It was all happening in the Sports Under $80,000 category in 2010. For a start, Volkswagen released a hot hatch trilogy: its much-anticipated replacement for the R32 (Golf R), a turbo diesel (GTD) and a Generation VI of the highly-acclaimed GTI. Audi chimed in with a 2.0 TDi quattro TT, and Subaru revamped its legendary Impreza WRX and STi offerings. French car makers all came to the performance party, too, with Renault stumping up the latest iterations of the Megane Sport and Clio Sport 200, and Peugeot rolling out arguably the best-looking example to carry the rampant lion badge in many a year, the RCZ.
But, as if to script, the BMW 1 Series 135i Coupe resisted all challenges to take the category title for the third consecutive year.
It might not be look like a sports car in the traditional sense of being a low-slung, strictly two-seater with soft top but, make no mistake, the 135i Coupe fits the bill in every other way. In fact, so complete is the 135i in the areas of Design and Function and On the Road (class leader in both), that it manages to overcome a considerable deficit in vital Value for Money stakes, normally the kiss of death for any vehicle that scores poorly in this critical objective area.
Providing the ‘motorvation’ is a 225kW twin-turbo, direct-injection, 3.0-litre straight-six, a dynamic powerplant that has won its share of international design awards. Little wonder – this is an engine for any occasion, eager to send the tachometer needle racing to red line, or (thanks to a broad spread of torque between 1300 and 5000rpm), impress with its mid-range muscle. The six-speed manual gearshift is rifle-bolt precise, although the optional six-speed sequential (paddle) shift auto is even quicker.
In coming up with an overall handling package, BMW designers and engineers have suitably answered their engine colleagues’ call to arms, endowing the 135i Coupe with not just the required suspension tweaks and hi-tech braking system but near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution and rear-wheel-drive. Ride quality, while understandably firm, is agreeably compliant for everyday use.
An extensive safety and standard features list includes a full complement of airbags plus advanced stability and traction control systems and M-Sport package.
Last year we praised the 135i’s front seats for their rib-wrapping support, side bolstering and adjustability and noted that even the rear seats were well shaped, although rear space was only fair. Ditto 2010.
The Australian motoring press first got to drive the 135i on home soil at its release in the Snowy Mountains in May 2008. There, on the high altitude serpentine that is the Alpine Way, the 135i won plenty of friends with its ability to dispatch all challenges that this mighty road could throw in its path. We all agreed that its big brother, the awesome M3 (twice the price), could not have proved any more competent at this place and time.
Triple Australia’s Best Cars awards later, the 135i remains just as convincing.
BMW 135i Coupe
Volkwagen Golf Gti
Volkswagen Golf R
2009 - BMW 135i Coupe