BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive road test

  • We test the four-wheel-drive version of the M135i
  • Not confirmed for UK market but being considered
  • Capable of 0-62mph in 4.7s, top speed of 155mph

The BMW 1 Series M135i has proven something of a hit for the German manufacturer.

It's quick, practical, easy to live with and - more importantly - good fun to drive. That's quite a rare thing in this era of anaemic and frequently disconnected-feeling cars.

On a recent trip to Austria we had the opportunity to test the M135i xDrive, a four-wheel-drive version of BMW's performance hatchback.

The xDrive models, which feature an intelligent 4x4 system, are common in mainland Europe because of the regular winter snowfalls. The UK only receives a handful of xDrive variants, mostly conventional 4x4s like the X5.

BMW has launched the 3 Series saloon in the UK in xDrive form recently, to rival Audi's quattro-equipped A4. It's likely that a 1 Series xDrive will follow, to tempt more buyers to the brand and to deal with any concerns about the car's competence in poor weather conditions.

It's also been mentioned that the manufacturer may consider the release of the M135i xDrive here, which would be a great alternative to the likes of the outgoing Subaru Impreza WRX STi and the Volkswagen Golf R.

Equipped with a 316bhp turbocharged six-cylinder engine and a rapid-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, the car can sprint from 0-62mph in a swift 4.7 seconds. Its top speed is a licence-threatening and electronically limited 155mph.

Because of the extra traction offered by the four-wheel-drive system, the xDrive model is 0.2 seconds quicker from 0-62mph than the conventional two-wheel drive version of the M135i.

The system also improves safety and stability, making the car easier to drive. Our test involved slalom circuits on snowy surfaces, which were dispatched without any issue. Even moving off on hills covered in compacted snow wasn't difficult.

Some of this capability admittedly came from the expensive winter tyres that were fitted to our test car. Even so, the xDrive felt considerably more controllable and predictable in poor conditions compared to normal rear-wheel-drive BMWs.

As well as being proficient on icy and snowy road surfaces, the M135i xDrive impresses elsewhere. The controls are precise and well-weighted, the cabin is comfortable and well equipped and the build quality is generally excellent.

It’s a very satisfying car to drive thanks to its rapid acceleration, substantial mid-range pull, engaging handling and a pleasing – but not overly intrusive – exhaust note.

Even the running costs aren’t bad. The claimed average economy is, given the performance, a remarkable 36mpg while the CO2 emissions are a reasonable 182g/km. That would mean road tax of £215 a year.

While BMW doesn't have any plans to bring the 1 Series M135i xDrive to the UK, it is likely that other xDrive saloons and hatchbacks will join the existing line-up.

Most buyers will be satisfied with the standard M135i, available for £31,940, which is more than adequate for UK roads and conditions.

If the BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive did come to the UK, it’s likely that it would cost in the region of £33,500.

To read the full Parkers BMW 1 Series review click here.

Also consider:

Subaru WRX STi

The Impreza's been a long-standing choice for those wanting a high-performance car with a degree of practicality. The interior's not great, however, and they can be costly to run.

Ford Focus ST

It doesn't have four-wheel-drive but a battery of safety systems and drivers aids help keep the rapid ST in check. If winter driving's a necessity, fit some appropriate tyres and drive with a light right foot.

Audi RS3 Sportback

You'll find the RS3 much more costly to buy than the M135i, unless you get a good second-hand deal, but it's an impressively quick and capable car which isn't difficult to live with on a daily basis.