This is BMW's latest M car, the 1-series M Coupé. When it hits UK roads in May 2011, the 1-series M Coupé will go head-to-head with the new Audi RS3. Both produce 335bhp and 332lb ft of torque, have a sub-five second 0-62mph time and cost less than £40,000.
We've driven a late prototype here. Read on for CAR Magazine's first drive review of the baby M car designed to mark 25 years since the first M3, the E30.
The 1-series M Coupé looks promising, what's going on beneath its skin?
Rather than follow the trend of upsizing its M cars' engines, BMW has given the 1-series M the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six from the Z4 35is, creating peak power at 5900rpm. Peak 332lb ft torque is available all the way from 1500 to 4500rpm, but an overboost function gives an extra 37lb ft. The 1-series M is capable of hitting 62mph in just 4.9 seconds - its big brother, the M3, does it in 4.8 (4.6 with an auto 'box). Both run on to an electronically limited 155mph top speed.
Driving purists will be glad to know that the rear-wheel-drive 1-series M only comes with a manual six-speed 'box, which is mated to BMW's Variable M differential.
To look at, it's clear the 1-series M means serious business. It squats 20mm lower than the standard car with a 71mm wider track at the front and 46mm at the rear. Those blistered wheelarches give the baby M a real presence.
What is the 1-series M Coupé like to drive?
The baby M car might have two cylinders fewer than the M3, but its straight six feels like it can nearly match the big-punch oomph of the high-revving V8.
The 1-series M's nose feels lighter than the M3's and has sharper, more precise steering than the 135i upon which it's based. Those fat 19in wheel, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, and the wider track help boost grip levels. The 1-series M has a new level of horizontal compliance which makes a difference through dips and over crests, despite the firmer spring and damper settings.
Unfortunately we couldn't have a play with the intermittent stage of the stability programme, nor could we turn it off. So it's difficult to judge from our early drive quite how playsome the 1 M is.
Inside the 1-series M Coupe
The 1 M is aimed at younger customers, wanting a cheaper M division product. The seats are deeply bolstered, and it feels functional, purposeful in here. You spy the M-spec aero door mirrors, and there's grippy Alcantara on the door trim, grab handles and even across the dash.
The tacho runs to 6600rpm, the speedo runs on to 300kph. Big figures - certainly bigger than the amount of space and practicality on offer. The 1-series Coupe remains a cramped vehicle.
Make no mistake, the 1-series M Coupe is a pretty serious driving tool. Those younger customers will lap up the quad pipes, the scalloped rear bumper, the blistered arches. It feels every inch a junior M3.
The 1-series M Coupé is not an overpriced 135i with a few mechanical tweaks. It may be the smallest and cheapest M car, but, unlike the X6 M, you can't question that extra letter on the boot lid.
It combines small car agility and spirit with large car stability and performance. Audi should be worried.
>> For Georg Kacher's full review, and news of all the other new BMWs due in 2011, read the new December 2011 issue of CAR Magazine on sale now