► CAR's BMW 140i review
► Tested with eight-speed auto
► 335bhp, 0-62mph in 4.6secs
The hyper-hatch market is booming with inflated performance claims and extra competition, and BMW knows it. While the M2 takes the crown as the fastest 2-series out there, there isn’t really a more practical hatch that matches it like-for-like.
This BMW M140i is the closest we’ll get to a full-fat M Division 1-series, but that doesn’t mean that it comes to the hot hatch party half-cocked.
We’ve tested the five-door M140i with the eight-speed sports Steptronic automatic ‘box here.
Check out our review of the manual M240i Coupe
So what’s under the bonnet of the new BMW M140i?
Most small, fast cars come with cruise-missile-spec 2.0-litre turbocharged fours, but the M140i brings a nuke to the party: a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six is shoehorned under the long bonnet, producing 335bhp and a muscular 368lb ft of torque.
That’s the largest engine in any hot hatch currently on sale, trumping even the warbling Audi RS3 on cylinder count. But BMW has forgotten the adage ‘It’s not your size, it’s what you do with it’ – the M140’s power output is trumped by both the RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45.
Not that the M140 is a slow car. From from it. The 4.6sec 0-62mph time of this automatic gearbox-equipped version out-drags a Porsche 718 Cayman and is only 0.1 seconds slower than an M2.
This isn’t a numbers car, though – it’s more than that. The 3.0-litre straight six’s tenor-like noise alone can make your neck hairs stand on end, and revving it until the 7000rpm redline is hugely addictive. Despite turbocharging, its power delivery is surprisingly linear, and there’s a constant weighty shove that you don’t feel as prominently in a VW Golf R, say.
How is it from behind the wheel?
The car’s personality is controlled using four different modes: Eco Pro keeps everything quiet, forces the gearbox to shift as early as possible and even disengages the clutch as a coasting function; Comfort is resolutely normal – steering weight, suspension softness and engine noise is kept to an acceptable level; while Sport and Sport+ put things on a war footing at the racier end.
Sport mode can be engaged in three ways: the engine or the drivetrain can be in Sport only, or both can be engaged for the full experience. When the engine is in Sport, the exhaust noise is on maximum attack and the stop/start is switched off for speedier getaways. When the drivetrain is in Sport, the steering weight is heavier, the suspension firms up to an almost-unbearable-for-longer-than-five-minutes level and gearchanges are so sharp you might get whiplash.
Sport+ turns the traction control off, allowing you to make full use of that rear-wheel drive configuration and is the mode you need if you wish to indulge in launch control.
No matter which mode you’re in, the steering is nicely weighted and sharp without being manic, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want and that rear-wheel drive layout allows you to be… creative about your cornering angles. Even so, bucketloads of grip are on hand from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres fitted to our car, so it’ll never come unstuck without heavy-handed provocation.
Browse BMW 140i for sale
How is the BMW M140’s interior?
Have you been in or seen a picture of a BMW interior in the last six years? It’s pretty much that, apart from a sportier steering wheel and a more up-to-date iDrive system that’s still playing catch-up with newer models from Munich. The infotainment system is pretty slick but misses out on the very latest touchscreens and gesture control you’ll find in the new 5-series and suchlike. And we still find postcode input on the navigation system a bit of a faff.
The leather sports seats are supportive and feature electrically-adjustable side bolsters that hug you during hard cornering, while interior space is great for a driver who wants to be cocooned in a tight space behind the wheel but less great for other occupants.
Those unfortunate enough to sit in the rear will suffer tight legroom, miserly headroom and a high window line; the 1-series’ rear-wheel drive format comes with serious packaging compromises (although these will be fixed in the next-gen FWD 1-series…). The BMW M140i’s boot is a competitive size, however – its 360-litre loadbay is 20 litres larger than a Golf R’s.
Note that the UK is denied the BMW M140i xDrive all-wheel drive version that overseas buyers can spec.
While a VW Golf R is for those looking for a fast all-rounder, this is for the sort of person who says ‘screw the kids’ and blasts off for a drive for absolutely no reason. The M140i is a bit of a selfish, indulgent treat.
It has so much more character than the Golf and, although it’s not as fast or powerful as a Mercedes-AMG A45 or Audi RS3, the dynamic poise and gorgeous engine will make you come back for more.
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