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    One of the most spectacular builds we’ve seen in a long time, this #BMW-M135i is quite unlike anything else. Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Henry Phull @ Slam Sanctuary

    When Bruce Gowans said he had plans for his M135, he wasn’t lying. A year ago, this car was candy red with a modest boot build and Watercooled Industry wheels and now, well, it’s pretty much unrecognisable. There’s modifying your car and then there’s forging ahead with an absolute vision that’s uncompromised and single-minded in its intent. This car is what happens when someone makes that vision a reality.

    There is no typical modified BMW owner, and Bruce certainly fits into that non-box of atypicality. He is of the ‘older’ generation, shall we say, and resides in a tiny village in the heart of the Bedfordshire countryside, a million miles away from the frenetic and eclectic world that is the modified BMW scene. But this mechanical engineer has a heart that pumps pure petrol and has spent his entire life flitting from modified car to modified car, with an underlying appreciation for BMW but never the opportunity to indulge that interest in Bavarian metal until he acquired this M135i. “I’ve been interested in BMWs ever since I was a lad and grew up into a petrolhead! I’ve been a fan since the first E30 M3 and seeing an E9 coupé on neighbour’s drive when I walked to school and thinking how cool it looked. I bought the M135i, my first BMW, for its ‘performance for the price’ factor and because the drivetrain, the engine and the transmission are such a great combination in this vehicle. I bought it brand-new in 2013 and was going to keep it stock…”

    “Both Shakey and I thought that translating this design into a vinyl wrap would be a nigh-on impossible task”

    Digital audio explained:

    “The system in this car was spec’d to accommodate Bruce’s passion for high resolution audio. It’s cutting edge in the fact it can play any file format he wants and samples up to 196khz with bit depths of up to 24-bit. When you consider a CD (still reference in so many studios) samples at 44.1khz at 16-bit, that’s a huge amount more information. Of course, all of the car’s OEM equipment and functionality is retained and played through the new system alongside solid state hard drives, wireless streaming and various other inputs.”
    Carl Shakespeare, Director, Studio Incar

    Clearly that didn’t happen. It seems like the car was stock for all of five minutes before Bruce had started tinkering and while the mods started off sensibly and in a restrained manner, once the momentum began to build there was clearly no stopping Bruce (or the M135i). “The first mod was to get a new exhaust developed and fitted by Scorpion Exhausts. Then Luke and the guys at Plush supplied and fitted the air-ride, sourcing components from AirREX and an eLevel system from Accuair. This was closely followed by a carbon-fibre front splitter from SSDD,” he says. “Spring 2014 brought a change in colour, with a candy red colour wrap from Avery called True Blood.

    New MD1 wheels from Watercooled Industries were added, closely followed by a Juice Box 4 (JB4) piggyback ECU from Burger Motorsports and a decat downpipe which were fitted at #Performance-Developments in Sunderland. The car went to #Forge-Motorsport in #Gloucester to have one of its high-performance intercoolers fitted, along with one of its dump valves.” With all those mods on board, it made 400hp and 450lb ft of torque on the dyno and considering how blisteringly quick the standard M135i is, that’s going to be more than enough power to keep Bruce happy. “After having the traction control kick in once too often, I took the decision to fit a limited-slip diff to the car. Options were thin on the ground for this platform but Birds in Iver, Buckinghamshire developed a Quaife ATB for it, which has made a massive difference to the way the car drives.”

    And that is where the story would end for most people. A dramatic wrap, some exceedingly nice wheels, air-ride and some performance mods. A fine selection of upgrades. Job done. But that’s not where this story ends, as you can clearly see. “At the end of 2014 I planned to make some big changes to the car and started speaking to Carl Shakespeare at Studio Incar about my plans,” he explains. “We discussed my ideas for a rear-seat delete and a high-end audio installation and things just got out of hand. I had already decided to try and get a BTCC body kit. I contacted West Surrey Racing and negotiated with the guys there to buy a genuine race car kit from their 2014/15 BMW 1 Series race car. However, fitting it proved more difficult than you might think! The BTCC cars have front and rear subframes and crash structures that are specified by TOCA and these also provide mounting points for the front and rear body panels. These didn’t match up with the mounting and fixing points that BMW specify! It required the rear wings to be cut and tubbed – scary stuff! Luckily, Stylehaus in Northampton has some serious skills and brought the whole thing together.

    “Shakey project managed the whole build with input from me, like my suggestion for the triple tank setup. Once the car was back from the bodyshop, and with a little bit of extra fettling by Fibreglass Phil in Kent (the manufacturer of the BTCC kit), the audio and air install could begin in earnest.” With a bit of direction from Bruce, Shakey was free to run riot inside the M135i. The end result is an interior that feels like it’s very much been built around the air and audio and one look inside leaves you in no doubt that this car’s main purpose is to astound. The rear seats have been removed completely, replaced by the awesome triple floating tank setup that looks like a spaceship, illuminated from above and hovering over the massive 15” Hertz Mille sub which forms part of the incredibly high-end digital audio install, while the rear load space is home to the three Audison amps, on display in a beautifully designed enclosure. There’s acres of Alcantara in here, which reaches up to cover the roof lining as well, while some extremely sexy custom door pods are home to Hertz Mille speakers. Finally, a custom panel in the centre console (also trimmed in Alcantara) houses the controllers for the audio system and the air suspension. It’s one of the most spectacular, special and perfectly-executed builds we’ve ever seen and it’s nothing short of a work of art.

    With such a spectacular build going on, the right wheels were going to be absolutely essential and Bruce was keen to move away from the usual suspects, like BBS and Rotiform, and try something different. “I had been in touch with Brada wheels in the States for a year or so, originally to try and get some wheels for my GT3,” he says. “I spoke to Zane and we agreed a design and spec for the wheels that were destined to go on the BMW. However, because the car was away having the body kit fitted, Shakey and I could only make an educated guess as to what the exact widths and offsets of the wheels would be, with us only knowing what the overall width of the BTCC car is and working back from those dimensions…” It can be hard enough to work out your exact wheel specs when you’ve got your car in front of you so this was most definitely a risky strategy but it worked and the resulting wheels are the perfect fit for the M135i. Bruce opted for Brada’s BR1 crossspokes with gloss black centres, matt black lips and stainless steel bolts in 9.5x19” at the front and 10.5x19” at the rear, the fitment perfect for tucking the wheels under the massive arches when the car is aired out.

    In terms of styling, the kit alone wasn’t enough for Bruce and he decided to take things to the next level. “The wrap design wasn’t established until quite late in the build. I have always been a fan of the BMW Art Car projects but picking a design to base the wrap for the M135i was tricky. Several of the Art Cars are ‘challenging’, to say the least,” he laughs, “but this Frank Stella design from 1976 was selected – it appealed to my inner engineer! Both Shakey and I thought that translating this design into a vinyl wrap would be a nigh-on impossible task, since the original consisted of lots of parallel horizontal and vertical lines; the hardest thing to do with vinyl wrap… Carl contacted JD Wraps in Essex and a deal was struck. When I collected the car a week later I was amazed. The guys had done an awesome job.” The combination of kit and wrap is one that is both single-handedly responsible for the utterly insane amount of attention this car garners but is also the most polarising aspect of the whole project. Some people love the wrap but hate the kit. Some people hate the kit but love the wrap. Some people hate them both. And some people like everything that this car has got going on! However you feel, it’s a talking point and gets the car noticed. Bruce loves it, however, which ultimately is the most important thing.

    Amazingly, all this work took just six months, really not long at all considering just how much has gone into the build and how complete the transformation has been. Bruce chose the Players Classic show for the car’s unveiling. It got as much attention as you’d expect and the sort of reactions you’d expect. “It seems to be very much a ‘Marmite’ car!” Bruce tells us. More importantly, though, he can now sit back and actually enjoy the car. Beyond the looks and the next-level interior, he’s got a fast, powerful car that’s great to drive, with an incredible sound system. It’s a package that just begs to be taken out on the road and enjoyed and, in fact, that’s now his only plan for the future.

    DATA FILE #2015 #BMW-M135i-F21 / #BMW-M135i / #BMW-F21 / #BMW / #Brada-BR1

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six turbo #N55B30 / #N55 , JB4 piggyback ECU from #Burger-Motorsport , #Scorpion full exhaust including a decat downpipe, #Forge / #Forge-FMIC / , #Forge-DV , stock #ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox #ZF8HP , #Quaife ATB LSD from #Birds

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” (front) and 10.5x19” (rear) #Brada BR1 three-piece wheels with gloss black lips, matt black faces and stainless hardware, with 235/35 (front) and 275/30 (rear) #Goodyear Eagle Asymmetric 2 tyres, #AirREX air-ride and Accuair eLevel management

    EXTERIOR #BMW-M-Performance carbon fibre wing mirror shells, #BMW M Performance black front grilles, #BTCC body kit from WSR, Art Car wrap by #JD-Wraps

    INTERIOR Interior by #Studio-Incar , full digital audio install comprising Audison AV Quattro amp x2, Audison AV Uno amp, Audison bit Ten D processor, #Audison bit Play HD source, #Hertz-Mille three-way front end, Hertz Mille 15” sub, rear seat delete, custom air installation, Alcantara roof lining, integrated audio and suspension controllers built in to the centre console

    THANKS Studio Incar and Shakey in particular for handling this project and for keeping my spirits up when I needed it, Zane and Jacob at Brada, Myles and Chris at Brada UK, Fibreglass Phil, Scorpion Exhausts, Forge Motorsport, the guys at Stylehaus, Luke Massy, Phil James, Kat and the team at JD Wraps, Voodoo Elie for getting me out of a tricky situation, and last but not least, Ed Hamilton at JK Engineering for being a great friend, being just as daft as me and as big a petrolhead as me!
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    FAST CLUB #2015

    We get behind the wheel of the face-lifted M135i and M6 Convertible and also have a go in the X6 M. We drive the face-lifted M135i and M6 Cab plus the X6 M for good measure because… well, why wouldn’t you? Words: Elizabeth de Latour/ Photos: #BMW

    2015 #BMW-M135i-F21 / #BMW-M135i / #BMW-F21

    Say what you will about the second generation 1 Series’ fishy/froggy face (I like it, but then again I’ve got one) but you can’t argue with the fact that it has been a roaring sales success and, more importantly, introduced the world to the M135i – arguably one of the greatest performance bargains of all time and one of the hottest of hot hatches. Now the time has come for the F2x 1 Series’ LCI (Life Cycle Impulse), BMW’s term for a midlife face-lift, and the end result is a car that is a little easier on the eye and will likely be even more popular.

    There’s a more attractive front end with slightly more conventionally-styled headlights though we’re of the opinion that the rear revisions aren’t quite as successful but the overall effect is a success and it’s a good-looking hatch. The interior revisions are minor, with a boost in standard spec (all cars now get climate control, for example) and swish new monochrome graphics for the heating controls. As far as face-lift packages go, it’s a success.

    Of course, the M135i is all about going fast and BMW has seen fit to up the power… by 6hp. That does at least bring it in line with the M235i at 326hp and ensures you won’t be at a disadvantage owning an M135i come pub power figure bragging time. Unsurprisingly, an additional 6hp has made no difference to the car’s performance, that is to say that it still feels absolutely ballistic out on the road. We’ve never experienced a car that is so easy to drive quickly and without even trying. At one point during a B-road blast I was casually wondering about what to have for dinner that evening whilst chucking the M135i through the corners with careless abandon. That’s not to say that you feel detached from the driving experience, far from it, the M135 is an engaging and communicative steer but there’s so little drama to proceedings you really do just get in and drive it really, really fast. Turn off the traction control and you can have all the drama you want, the E-diff making a fine fist of emulating a mechanical LSD and you can get the tail out with no effort or lay down some fat 11s if the mood takes you. It sounds awesome, too, ignoring the fact that the speakers do play a part in channelling the engine noise to the occupants, but experienced from the outside, away from the electronic audio frivolity, it still sounds rude and as fruity as you’d want and hope it would.

    If it was my money, auto takes preference over manual (more gears, better fuel economy, faster), especially as the shifts are so quick and crisp it makes you wonder what the point of M DCT is. And while the standard suspension is good, EDC is better, allowing you to go harder or softer and it feels like less of a compromise and makes the car more capable. If you want a small, fast, practical do-it-all hot hatch, aim your £30k at the M135 and pull the trigger, you won’t regret it.

    ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six #N55B30 / #N55
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, optional eight-speed Sport Auto #ZF8HP
    WEIGHT (EU): 1505kg (1520)
    MAX POWER: 326hp @ 5800-6000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 332lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
    0-62MPH: 5.1 (4.9)
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    EMISSIONS (CO²): 188g/km (175)
    FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 35.3 (37.7)
    PRICE (OTR): £31,325 (five-door £33,345)
    Figures in brackets are for Sport Auto

    2015 #BMW-M6-Convertible / #BMW-M6-Convertible-F12 / #BMW-F12 / #BMW-M6
    Would we buy an M6 Convertible? If we were in the market for a big, fast, comfortable drop-top, the answer would be a resounding yes because the M6 delivers everything you might want from a car like this. For its LCI treatment, BMW has dumped a whole lot more standard equipment into the big Six (over £10kworth in fact) and cleaned up the already elegant lines for a bit more aggression and road presence. It’s a delicate beauty treatment but when you’re starting with what is arguably a pretty good-looking car in the first place, you’d have to have fists made from ham to mess it up.

    Under the bonnet it’s business as usual, which is a slightly rude way of saying it’s still got a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 (remember when something like that was just a schoolboy’s dream and now it’s an everyday reality?) making 560hp and 502lb ft of torque. That means 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph but lots more if you take the limiter off. A big capacity V8 plus twin-turbos means that torque peak is spread thickly across most of the rev range, like butter on freshly sliced bread. It’s equally delicious, unless you have a gluten allergy, but at least that won’t affect your enjoyment of the S63 V8 and it’s a monster of a motor. Prod the throttle at pretty much any revs, any speed and the M6 surges forward on a wave of torque and that means it’s very easy to go very fast indeed without noticing and that means you could get in a lot of trouble very quickly. It makes driving a much more relaxing experience, having so much performance on tap, as there’s pretty much no situation that you can’t drive your way out of. If you get stuck behind slower traffic you don’t have to wait for an overtaking opportunity, it happens almost without you realising it; you think ‘I could probably overtake this car if I… oh, I’ve already done it’. On rough and damp surfaces traction is at a premium but for the most part it manages to put down its power pretty well and you can deploy a healthy dose of throttle without too much concern.

    The only thing that really hampers the driving experience is the size of the M6 because it is most definitely a big car; wide and long, it feels like it takes up a lot of space on the road. On A-roads it’s fine but funnel it onto a B-road and it feels big and a bit out of its comfort zone. The ride is also pretty harsh and we also noticed what seemed like some scuttle shake over rough surfaces, a slight shimmy through the dash and steering wheel. But aside from this there’s little to moan about here, really, and it remains a hugely impressive car. Yes, it is expensive but it’s priced in line with its rivals, and is actually cheaper than a good few of them, so that’s a moot point really. If you happen to have £100k burning a hole in your pocket and an overwhelming desire for a fast convertible, we can’t imagine you’d be disappointed with the M6.


    ENGINE: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 #S63B44 / #S63
    TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed #M-DCT
    WEIGHT (EU): 1925kg
    MAX POWER: 560hp @ 6000-7000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 502lb ft @ 1500-5750rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.3 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    EMISSIONS (CO²): 239g/km
    FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 27.4
    PRICE (OTR): £97,300

    2015 #BMW-X6-MF16 / #BMW-X6M / #BMW-X6 / #BMW-F16

    If you like cars that make you laugh out loud then the X6 M is the car for you. It may go against everything that M once stood for (a 4WD auto 4x4 with an M badge?!) and it may get plenty of environmentalist sorts raging, but that cannot take away from the fact that it’s actually a massively impressive machine. The X6 M looks big on the outside and feels big on the inside but the most surprising thing about it is that it’s actually surprisingly easy to pilot with confidence, despite taking up most of most of the roads you’ll find yourself driving down. The elevated driving position offers a good view of your surroundings and the massive mirrors give you a good idea of whereabouts you are in the road, making the X6 M quite easy to place.

    The most amusing aspect of the whole driving experience is that it drives nothing like how you might expect. It doesn’t feel heavy – it is most definitely a heavy car at 2340kg – but it doesn’t feel like it’s carting around anywhere near that sort of mass. The fact that it’s so powerful is a massive help, obviously, and while the M5 and M6 have to make do with 560hp in standard form, the X6 (and X5) M models now boast 575hp, 20hp up on what they started with when first launched, which means it feels absolutely ballistic. 0-62mph comes up in a scarcely believable 4.2 seconds, which puts it quite literally a fraction behind the DCTequipped M3 and M4, seriously impressive when you consider that it weighs over 700kg more. The drive-by-wire throttle is amusingly light, which means that it feels even faster than you expect, especially compared to the M6, whose pedal requires a lot more effort to get it moving, and it’s very easy to pile on the speed without even trying. The steering is light and while it’s not the last word in communication and feel, it’s fine and allows you to drive briskly with confidence, while the brakes are suitably powerful though after a brisk drive involving few hard stops the pedal travel increased and braking required a little more commitment, though that’s not too surprising considering they’re trying to cope with over two tonnes of rampaging X6. But, overall, it’s a surprisingly positive experience behind the wheel.

    The X6 M definitely won’t appeal to everyone but we can appreciate why it’s so popular and those that love it are truly enamoured. It’s not for us, even if our numbers came up, but we doubt you’ll find another car that makes you giggle quite like the X6 M.


    ENGINE: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 S63B44
    TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed M DCT
    WEIGHT (EU): 2340kg
    MAX POWER: 575hp @ 6000-6500rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 553lb ft @ 2200-5000rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.2 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    EMISSIONS (CO²): 258g/km
    FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 25.4
    PRICE (OTR): £93,080
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    Still the One. We’ve driven the new 120d xDrive #F20 and the M135i #F21 to see how the face-lifted 1 Series shapes up. As is BMW’s way, subtle mid-life updates ensure that the 1 Series stays ahead of the premium compact hatch pack Words: Shane O’Donoghue. Photography: BMW #BMW-F20 and #BMW-F21 .

    While car makers are delighted to see returning customers ordering new cars, they get particularly excited by ‘conquest sales’, i.e. dragging a buyer away from a competitor brand. That doesn’t happen in large numbers for an established nameplate, unless some class-leading piece of technology or other USP is introduced, but it’s why the manufacturers are constantly on the search for new niches to fill. The 2 Series Active Tourer is one such vehicle, representing the first time that BMW has offered a compact MPV in its line-up. Apparently it’s running at a product planning manager’s wet dream-inducing 75 per cent conquest.

    But what about the other 25 per cent? BMW admits that the Active Tourer will take from sales of the 1 Series. In spite of that, BMW UK is targeting sales of 30,000 examples of its baby and to help with that figure the new one went on sale on 28 March.

    I say new, but you are in fact looking at the mid-life update of the 1 Series and as is BMW’s way, there’s a suite of subtle but effective changes. The restyle of the car seems to be focused on the lighting, but there’s much change to the detail design. Up front, there are restyled kidney grilles in terms of their size, shape and surfacing; even the uprights have more of a three-dimensional appearance. The bumper underneath is new too and it’s defined by larger air intakes to give the 1 Series more width. Most importantly though, BMW has replaced the headlights with far more attractive units, much more slender than the opinion-dividing items used before. They help the 1 Series’ aesthetic cause no end and LED daytime running lamps are now standard. Buyers can upgrade to full LED headlights for low and main beam and the even more advanced Adaptive LED system if you’re feeling flush.

    While the front lights make for a subtly prettier 1 Series, the new rear lights are far more prominent, taking on an ‘L’ shape reminiscent of the lights fitted to the 6 Series. It features two separate parts, one of them mounted on the redesigned tailgate. They really stand out thanks to use of LED technology and are complemented by a redesigned back bumper. The Sparkling brown metallic colour of the test car pictured here is new to the line-up as well. As before, the range-topping M135i is offered in three- and fivedoor formats and it gets its own unique body styling to separate it even from the M Sport versions of the 1 Series. Present and correct are Ferric grey door mirror caps and 18-inch double spoke M alloys, large air intakes in the unique front bumper and a diffuser-like design for the rear bumper, which also houses the purposeful-looking twin exhaust outlets.

    Inside, the M135i model has its name splashed about the place, but it’s the M leather steering wheel, bespoke upholstery for the sports seats and unique trim inserts that really sets it apart from the rest of the line-up. It feels like a special car even before a wheel is turned. All versions of the new 1 Series gain enhanced controls for the air-con and stereo using high-gloss black and chrome to raise the perceived quality up a notch. Existing owners trading up will note the enhanced level of standard equipment too, now running to climate control, auto wipers, BMW Radio Professional and an iDrive-controlled highresolution 6.5-inch display atop the dashboard.

    Along with those, the SE models feature electric windows, a multifunction leather steering wheel, auto lights, DAB, Bluetooth and 16-inch alloy wheels. Sport versions add 17-inch rims, a sportier steering wheel and seats, ambient lighting and tweaks to the exterior look. M Sport cars as ever look more aggressive again thanks to the M Aerodynamic body styling and an upgrade to 18-inch wheels, while inside they gain Alcantara upholstery, lovely aluminium hexagon inserts, sports seats and an M Sport steering wheel, plus there’s also M Sport suspension.

    Under the bonnet there are changes across the board to enhance efficiency and reduce pollutants to meet Euro 6 emissions standards, yet BMW has managed to squeeze a little more power out of some of the engines – including the charismatic turbocharged 3.0-litre six fitted to the M135i. It now has 326hp and 332lb ft of torque at its disposal, though we never really felt it was underpowered to begin with…

    It’s an engaging car to drive as ever and BMW’s engineers have breathed on it further following customer feedback. So in Sport and Sport+ modes there’s now a pronounced over-run burble and when the car is started up there’s an intentional flare of revs. On top of that, the shift of the six-speed manual gearbox has been shortened, though some will still find the clutch a little springy in its action. In fairness, we’re just happy this car is still offered with a manual option in this day and age, and it really suits it too, further engaging the driver in the whole experience.

    The M135i’s brilliance comes from its mix of everyday usability and high performance and dynamics. For it to be at its best it needs to be fitted with the optional adaptive damping system, though the stats show that only about 25 per cent of buyers go for that – which is about the same level of take-up for the manual gearbox. Saying that, the eight-speed automatic is established as one of the best of its kind in the world and its dual-nature suits that of the M135i down to the ground. #BMW still found area for improvement in the transmission apparently. It makes the M135i a fraction quicker against the clock (4.9 seconds to 62mph from rest as opposed to 5.1 seconds with a manual gearbox) and even improves economy and reduces emissions.

    And let’s face it, more buyers of the 1 Series are concerned with such things, which is why BMW has revamped the diesel engine line-up for the new car. The updated 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel already rolled out elsewhere in the BMW range comes to the 1 Series for the first time, with new turbocharging technology, higher fuel pressure and, BMW claims, increases in refinement and efficiency. We reckon the new unit is still too audible in the 120d against quieter rivals, but it’s impressive in every other aspect.

    It’s offered in three power outputs, varying from the 118d, which starts at £22,855 and produces 150hp and 236lb ft of torque to the 120d (190hp/295lb ft) to the twin-turbocharged 125d model, which puts out 224hp and 332lb ft of torque. The latter is the least frugal, but when the official figure is 61.4mpg, it’s hardly wasteful, is it? Meanwhile, the 118d emits as low as 99g/km. There is even more efficiency to be found further down the price range, with the introduction to the 1 Series of BMW’s excellent new 1.5-litre, threecylinder turbodiesel engine. It’s fitted to the 116d, and in the eco-focused 116d EfficientDynamics Plus model (£22,560 on-the-road) and returns an exceptional 83.1mpg while emitting just 89g/km. Yet with 116hp and 199lb ft of torque it shouldn’t feel out of its depth keeping up with free-flowing traffic on the motorway.

    At the launch of the revised 1 Series, we tested both the M135i (from £31,725) and the 120d fitted with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system. The latter has already proven very popular in many parts of Europe, but the market for all-wheel drive compact hatchbacks in the UK is a small one. It won’t be helped by the £28,355 starting price, which compares to £25,305 for the rear-drive 120d, though the latter is available with a manual gearbox so it’s considerably cheaper. Nonetheless, xDrive should be a massive boon in the winter months, overcoming one of the drawbacks of the front-engine/rear-drive layout, that of traction. In sunny Lisbon we didn’t get to test its mettle to the full, but it certainly made quick getaways a breeze, taking the 120d’s 295lb ft of torque in its stride and translating it into quick forward momentum rather than unsightly wheel scrabble. Indeed, in spite of a 65kg weight penalty (compared with the automatic, rear-drive 120d), the xDrive model is a few tenths of a second faster to 62mph, setting a respectable 6.8-second time.

    On a tortuously twisty road the #xDrive system was found to enhance traction out of corners, but it also alters the wonderfully rear-led feel of the 1 Series, making it a more neutral car, especially noticeable in the middle of a corner when you’re driving more ‘enthusiastically’. Understeer is kept at bay, but there seems to be less adjustability in the chassis now. The target audience is much more likely to prioritise the extra all-weather composure over driver enjoyment on dry roads and it’s still better to drive than, say, an Audi A3 TDI quattro. There should be a few more conquest sales coming BMW’s way then…

    The most noticeable changes to the 1 Series are the restyled headlights and tail lights but there have also been improvements to the interior both in terms of the amount of standard kit and the quality of materials used.

    Existing owners trading up will note the enhanced level of standard equipment.

    2015 #BMW-120d-xDrive-F20
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel
    CAPACITY: 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 190hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
    TOP SPEED: 138mph
    0-62MPH: 6.8 seconds
    ECONOMY: 62.8mpg
    EMISSIONS: 119g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £28,355

    2015 #BMW-M135i-F21
    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, turbocharged
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 326hp @ 5800-6000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 332lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
    TOP SPEED: 155mph limited (155)
    0-62MPH: 5.1 seconds (4.9)
    ECONOMY: 35.3mpg (37.7)
    EMISSIONS: 188g/km (175)
    PRICE (OTR): £31,195
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed #ZF-8HP automatic #ZF
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