Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
After being largely underwhelmed by the new BMW 118i, we thought it only fair to give the M135i xDrive a steer.
The M135i xDrive is the flagship of the new 1 Series hatch range, it’s the performance model looking to attract those who like to drive, not just those desiring a premium badge to start conversations with the neighbours.
Plenty has changed since the new 1 Series range launched towards the end of last year. The weakened economic conditions and a struggling Aussie dollar has seen the M135i’s price jump to $68,990 plus on-road costs, a substantial $5000 increase when compared to the launch price.
For the mathematically inclined, the price difference to move from the 118i to the M135i xDrive is a neat $23,000. It’s an awful amount of cash to drop on a five-door hatch, even a BMW M performance one.
Buyers do get a healthy-looking spec sheet with M Sport Brakes, M Sport Steering, a rear spoiler, 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, high-beam assist, comfort access, a digital key, front M Sport Seats with electric adjustment and driver memory, Dakota leather trim, a 16-speaker harman/kardon surround sound system, ambient lighting and wireless smartphone charging all included as standard.
The safety kit features autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a head-up display and a rear-view camera. ANCAP has awarded the 1 Series a five-star safety rating.
While buyers can legitimately expect a generous equipment list at this price point, it’s the drive that needs to command attention.  
BMW says extensive work has been done on the chassis, suspension and steering to ensure the sporty characteristics of the old car aren’t lost.
Before we get to the fast stuff, around town, the M135i is far better to drive than the 118i thanks to the conventional automatic transmission. The annoying low-speed judder of the 118i’s dual-clutch isn't missed. Regardless of the speed, the shifts here are smooth and precise, you know, the way they should be.
There’s enough power from the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, even if it does lose some of the charm of the six-cylinder unit from the old M140i.
Overall, the powertrain does well to manage the M135i’s 1525kg mass, it’s a heavy car by hot hatch standards. We were able to verify BMW’s claim that it can hit triple figures in 4.8 seconds.
The all-wheel drive system is an on-demand set-up that can only send up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels. Most of the time, all the torque is going to the front, you need to properly wring its neck to enjoy the benefits of the all-wheel drive traction.
Everything is nice and tight, however, the car’s character has fundamentally changed. When compared to the previous generation, it’s not as playful to drive at lower speeds. It needs to be pushed hard on a winding road to unlock the stability and grip that the switch to all-wheel drive affords.
If you are giving it a bootful on the right road, you'll get out of the corners in a dignified manner. While hammering along, we’d like a bit more life in the steering, there’s not a great deal of feedback for a performance hatch.
Whatever winding road you’re on, hopefully, it’s smooth. The suspension tune is on the firm side and at times feels overly busy trying to iron out even the smallest of imperfections. A good compromise would be smaller wheels and taller rubber.
Instead of a performance model, the M135i is more convincing as a luxury hatch. It’s quiet and refined when getting around. It’s most likely to be deployed as a daily commuter so the quiet cabin helps justify the cost.
Although the drive is a long way removed from the old car, the new configuration liberates more interior space with packaging that can accommodate young families.
It’s a smart-looking cabin layout that’s in desperate need of a splash of colour, our tester was a bit drab with too many dark surfaces.
The highlight of the interior is the inclusion of BMW’s OS7.0 infotainment platform and Intelligent Personal Assistant. The system includes Live Cockpit Professional, two 10.25-inch screens and wireless Apple CarPlay. It’s all very intuitive and simple to master.
When it comes to ownership, maintenance costs are competitive. Buyers can opt for a basic service plan for $1465 that covers the first five years or 80,000km of ownership.
There’s also the option of a plus service plan that costs $3790 and extends the service coverage to include brake pad and brake disc replacement and wiper blade rubbers.
BMW continues to offer a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Rival brand Lexus gives buyers four-year coverage, while Mercedes-Benz now backs its cars with a five-year warranty.
If you can forget BMW’s heritage, you’ll find the drivetrain changes more palatable. For those of us with long memories, the rear-drive balance of the old 1 Series is sorely missed. It gave the car a point of difference and a driving experience that can't be replicated by BMW’s new philosophy.
Having now driven both variants of the new 1 Series, our advice remains the same, if you want a lively, driver-orientated BMW hatch, save a few dollars and look for a clean example of the previous generation.
Please note: Our tester was not a BMW press car.
2020 BMW M135i xDrive Specifications
Price from $68,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 225kW @ 4500-6250rpm Torque 450Nm 1750-5000rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.5L/100km Tank Capacity 50L Length 4319mm Width 1799mm Height 1434mm Wheelbase 2670mm Kerb Weight 1525kg Performance 0-100km/h 4.8 seconds Turning Circle 11.4m Service Intervals Condition Based Warranty three-year/unlimited kilometre