati 748, so memorable.
Five years ago, of course, these things would have been an impossible dream. A 1-Series M would have been a 350bhp blown-six hot rod at £40k. But things have changed a bit since then. Cars have to get lighter and cleaner. Already most performance cars are too fast to be routinely enjoyed on the road.
The sports car genre could do with some recalibration. I just hope the 1-Series M leads the way.