The BMW M140i is a handsome hot hatch for those looking for something nippy and petite.
It is pricey, but with that outstanding price comes outstanding performance. The 8 speed auto gets to 100 in just 4.6 seconds, but this is the manual, and it is better just because.
It is getting harder to find thrilling drives under $60k, but this certainly fits the bill.
BMW nomenclatures see odd numbered models with 4 or 5 doors, and even numbers with 2 doors. That is of course if you don’t count the gran Coupes.
The M upgrades are not to be confused with M models such as the urgent M3, and fiery M5.
The M140i is BMW’s budget buster. It is for the well-heeled who don’t fancy themselves in a Focus RS or Subaru STI, as if the latter could be considered inferior in any way. Sometimes, the badge matters more than anything else.
The black-on-black-with-just-a-touch-of-black exterior exudes power and presence.
A front end is dominated by the kidney grille which sits between quad angel-eye headlights. The Adaptive LED headlights have High-Beam Assist, and look so distinctive that no one will mistake a BMW for any other brand.
The pert rump continues the strong belt-line which starts just behind the front wheel arch. Massive LED tail lights take up much of the real estate from behind. The C pillar manages a strong angle thanks to the rear doors and rear hatch sweeping lines.
A small car by any standards, the 1 Series makes parking a snip. Short doors give easy access in car parks dominated by careless SUV owners who insist on using several spots at once.
Head and tail lights also feature highly in side profile adding light and safety where it is needed.
18” wheels, also in black, finish off a slightly menacing look. It makes the stance even more impressive especially for such a diminutive 5 door hatch. There is a muscular look that is subtle at the same time.
Don’t let the key holes in the black door handles fool you, the M140i has smart entry/start and will never see any use beyond a fob with flat batteries. Locking is by touching the ribbed pad on the upper handle surface. Unlocking the car means touching the inner surface of the handle, then pulling gently on the door.
The cabin feels premium for sure, but it is not in the same league as her posher siblings.
At first glance, the controls appear deceptively simple because much of the function is subsumed by a combination of a high-resolution LCD tablet, and the I-Drive controller between the front seats. Most menus are best tackled while parked.
Using the touch screen is by far the easiest method of manipulating the system. The latest BMW environment has largely done away with the need for an I-Drive controller. For some reason BMW persists with the system which first appeared in the unlovable Bangle-Bustled 7 series. I can’t help but feel its days are numbered.
The one drawback of a touch screen is finger marks which ruin the pristine images.
The centre stack also features simple to use climate controls, and 8 nifty one-touch programmable buttons. These buttons can be used to store functions including radio stations and satnav input. It is genius.
Face level air vents continue BMW’s centre temperature control scroll. I’ve never been able to understand why it is there, even in the ones I’ve owned myself. I doubt anyone ever uses it. Be gone with it!
An asymmetric centre console houses the High Alter containing the manual gear lever and drive mode control switch. The I-drive controller rounds out a deliciously effective layout.
The Harmon/Kardon sound system is almost perfect were it not for the absence of Apple CarPlay as standard. Even on the M140i it is a $623 option.
Power seats and mirrors have a handy memory mode with 2 positions. Like most memory seat models, it also has auto dipping mirrors for reversing. This feature is largely obsolete in models with 360° cameras.
The Dakota leather and M steering wheel are set off with touches of Aluminium hexagon trim dotted about the cabin.
I like the interior for its Teutonic simplicity which marries form and function without sacrificing either.
- Park distance control
- Adaptive M suspension
- Harmon/Kardon audio
- Manual transmission (NCO)
- Adaptive LED headlights with auto high-beam
- Variable sport steering (electric)
- Aluminium Hexagon trim
- 18” M black allow wheels
- M adaptive drive mode
- M Aerodynamics package
Surprisingly, driver-aid features like lane control and blind spot monitoring are missing. It seems inexplicable to me that a driver-focused car would have such omissions. None the less the driver is not left wanting.
Voice control is available but can be touchy. By the time you’ve learned how to use it you could have just pressed a button instead.
As always, you can still use Siri to make phone calls and handle texts handsfree even without CarPlay/Android Auto. A long press on the voice button will use the phone’s system while a short press uses the car.
A lusty straight six is mated to a rev-matching six speed manual. With 250kw and a huge 500Nm, the M140i still manages a thrifty 7.1L/100k. CO2 emissions are 163g/km with a light foot. All this heads north if you try the 4.6 second 0-100 dash too often.
Steering at city speeds is light making parking easy. Things get more interesting as the corners come faster. Twin scroll turbos make lag a thing of the past and the BWM always feels ready to sprint. It is the sort of car that rewards brisk bends with a willing thrust out the other side.
Handling has always been a BMW strength, and the M140i is a peach. It gets boring saying that a car drives like it is on rails, but it is 100% true here. Each turn is better than the last. The only thing better than a frolic in a mountain pass is a sprint to 110 on the highway.
The compact interior means some of the switches are just out of reach. Window switches are at wrist level when your arm is resting comfortably on the armrest. The gear lever is similar. I found myself reaching back slightly to change gears.
It wasn’t unpleasant, merely slightly annoying at first.
- Superb handling
- Spritely performance
- Rev matched manual
Not So Good Bits
- Some controls not easily reached
- CarPlay not standard
- Tight rear seats and cargo hold
With brilliant handling, and a 0-100 under 5 seconds, the BMW M140i is a posh hot hatch anyone can enjoy. It has a manual option at no cost, has a satisfying growl to the engine.
The tyres have a hum, but most of the time it is comforting rather than annoying.
It is just the sort of car for someone who doesn’t want to be flashy, but still wants some pep in their step.
Of course, there are cheaper, faster hot hatches, and some will even be better equipped, but sometimes it is about the prestige of the badge. There is no point pretending a BMW driver would ever be happy in a Focus RS
Facts and Figures
Engine: 3.0L straight 6 cylinder, twin scroll turbo, 250kw,500Nm, 7.6L/100k
Transmission: 8 speed auto or 6 speed manual (NCO)
Safety: 5 star
Warranty: 3 yr/60,000km (extension packages available)
Price: $54,536 ex tax ($59,990 inc. tax ex reg)