BMW M135i (2012) scooped at the Nurburgring

Published: 27 March 2012

Remember the BMW Concept M135i at the 2012 Geneva motor show? We said it would portend a road car – the new £30k 1-series hot hatch – and here it is, testing at the Nurburgring.

Our spy photographers have caught the 300bhp-plus BMW 1-series as it undergoes durability testing at high speed in Germany.

Remind me of the background of the BMW Concept M135i

You know all about the hardcore M cars: the M3 and M5, and even the 1-series M Coupe. Munich is now planning an M Performance division, to plug the gap between the maximum M division cars and the more cosmetic M Sport trim level.

That’s where the BMW M135i comes in: it’s a halfway house between a regular 135i and the limited-edition 1-series M Coupe.

Tellingly, BMW used to offer these M badges on models such as the M535i of 1979. It was the precursor to the M5, the original performance saloon from Munich. It’s part of a plan to reclaim some of the ground won by Audi’s S models.

How powerful is the M135i?

This car is testing a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine with over 300bhp, according to our sources. That’s just like the concept car’s. It’s rear-wheel drive, but has no M spec clever diff to apportion torque.

Those glossy blue front brake callipers confirm this is an M-fettled product. In future, all M cars wear blue brakes, gold signifying ceramic stoppers are fitted.

If the production car stays true to the concept car formula, it will wear 18in alloys and an M division fettled bodykit, including bespoke bumpers, blacked-out chrome window surrounds and special twin exhaust pipes mounted in a diffuser-style rear end undertray.

Expect to see the M135i hatchback in UK showrooms in late 2012, priced around £30,000. It’ll slot above the 125i hatch (the 135i is only available in the 1-series coupe).

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet