Chris Harris video: BMW M135i vs Audi RS3


I think, and I hope, that somewhere in this test lies a significant change for the motor industry. The clues lurk within the M135i's pricing.

As tested, this car was a tickle over £37,000, which to any of us is monstrous for a three-door hatchback. However, contained in that price are over £7,000 of optional extras. But the big news is that so few of them are crucial for enjoying the car. The fundaments of the M135i are available for the price of the base vehicle and the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox (no, I haven't gone mad). That's under £32,000. The forthcoming Mk7 Golf GTI, with a smattering of toys will not be that much cheaper. When you have driven this little BMW, that rice will seem a bargain.

Desirable but overpriced: Audi, in a nutshell
Desirable but overpriced: Audi, in a nutshell
What we have here is the emergence, albeit not in name, of a menu pricing system. If you want all the clever gubbins, it costs you big wedge, but BMW will supply you a base car for far, far less money. Instantly, the £39,850 Audi wants for the RS3 looks unreasonable.

We drove the cars on road and track and cruised and flagellated them for a week. Many people came into contact with the RS3, not one of them came away feeling that the driving experience in any way matched that perfectly judged bull terrier stance, the undeniable Audi sex-factor and the excellent powertrain.

Should the BMW have a mechanical locking differential? You'll need to watch the vid to find out. Can I really be serious about wanting an automatic gearbox? If it was my daily driver - yes. You need to experience the BMW's powertrain in this configuration to believe just how exciting and capable it is. Do I think the M135i looks dull as cold porridge? Of course, but it's not my job to judge the way things look on your behalf.

All this and much more (road, track and a drag-race) is covered in the vid. A faulty radio mic caused a few audio issues at the end - apologies for that.

Enjoy.


 

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Comments (797) Join the discussion on the forum

  • astirling 23 May 2013

    urquattroGus said:
    Wolands Advocate said:
    There's always someone dissatisfied. Sell it then and buy an S3 (but not an RS3) then if perceived quality is the be all and end all. I agree that the boot-floor flock and parcel shelf are of noticeably cheap quality but that's just BMW for you - the quality of the boot trimmings in the E60 M5 I had before wasn't noticeably better. For some reason, unless you opt for an estate (or possibly a 7 series – don't know, have never looked in the boot of one), BMW seems to think a cheap flock-lined boot is perfectly acceptable. As for cost-cutting, I'm afraid you'll find they are all at it. Just touch any surface in a VAG product that VAG don't reckon you'll touch regularly and be prepared for quite a difference in quality from the bits they expect you to touch regularly. But over 7 months and 5k miles, I have found no issue with the trim finish or build quality in the rest of the cabin of my M135i and I don't find it feels in any way noticeably cheaply put together after the M5, which generally had a finish befitting a £75k car. Then again, it also depends on your point of view. I don't consider a £30k car an especially expensive car so therefore am not expecting it to possess luxury car levels of fit and finish, particularly not when it is simply the top dog in a range starting below £20k.

    Yes, the new A3 has a noticeably nicer interior and Audi at least sees fit to carpet the boot properly but if that was what really mattered in a driver's car, no one would ever buy a Lotus or, for that matter, a Porsche (which until very recently always had remarkably cheap-feeling interiors) at double the price. I tried an RS3 before buying my M135i but whilst it all felt ok-enough screwed together, it was also very dated inside with a sat nav Noah might have been familiar with. No amount of leather makes that feel like the interior of a £40k car, or even a new car. Whereas at £30k, the interior of the M135i is modern, up-to-date tech-wise and looks and feels about right (to me at any rate).
    What he said +1 smile
    Another +1 from a fellow owner.

  • urquattroGus 23 May 2013

    Wolands Advocate said:
    There's always someone dissatisfied. Sell it then and buy an S3 (but not an RS3) then if perceived quality is the be all and end all. I agree that the boot-floor flock and parcel shelf are of noticeably cheap quality but that's just BMW for you - the quality of the boot trimmings in the E60 M5 I had before wasn't noticeably better. For some reason, unless you opt for an estate (or possibly a 7 series – don't know, have never looked in the boot of one), BMW seems to think a cheap flock-lined boot is perfectly acceptable. As for cost-cutting, I'm afraid you'll find they are all at it. Just touch any surface in a VAG product that VAG don't reckon you'll touch regularly and be prepared for quite a difference in quality from the bits they expect you to touch regularly. But over 7 months and 5k miles, I have found no issue with the trim finish or build quality in the rest of the cabin of my M135i and I don't find it feels in any way noticeably cheaply put together after the M5, which generally had a finish befitting a £75k car. Then again, it also depends on your point of view. I don't consider a £30k car an especially expensive car so therefore am not expecting it to possess luxury car levels of fit and finish, particularly not when it is simply the top dog in a range starting below £20k.

    Yes, the new A3 has a noticeably nicer interior and Audi at least sees fit to carpet the boot properly but if that was what really mattered in a driver's car, no one would ever buy a Lotus or, for that matter, a Porsche (which until very recently always had remarkably cheap-feeling interiors) at double the price. I tried an RS3 before buying my M135i but whilst it all felt ok-enough screwed together, it was also very dated inside with a sat nav Noah might have been familiar with. No amount of leather makes that feel like the interior of a £40k car, or even a new car. Whereas at £30k, the interior of the M135i is modern, up-to-date tech-wise and looks and feels about right (to me at any rate).
    What he said +1 smile

  • Wolands Advocate 23 May 2013

    There's always someone dissatisfied. Sell it then and buy an S3 (but not an RS3) then if perceived quality is the be all and end all. I agree that the boot-floor flock and parcel shelf are of noticeably cheap quality but that's just BMW for you - the quality of the boot trimmings in the E60 M5 I had before wasn't noticeably better. For some reason, unless you opt for an estate (or possibly a 7 series – don't know, have never looked in the boot of one), BMW seems to think a cheap flock-lined boot is perfectly acceptable. As for cost-cutting, I'm afraid you'll find they are all at it. Just touch any surface in a VAG product that VAG don't reckon you'll touch regularly and be prepared for quite a difference in quality from the bits they expect you to touch regularly. But over 7 months and 5k miles, I have found no issue with the trim finish or build quality in the rest of the cabin of my M135i and I don't find it feels in any way noticeably cheaply put together after the M5, which generally had a finish befitting a £75k car. Then again, it also depends on your point of view. I don't consider a £30k car an especially expensive car so therefore am not expecting it to possess luxury car levels of fit and finish, particularly not when it is simply the top dog in a range starting below £20k.

    Yes, the new A3 has a noticeably nicer interior and Audi at least sees fit to carpet the boot properly but if that was what really mattered in a driver's car, no one would ever buy a Lotus or, for that matter, a Porsche (which until very recently always had remarkably cheap-feeling interiors) at double the price. I tried an RS3 before buying my M135i but whilst it all felt ok-enough screwed together, it was also very dated inside with a sat nav Noah might have been familiar with. No amount of leather makes that feel like the interior of a £40k car, or even a new car. Whereas at £30k, the interior of the M135i is modern, up-to-date tech-wise and looks and feels about right (to me at any rate).

  • Frada01 22 May 2013

    What Chris failed to comment on was the build quality of each car. After watching this review I immediately went on a mission to buy the m135i..

    Now a good number of months into the experience I can only say I've been left feeling totally disappointed. Bargain of the decade. Maybe not..

    Very cheaply put together BMW with hooligan power delivery certainly.

    Just look at the boot floor to see what I'm talking about. Sound crazy but if they are cutting cost here where else did they cut costs.


  • Dave Hedgehog 22 Nov 2012

    blearyeyedboy said:
    Urban Sports said:
    I saw one of these M135i's today...or at least I thought I did. It had all of the trimmings including the wheels and so on, even a badge down the side saying M Performance, looked very tasteful and purposeful until it went past and had a frikkin 116i badge on the back!

    FFS

    rofl
    If I had one, I'd badge it 116i. But then, I'm weird. wink
    my R32 golf spent the 5 years i had it badged 2.0 TDi, i had a tuned biturbo S4 badged A4 1.8 biggrin

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