RE: BMW M135i facelift: Driven

RE: BMW M135i facelift: Driven

Thursday 30th April 2015

BMW M135i facelift: Driven

BMW's hot rod hatchback gets a much needed facelift and a smidge more power



Remember the BMW M135i? It's the £30K, 300hp hatchback that The Internet was debating before the Golf R arrived. The VW has rather usurped the BMW's position as the go-to premium fast hatch of choice thanks to its combination of all-wheel drive ease of use, assured dynamics and some, er, competitive lease deals. Since the M135i's introduction the market has also welcomed the Mercedes A45 AMG and most recently the new Audi RS3. A tough sector populated by some very talented cars.

Well this is far better, right?
Well this is far better, right?
This is a BMW Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) facelift rather than an all-new car, the updates focused on exterior styling, standard equipment and efficiency gains throughout the range. For the M135i there's another 5hp to match the M235i at 326hp. Though no official chassis updates have been announced, BMW's PR man was keen to stress the constant evolution of products; the engineers "were always looking to make improvements", indirectly implying a little tinker here or there underneath. Interestingly too the eight-speed ZF auto has received a few tweaks, with a greater difference in behaviour between Comfort and Sport, faster shift times and Predictive Shift, using the nav to ensure the right gear for the upcoming corners.

And what of that updated exterior styling? We're hardly expert judges but in the metal the 1 Series works far better than in the pics. The 2 Series inspired front is a vast improvement and though the rear lights still look a little large they're not as bad as you may have first feared. Plus it can't be seen on the inside, right?

Six of the best
Unsurprisingly given the relatively minor revision, the M135i's USP and key appeal remains as it was before: the magnificent powertrain. Immediately the noise makes it feels more special than its four-cylinder rivals, and even in the face of new additions it feels very fast. Second, third and fourth are very closely stacked in the eight-speed auto, only enhancing the sense of indefatigable acceleration. The improvements to the ZF gearbox have made it yet better still, with very nice calibration too. Sport doesn't immediately kickdown at the merest brush of the throttle and Comfort is happy to hold gears if it senses some enthusiasm. The shifts are sharper than ever. It's a very hard gearbox to fault.

Reality here better than pics. Honest
Reality here better than pics. Honest
The 332lb ft (52lb ft more than the Golf) can be relied on for fairly rapid progress but the M135i feels worth revving out still thanks to a willing nature and, again, that glorious soundtrack. Yes, it's artificially augmented but it's absolutely how you would want a straight-six turbo to sound.

However, regardless of any secret unofficial updates, the chassis still can't match the superb engine and gearbox combo. There's a disconcerting vagueness to the steering which makes grip levels hard to gauge at both ends with suspension that struggles to keep the car composed when pushing on. The M135i pitches and floats where you really need it to settle, even with the optional adaptive dampers at their stiffest. It's just doesn't inspire an awful lot of confidence, which is frustrating given that it feels quite benign when grip does subside. Appropriately enough it's the very opposite of a Golf R down a challenging road - the VW can be driven with almost reckless abandon and feels most enjoyable like that, while the BMW needs a far more considered approach with lower limits, at least on a greasy British road.

Manual labour
There was also opportunity to drive a manual car, an especially rare thing with just 20 per cent of M135i customers opting for it. To be honest, it's not hard to see why. The pedals are offset and it's the usual fairly notchy shift, while being less efficient than the auto. It makes the car feel considerably less frenetic, the pace of acceleration slowed slightly and the pauses between gearchanges of course much more noticeable. But it seems to fit the M135i's sort of mini-GT nature quite well, and there's still a great deal of satisfaction to deciding your own gears.

Good to drive, but not superb
Good to drive, but not superb
Overall then the M135i remains a very charming car, even despite its flaws and the new rivals. It covers the same bases as an Audi RS3 for considerably less money and that engine would make it far more exciting day to day than das Golf. Yes it still lacks some handling precision, a point that the A45 reinforces, but this is not the fully-fledged M car - that's due at some point later this year. There's always the M Performance catalogue to investigate, as Harris did with the M235i, until then. Just FYI the limited-slip diff is £2,520... The M135i isn't perfect, but it is interesting, unique and still very good value despite the Golf's arrival. Keep it on your (very) hot hatch shortlist.

 


BMW M135i
Engine:
2,979cc six-cylinder, turbocharged
Power (hp): 326hp@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,300-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds (4.9)
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,505kg (EU including 75kg driver, +20kg for auto)
MPG: 35.3 (NEDC combined, 37.7)
CO2: 188g/km (175g/km)
Price: £31,725

(Figures in brackets for automatic)



Author
Discussion

DoctorX

Original Poster:

4,262 posts

106 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Still no looker, but 100% better than the previous version.

E30Addict

816 posts

111 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Still not a looker, but a vast improvement over the pre-facelift car.

toys

216 posts

198 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
A mixed bag on the face-lift - front end better, back end worse to my eyes. And for some reason they have kept those ghastly wheels...

I'd like to have a drive in one however, to see how things have moved on from my old (and much loved) 130i


MyCC

337 posts

96 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Just what is it with the BMW 1 Series styling? They always manage to get it wrong somehow. Should have kept the previous rear end and just introduced the new frontal treatment. What BMW giveth with one hand, they taketh with the other.

Regards,

MyCC.

Ali_T

3,278 posts

196 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
"This is a BMW Life Cycle Impulse (LCI)"

God, that is so pretentious. It's a midlife refresh. Everyone knows it's a midlife refresh, so why give it such a ridiculous acronym?
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dme123

4,530 posts

128 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Maybe it's just me but I cannot understand buying a heavily boosted and FWD or FWD biased 4 pot hatch of any sort over the one with the turbocharged 6 shoe horned in. Shame it's so bloody ugly!

P4GNO

35 posts

62 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
I've owned mine for just over a year from new, 17K miles. I'm not bothered about the looks, I didn't buy it for that, I wanted a RWD fast auto hatchback. Not perfect but otherwise very good car. I'm not going to track it so doubt will ever find its limit and leave the stability on as I'm not as good a driver as I like to think I am.

andrewparker

3,405 posts

126 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
MyCC said:
Just what is it with the BMW 1 Series styling?
It's beyond me why BMW seems completely incapable of producing a good looking car in its entirety. They always fk something up, the front the back, the side, the headlights, something is always iffy about them.

Esseesse

8,824 posts

147 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
MyCC said:
Just what is it with the BMW 1 Series styling? They always manage to get it wrong somehow. Should have kept the previous rear end and just introduced the new frontal treatment. What BMW giveth with one hand, they taketh with the other.

Regards,

MyCC.
It is wrong in so many ways. BMW need to simplify every shape on it.

Mike1990

633 posts

70 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
The front end is more pleasing but the rear is ghastly i'am afraid, but i can imagine it's still a fantastic car, i quite like the alloy's even.

What's the reason BMW won't do a fully fledged 'M' version ?

Numeric

465 posts

90 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
We really enjoy our manual 135i - no it isn't an M but instead a very quick 1-series. Oddly though in character and I guess cos it is the manual, it reminds me most of the Z3M 'breadvan'. Bloody quick and not quite perfect but almost more charming for it. Even looks a bit similar if you get a black one (and squint a lot), not beautiful but with a certain presence.

I was worried about getting the manual, but now i'm really glad I did, it suits the car. For techno go for the A45 or Golf, for an old school hairy chested sports car try a manual 135i!

Hub

4,110 posts

137 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Ali_T said:
"This is a BMW Life Cycle Impulse (LCI)"

God, that is so pretentious. It's a midlife refresh. Everyone knows it's a midlife refresh, so why give it such a ridiculous acronym?
Well, I have learned something today - I have seen reference to 'LCI' BMWs quite a lot recently, but now I know!

theboyfold

9,723 posts

165 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
25000 miles and two years into mine and I still love it. I'm only considering moving on as it's getting too small for a family of 4. The issue is what to replace it with...

Clivey

4,592 posts

143 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
I actually like the styling of both pre and post-LCI. smile The pre-LCI looks like a modern version of the classic BMW hatch models; obviously that was intentional but many people don't "get it".

It seems, as with the 130i, the suspension setup is the M135i's achilles heel. Again, obviously they're holding something back for the M version(s) of the 1/2 Series but happily, as the fundamentals are all there, it's nothing that can't be sorted out. It's fairly easy to turn one into a "junior supercar". wink

GTEYE

1,275 posts

149 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Hub said:
Ali_T said:
"This is a BMW Life Cycle Impulse (LCI)"

God, that is so pretentious. It's a midlife refresh. Everyone knows it's a midlife refresh, so why give it such a ridiculous acronym?
Well, I have learned something today - I have seen reference to 'LCI' BMWs quite a lot recently, but now I know!
Not that it matters (!), I actually thought the "i"in LCI stood for "initiative", but I may be wrong....

Overall this looks much better than the pre LCI and less dumpy than the M235i IMHO.


Edited by GTEYE on Thursday 30th April 12:43

GroundEffect

11,228 posts

95 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Ali_T said:
"This is a BMW Life Cycle Impulse (LCI)"

God, that is so pretentious. It's a midlife refresh. Everyone knows it's a midlife refresh, so why give it such a ridiculous acronym?
Every OEM MUST use an acronym! It's the law.

Ford's is MCA or ICA - Mid-cycle Action or In-cycle Action.


ash reynolds

387 posts

130 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
When I saw the photo of the rear the first word that came to mind was Hyundai...which was a shame.

MitchT

12,274 posts

148 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Don't get why people are having an issue with the rear - it's the first 1 Series rear that looks good IMO. I've always felt that square rear lights look very utilitarian whereas long, horizontal ones are positively sexy. This is the first 1 Series I actually think looks right.

PJZ7

17 posts

48 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Can anyone explain/confirm this 'artificially augmented' engine noise?

My bro and his missus have the non'Life Cycle Impulse' M135i and we have tried to find the source of this wizardry but cannot hear it or see any function to turn it on or off. We became convinced it didn't exist.

duckson

525 posts

121 months

Thursday 30th April 2015
quotequote all
Picking up my LCI a week on Saturday (white, red leather, 5dr, auto + other spec) and cant wait.
I prefer the front and rear to the pre-LCI, just more modern looking but as with anything car related YMMV!

Did consider the Golf R but missed the cheap lease deals that got overloaded with orders going by the lead times of new cars (6+ months) and otherwise buying one outright i would be thinking too much about the lease R's flooding the market and lowering prices.

However I think the M135i will be more fun to drive, sound better and drive better. Thats what its for at the end of the day.