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Wednesday 16th November 2005

BMW 130i M Sport

Is the fastest BMW hatch worth a drive? Nick Hall has fun finding out.


BMW 130i M Sport
BMW 130i M Sport

Apparently, some sharp-eyed local policeman spotted the flotilla of tricked up BMW hatchbacks. As a result, a mobile camera sat in the middle of the carefully scouted route. It was a good thing we went in forewarned, as the 130i M Sport would have got more than just me into trouble.

This is a car that lives by its 7,000rpm redline and brings out the devil in whoever sits behind the wheel. Perfectly respectable middle-aged men, ones charged with testing far more powerful cars than this, turned into young hooligans when presented with a 265bhp rear-wheel drive hot hatch.

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Not so long ago, these figures would have been trumpeted on the front pages of the motoring press along with a picture of the latest superstar from Maranello or Stuttgart. Today, it’s a mundane figure that barely raises the pulse on paper, but in the flesh this buzzing hornet of a car is a wholly different proposition.

Any mainstream hot hatch that accelerates to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, weighs 1,450Kg and tops out at 155mph has to be a little bit special, even in the modern age, and BMW has let it slip in casual conversation that this little animal has lapped the test track of the gods, the Nordschleife, in a time that certainly would not disgrace an M3.

Buzzy power delivery

The high revving nature of the 130i, with peak power achieved at 6,600rpm, allows for smooth power delivery all the way to the redline, while the 232lb-ft of torque at 2,750rpm provides low down in-gear thrust. It’s ferocious in a straight line and lunges deep into the rev zone with the slightest tickle on the gas and begs you to hold the gear and feel the noise.

The engine takes a deep breath at 4,000rpm, thanks to BMW’s VANOS variable valve timing, and all hell lets loose in a gnashing whirl of revs. It’s fast, brutal and takes time to truly master. The first few minutes were a Staccato mess of power, brakes and opposite lock, it takes time to smooth out progress in the buzzy little 130i. It’s one of the lairiest cars in the line-up and is almost as compulsive as the mighty M3.

Don’t get hoodwinked by the M in the 130i M Sport title, this is not a true M. The 130i is just as fast in a straight line and significantly cheaper and the M package comprises slightly stiffer suspension, the bodykit, 18-inch wheels, fatter rear tyres and some cosmetic jewellery on the interior that all add to the flavour of this frenetic, tooth-gnashing banshee. On some of BMW’s range, it has felt like a cynical ploy to empty the customer’s pocket of the last few coins, here it feels strangely fitting.

With a few choice modifications to the air induction intake and exhaust systems, the engineers have extracted an extra 7hp from the three-litre inline six that proved a sexier option than the marque’s 4.5-litre V8 in the 6-Series.

Extensive use of magnesium alloy in the crank case, cylinder head and other areas kept the weight to the bare bones and this is the lightest engine in its class. It’s compact, too, which helps with the legendary BMW 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. It’s not just a case of shifting ballast, though, BMW has gone to the extremes of mixing up the metals in the suspension to ensure the basic balance is right.

Driving it

The 130i has the longest wheelbase in class at 2.66metres, a wide track and short body overhangs at each corner. Simple and basic it might be, but such things matter when it comes to slinging the car round Newbury’s B-roads.

Now the 130i M Sport is, somewhat unbelievably, only a whisker lighter than the 630i, but this is an altogether less sophisticated machine. It’s a true hot hatch in the sense that the simple base chassis is pushed to its limits by the raw power, so it’s nervous and constantly bucking in your hands.

It skips off ruts in the road and can push wide in corners, leading to one memorable moment on broken, damp tarmac, but it’s all part of the fun. Accusations of poor handling may have missed the point, as this car feels like the rough edges have been deliberately left unfiled. The four-wheel drive Golf R32 leaves the little Beemer in its wake in terms of ride and even outright speed, but I’d buy this car every time for the fun factor.

With the traction control off, you’re never far from opposite lock, as there’s no limited slip diff and the power is more than enough to unstuck the rear wheels and send the 1 Series sideways out of bends. Here it’s best to have ignored the active steering box on the optional extras list. While it’s getting better, this system still feels a little artificial for my liking and a bit more effort at parking speeds is a small price to pay for feel on the limit.

Some of the other trickery to filter down from the bigger models, though, such as brake standby and fade compensation are more than welcome. The former brings the discs closer to the pads after sudden lift-off, which can affect the braking distance just enough to save a big shunt, and ensures the pads are kept dry with occasional applications. And the latter puts extra pressure on the brakes to compensate for any heat-related fading. It’s all pretty impressive stuff and means that the lightweight 130i can stop just as effectively as it starts.

Value proposition

The M Sport costs £26,515, the 130i costs £24,745. Just a couple of thousand more will get you behind the wheel of the 330i, which remains one of the best cars of the year and the same money could just about get you into a 5 Series. So this is not a cheap entry-level BMW. It’s a lifestyle choice, a baby ‘M’ for those that don’t need the rear seats and want something that’s more of a handful than the corresponding 3.

Now it’s all well and good talking about the theory behind it, the simple truth is that I couldn’t justify buying this car with full M regalia when the cost is so close to the 330i – one of the best cars pound-for-pound I have driven this year. As I emerged from the cockpit to hand the keys back to BMW’s every helpful staff I wanted it, though, just for a minute I wanted this car.

If you don’t need the back seats, love adrenaline-fuelled motoring and like the idea of a hot hatch, then try the 130i – it really won’t disappoint. Unless the police are around, that is…

Photos by Matthew Griffiths

Nick Hall
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Author Discussion

dinkel

Original Poster:

22,673 posts

146 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
"Any mainstream hot hatch that accelerates to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, weighs 1,450Kg and tops out at 155mph has to be a little bit special, even in the modern age, and BMW has let it slip in casual conversation that this little animal has lapped the test track of the gods, the Nordschleife, in a time that certainly would not disgrace an M3."

That's all very nice and I'd have one in black please . . . but what do you think of the looks of this Beemer Nick?

I'd like to see a hothatch test including this 130. Any mags?

PetrolTed

34,236 posts

191 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
I like BM's a lot but this is the ugly runt Doesn't matter how good a piece of engineering it is...

STRAWBS

148 posts

112 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
Its a car that should be a 3 door

GTRene

9,167 posts

112 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
STRAWBS said:
Its a car that should be a 3 door



The 3 door option will arive in 2006!
I like the "litle" 1 serie, especialy in black, a girlfriend of mie has bought a black 2.0L High Excutive, its very nice, first I've got to use a bit, but Black is Beautiful...
But I stil take the Hartge H1 5.0L (in Black please) see hartge H1 in link(grey sadly)


www.germancarfans.com/tuners.cfm/tunerid/7050603.001

dinkel

Original Poster:

22,673 posts

146 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
GTRene said:

But I stil take the Hartge H1 5.0L (in Black please) see hartge H1 in link(grey sadly)
www.germancarfans.com/tuners.cfm/tunerid/7050603.001


Fooooooooooooook . . . in black IMO . . . wouldn't mind the shite looks.
Advertisement

gangstatom

25 posts

114 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
That is a sreiously tasty piece of Kit! Deffo going to wait for the 3 dr model before I take a test drive and inevitably buy one!
That is a helluva punchy engine for a small ish car. I seriously doubt that the R32 is THAT much quicker in a straight line..... besides this sounds like typical go-kart fun!
I'd be interested to hear what anyone thought of the 118i... I havent driven one but i'm interested to know what they are like?

pallison

51 posts

134 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
dinkel said:
I'd like to see a hothatch test including this 130. Any mags?


There's a write-up against the new Golf R32 in this month's EVO magazine. Both get 4 stars, but the golf just pips it for everyday performance/ride/handling.

chriswright

350 posts

110 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
pallison said:
dinkel said:
I'd like to see a hothatch test including this 130. Any mags?


There's a write-up against the new Golf R32 in this month's EVO magazine. Both get 4 stars, but the golf just pips it for everyday performance/ride/handling.


In this weeks Autocar aswell, Golf wins that one too

dern

13,302 posts

167 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
A hatch that weighs a ton and a half... jesus, what do they make them out of, lead?

R988

7,494 posts

117 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th November 2005 quote quote all
I actually think the convertible version might end up being the best looker in the end.

Ray_Aber

18 posts

164 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th November 2005 quote quote all
Still looks like Scooby Doo's head though....

Ray

Jay GTi

1,026 posts

111 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th November 2005 quote quote all
The 1 Series just shows everything that was wrong about Bangle all in the wrong one car, I mean I'm better looking than that thing. As good as it sounds, to me it's a car, like the Merc A-Class, that is far more about the badge ownership than the car itself.

Steve2005

16 posts

117 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
That One series, from the side looks just like my mum's Nissan almeria!!! Not pretty.

And...

The article said:
Any mainstream hot hatch that accelerates to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, weighs 1,450Kg and tops out at 155mph has to be a little bit special


1,450kg?? That isn't a hatch. The article mentioned its weight was similar to a 330i? I reckon BMW could have made the One series at least 200kg lighter, then it'd be something special

>> Edited by Steve2005 on Friday 18th November 00:20

>> Edited by Steve2005 on Friday 18th November 00:21

>> Edited by Steve2005 on Friday 18th November 00:21

amare32

1,850 posts

111 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
A new 130i or a used M3??

I know which one I'd take and it's not the one that ends with an i...

the Z4M Coupe on the otherhand ...

Rob_the_Sparky

897 posts

126 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
There is a lot to be said for a small RWD with go-kart style handling, certainly got my interest (although I'd never buy a new car so I'll have to wait for a while!). Really for someone in the true hot hatch market there isn't a direct competitor if you are a RWD fan. However, I concur with the incedulation as to its weight, dump a load of weight and then its performance should sparkle. Shame is ts such an ugly duckling, if it looked better I bet they would sell far more of them.

Rob

P.S. Love the idea of one with a V8!

cjn

206 posts

161 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
£24k

Some tough competition at this price.....

350Z
RX8
TT (not)

dinkel

Original Poster:

22,673 posts

146 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
Rob_the_Sparky said:
P.S. Love the idea of one with a V8!


[/url]It's not an idea|www.germancarfans.com/tuners.cfm/tunerid/7050603.001[/url]

fidgits

17,143 posts

117 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
article said:
Any mainstream hot hatch that accelerates to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, weighs 1,450Kg and tops out at 155mph has to be a little bit special


The performance doesnt make it stand out from the A3 3.2 Quattro, or Alfa 147GTV - which is cheaper, more practical, and better looking...


The ONLY thing the 1 series has going for it, is that it is the only current small hatch with RWD - and while a 3.0 engine is a nice propostion, you'll always regret not getting a 3 series..

>> Edited by fidgits on Friday 18th November 20:30

DoctorD

1,541 posts

144 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
Steve2005 said:

1,450kg?? That isn't a hatch. The article mentioned its weight was similar to a 330i? I reckon BMW could have made the One series at least 200kg lighter, then it'd be something special



Incidentally did you realise that the Z4 3.0i weighs over 100kg less than the 130i with the identical engine?

But before berating BMW for making the 1 series so heavy, it's worth bearing in mind that the Golf R32 is nearly 100kg 'heavier' than the 130i. In fact the R32 is virtually the same weight as the current E46 M3.

>> Edited by DoctorD on Friday 18th November 17:02

thondwe

10 posts

114 months

[news] 
Friday 18th November 2005 quote quote all
I've tested one - it's quickish, but you have to push the engine up the revs - I'm not used to that - and it's quiet in the cabin - not used to that either. The 120d somehow felt better since it's noisier (and not really in a dieselly way).

Handled pretty well, small amount of understeer (on my favorite understeer inducing corner) but pretty good. Ride typical of the other germanics I've driven - i.e. sporty/firm but not wholy suitable to bumpy welsh tarmac.

I'd say it was definately miles better handling than our TT (which understeers!!), but doesn't feel as quick to respond. Cabin was OK, but not as good as the TT either. Not a patch on my VX Turbo though, obiously in the performance dept, nor in the handling dept (no suprise) but also not in the ride dept - the VXT still rides the rubbish roads around here so much better than anything else I've driven.

Nearly bought one as a replacement for one of our cars (we need a real 4 seater) but too small for baby stuff (rear facing baby seats are huge!)

P.
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