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BMW 1 Series M Coupe review

BMW's baby M car has arrived. And there's nothing childish about it.

 

Words: Mark Nichol - @nizzle777

Published on: May 25, 2011

Words: Mark Nichol - @nizzle777

Published on: May 25, 2011

Tech Specs

Model tested€67,250
Engine3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol
Transmissionsix-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door coupé
RivalsAudi RS 3 Sportback, Porsche Cayman R, BMW M3
CO2 emissions224g/km (Band F, €1,050 per annum)
Combined economy9.6 litres/100km (29.4mpg)
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h4.9 seconds
Power340hp at 5,900rpm
Torque500Nm at 1,500rpm
Weight1,495kg

Forget the 1 Series part of this car's name - mechanically it has more in common with the BMW M3. Yet it's quicker, purer, easier to exploit, very nearly as practical and much cheaper. BMW has essentially made a touring car, taken the stickers off and asked if you'd like to buy it. Phenomenal.

In the metal

The way BMW has stretched the wheel arches to accommodate the M3's wider track gives this short coupé a brilliantly nefarious aesthetic, whichever angle you see it from. M Division specifics like twin stalk mirrors - much mimicked - and quad tailpipes finish the job, rather than acting as the beginning and the end of the cosmetic overhaul. It really is an awesome looking thing.

Inside is a little more conservative, but the 'one of 450' plate on the centre console, Alcantara dashboard trim and orange accent stitching distinguish it just enough from your average 123d Coupé. As ever, the driving position and pedal placement are spot on, and there's actually a lot more cabin space than you'd expect.

Driving it

There's no such thing as the perfect driving experience, but the 1 Series M Coupé so brilliantly satiates expectation that we have to give it full marks. For a start it's absolutely rapid, with the sort of propulsive savagery that even an M3 can't match. On the track the bigger car's V8 might just have the edge (the M3 is, officially 0.1 seconds quicker to 100km/h), but everywhere else, the brute pick-up of this twin-turbo engine has it pummelled.

It's more tractable than an M3 too. Sending the rear of the car to one side is as easy as mashing the throttle (especially in the switchable M Dynamic Mode, which loosens the rear LSD), but the short chassis means it feels that little bit less edgy, less eager to break away. The result is a car with a real purity of balance, but which can be pitched into corners almost like a hot hatch.

It gets the normal stuff spot on as well. Without recourse to adaptive suspension - the springs and dampers are fixed rate - the 1 M is both supple and subtle. There's overall smoothness to its motion on all but the bubbliest of roads, yet the complexity of the road surface is still transmitted through the seat and steering wheel.

The steering is hydraulic - a dying breed - and while its outright purity is tarnished by speed variable assistance (so it's light when you're parking), at higher speed its weighted and geared beautifully. Ditto the gearbox, which isn't the most mechanical you'll come across in feel, but is short throw, positively weighed and silkily damped.

What you get for your money

This car was, we're told, M Division boss Kay Segler's "pet project", and in the shadow of the controversial X5 and X6 M behemoths its price tag seems an absolute bargain.

On the other hand, it's a hugely expensive 1 Series Coupé, coming in at €14,000 more than the already pricey 135i Coupé. Still, it's still about €30,000 less than an M3. The standard spec is good without being overly generous.

Worth noting

BMW has decreed that only 450 will be made - hence the plaque - for right-hand drive markets, although we wouldn't be surprised if another variant comes along in due course, possibly of the CSL variety. Ostensibly that means buyers are getting exclusivity, although with 300 sold before it even officially went on sale, it's already six times as popular as the non-limited BMW X6 M was in 2010.

Summary

The ease with which the BMW 1 Series M Coupé can be driven very quickly, and the level of exotica it provides for the money, imbues it with the same spirit as the very best hot hatches. But there's a balance and depth of driving experience that no hot hatch could hope to match. The junior M car is everything we hoped it would be, and some.



Tech Specs

Model tested€67,250
Engine3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol
Transmissionsix-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door coupé
RivalsAudi RS 3 Sportback, Porsche Cayman R, BMW M3
CO2 emissions224g/km (Band F, €1,050 per annum)
Combined economy9.6 litres/100km (29.4mpg)
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h4.9 seconds
Power340hp at 5,900rpm
Torque500Nm at 1,500rpm
Weight1,495kg