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New BMW 1-series arrives with hot M135 xDrive packing less power but a sharper drive

BMW has given its hot hatch a makeover, with sharper dynamics - but less power - to take on Audi’s new S3.

In evo's hot hatch mega test in issue 318, we described the BMW M135i as a ‘brisk, well-built, capable car’, but one that falls short of today's truly great hot hatches. It placed a disappointing 13th out of 18 runners, but now, it has a chance to climb up the ladder thanks to significant upgrades to its chassis, design and interior.

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Launching as part of an extensive range-wide facelift for the BMW 1-series, the new car (now called the M135) follows broadly the same recipe as before – only with more precision dialled into its handling, according to BMW. Its bodyshell is stiffer, the suspension geometry has been revised and it's offered with a track-oriented M Technology package. This brings unique dampers, roll bars, underbody bracing and M compound brakes, along with forged 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in (optional) track-spec tyres. 

Whether this brings the M135 up to the level of our favourite hot hatch – the Honda Civic Type R – remains to be seen, but it certainly has the potential to challenge the latest Audi S3. With 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque from its 2-litre turbo engine, it’s down on power compared to the Audi, but more worrying is that the M135 has lost 6bhp and 37lb ft compared to its predecessor.

As a result it's a tenth slower to 62mph with a time of 4.9sec, with the top speed pegged at 155mph. Power is transferred to all four wheels, this time through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox rather than the old eight-speed unit. 

A new nose with conjoined kidney grilles marks out the new BMW 1-series at the front, with redesigned tail lights and quad-exhaust tips (usually reserved for full-fat M cars) at the rear. Inside you’re presented with a new sports steering wheel, a redesigned dashboard and BMW’s latest iDrive Operating System 9 technology suite, accessed through a dual-screen panel on the dash. 

You’ll recognise most of the control surfaces from the BMW iX1 crossover, with a gear selector switch and driving mode button mounted on a new centre console. Sadly, there’s no rotary controller for the infotainment system as there was in the previous car, with the user interface now touchscreen-based. On the plus side, OS 9 brings new features like digital smartphone key functionality and the ability to make remote payments for parking and fuel bills. 

Prices start at £41,000 for the M135, but that doesn't include the on-the-road costs necessary for customers to drive it away. 

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