Coupe a real
BMW continues to improve the art of cramming a big engine into a small body, writes PAUL GOVER
ANEW stealth fighter has swooped into the pocketrocket battle. It’s a new BMW and it promises to open a fresh front with people who want a compact car that’s more than a super-quick toy.
The 135i coupe has morphed from BMW’s 1 Series hatch with a new body, two doors and a boot.
It has serious firepower, including the 225kW twin-turbo six that already makes the larger 335i cars some of the most enjoyable in the line-up.
The 1 Series coupe range also includes a 125i for people who want style ahead of substance.
In Australia the new coupes will coincide with the roll-out of the 1 Series convertible, led by a fourcylinder model costing $52,900.
Plenty of action is still to come on the 1 Series front. A hotrod Tii and an adventurous X1 all-wheel-drive are promised, but the 135i is the new hero.
It packs the sort of BMW performance that came only in an M3 a few years ago.
The starting price of $63,400 brings plenty of standard equipment, including an M-style sports package with body bits, big wheels and six-speed manual gearbox.
The 135i will be a serious challenger, despite looks nowhere near as aggressive as some of its rivals.
The cabin will seem a bit plain to GenXers and CUBs (cashed-up bogans) — who are driving strong sales in such Japanese hotties as the Mazda RX-8 and the Nissan Z.
BMW’s new baby uses a proven formula — which was pioneered by makers of V8 muscle cars in the US— that crams a lot of engine into the smallest possible body.
The emphasis is on driving ahead of practicality, though it will still carry golf clubs and the back seat can accommodate two compact travellers.
But no one is suggesting the 135i is a family car. It is aimed at a broad spread of rivals, from Japan’s hotrod STi and Evo X to the Audi S3 and TT coupe.
Its closest rival could turn out to be the M3. The 1 Coupe wins on several fronts, including value.
‘‘Why would you buy an M3? I could ask why you would buy a Porsche Cayman because the 135i is quicker,’’ BMW Australia managing director Guenther Seemann says.
‘‘The M3 always asks you for more. This 1 Series doesn’t do that. It is a different sort of car from the M3.’’
A winner: the new BMW 1351i coupe is compact and taut, and responds well to a light touch in turns. There is not much to dislike, though the cabin is a bit plain.