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£33,070 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£33,070
Brake horsepower
340bhp
Fuel consumption
36.2mpg
0–62 mph
4.80s
CO2
179g/km
Max speed
155Mph
Insurance Group
37E

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What makes this a BMW M140i, and not the M135i it looks identical to?

The M135i is dead, and the visually identical M140i, complete with a new engine, has taken its place atop BMW’s 1 Series range. Sound familiar? Yep, it’s exactly the same treatment applied to the two-door M240i we drove recently, and liked. A lot. 

Refresh my memory, if you would.

Well, iDrive’s had a refresh with sharper graphics a la 7 Series. Only kidding, let’s talk about whirring bits of metal. 

Power is up by 14bhp to 355bhp, while a hefty 396lb ft (a 37lb ft leap) matches the M2’s output. This is courtesy of a new 3.0-litre straight-six turbo motor that revs cleanly and crisply to 7,000rpm, sounds sweeter than anything else in the class (if you pigeonhole the £7,000 dearer five-cylinder Audi RS3 as a rung above), and is slightly greener than the motor it ousts. 

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BMW claims 36.2mpg and 179g/km of CO2, bettering the M135i by 0.7mpg and 9g/km. And that’s for the six-speed manual. Spec the £1,430 eight-speed ZF auto and the official claim rises to nigh-on 40mpg. As basic as it gets, you’ll pay £31,875 in total, which is still a bit of a bargain for so much power.

So I should probably have the auto then?

Well, the honed shift of the six-speeder properly won us over in the M240i, but to play devil’s advocate, we drove an automatic M140i, and it still shone. 

Yes, it could still do with a bigger blip on downshifts to ping those left-handed paddle-pulls on the way into a corner, but apart from that, we’re talking five-star automatic behaviour here. Even the alloy paddles are nicer than the slivers you use to swap cogs in a DCT-equipped M3. 

And the auto makes it quicker too?

Yup, thanks to those relatively seamless shifts and precisely no fear of human cock-up, an auto M140 oozes to 62mph in 4.6 seconds – 0.3 less than before. So it’s still right up there with the Golf Rs and Focus RSs. In fact, the powertrain is irreproachable. Beyond the tuneful engine note, pinpoint (for a turbo) throttle response, urgent torque and obedient gearbox, what more did you want, exactly?

What about the handling. Room for improvement there?

Carrying big speed on twisting, scarcely surfaced British roads was the M135i’s slight Achilles heel. BMW sensibly erred on the side of comfort with the suspension set-up, blessing the ’35 with great GT credentials and a pliant ride, but the pay-off was a saggy, heaving sensation on diving B-roads where the body’s inertia got out of sync with the chassis. To fix it, BMW’s applied what it’s learned with the more sorted M240i, stiffening up the dampers and increasing support at the rear to dial out that sense of squat’n’thrust that could tie the ‘35 in knots at ten-tenths. 

Has it worked?

It’s a subtle change, buy yeah, I’d say the M140i coped better when asked to change direction furiously. Certainly, there’s less body roll in long corners, but if you’re properly on a mission to make time you will still notice a slight float and lack of traction at the rear, exacerbated by the open differential. 

Don’t get me wrong: the M140i is super sorted for 95 per cent of folk 99 per cent of the time, but it doesn’t have the bulletproof unflappability of say, a Civic Type R – that addictive sense that whatever you throw at the car, it’ll deal with it and come back growling ‘that all you got, sunshine?’ It has a very definite sweet spot, which, if you’re content to sit in, is a very enjoyable place to be indeed. As a day-to-day car, it’s got the Honda on toast.

BMW has the M2 for that sort of thing anyway, right?

Exactly.

So the fact it’s still an eight-tenths car doesn’t put you off?

Not in the slightest. What you’ll enjoy every single time you’re in the M140i (spot on driving position, great engine, a fine gearbox, adjustable and rewarding handling) far outweighs the fact it’s not the sharpest tool in the box when your hair’s on fire. Just calm down, for goodness’ sake. 

Plus, it’s a hot hatch that doesn’t require drift mode to indulge tail-out malarkey, which counts for something…

What do you think?

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