I dont care what a certain very prominent member of the motoring journalist fraternity thinks â€“ the Volkswagen R32 is not available in Malaysia. Youre looking at the hottest hatch in the Malaysian car market â€“ the BMW 130i M Sport.
Even judging it by horsepower alone, it makes the most â€“ 265 horsepower at 6,600rpm and 315Nm of torque at 2,750rpm. Thats a good 65 more than the only other proper hot hatch sold here â€“ the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Its also much more pricier at RM329,800 â€“ an amount that could snag you an entry-level BMW 5-series if you top it up a little more, or perhaps the 325i M Sport. But the 3-series would be a locally assembled unit â€“ this baby comes in fully imported.
The M Sport suffix on the model name indicates that the car comes with lots of extra vitamin M goodness. Were talking about the M kit which makes the car look a lot better than what the standard 1-Series looks like. Maybe its because the huge gaping central air intake on the M sport front bumper takes away focus from the droopy headlamps. Or maybe its because we all love huge gaping central air intakes and what they usually stand for.
On the rear you have a nice-looking two tone rear bumper that features a diffuser painted with a dark grey, and the rest body colour. And of course, those gorgeous M Light Alloy Double Spoke 208M 18 inch wheels, wrapped with run-flat tyres. The tyres are 205/45/R18 sized at the front, but the rear tyres are wider at 225/40/R18.
On the interior, there is the chunky overly thick M leather steering which has a relatively small diameter and feels great to hold in your hand, and the M side steps.
Of course, what you really want is the M Sports suspension. Its actually very liveable with on a daily basis in the BMW 3-Series, but the combination of a short wheelbase as well as run flat tyres make slow speed rides around the town in this hot hatch a jittery and harsh experience. The ride does smoothen out on highways even at fast speeds, but thats probably because the highways are smoother in the first place. But still, as the driver the harsh ride never really gets to you. You just smile, maybe chuckle a little, and say to yourself, â€œThe things I put up with for the thrill of driving.â€
Yup, thats exactly what you get with the BMW 130i. It really takes a very special person to want to own this car. You gotta have plenty of dough for one, and perhaps a 5-series as the daily driver because the rear legroom of this car is so useless it should be called a 2+2 instead. And youve got to love a fantastic drive that much to actually spend that kind of money on a small hatch like this.
Because this is the most fun Ive had in a BMW ever. I havent driven any M cars so at the moment this sits at the top of my list. The chassis is just so rigid – I wonder how the 2-door version feels like. 0 to 100km/h takes 6 seconds. The engine is already pretty damn snappy off from a stand still, but right after you’ve begun moving you get the feeling the torque converter has suddenly locked up harder and you just hurtle towards wherever you steer the car with a seriously addictive pace ever. How can you ever bring yourself to drive this car sensibly?
The power just keeps coming and coming and coming, and its so smooth that you feel the redline should be a good 1,000rpm higher than its 7,000rpm limit. In fact, if you really put the pedal to the metal, the gearbox shifts at about 7,200rpm â€“ slightly over the redline, something Ive never seen an auto gearbox do.
Its not nearly up there with the madness that the Lancer Evolution 9s torque levels give you but to make up for it you get to listen to the straight-six sing too. The best part is, all that power gets sent to the rear wheels instead of every other hatch out there in the market which is either front wheel drive or all wheel drive. This means potentially A LOT of sideways fun.
Steering is of the classic BMW sharpness, translating your steering movements into where the 130is nose points ever so precisely. The chassis felt somewhat neutral to me, complying to my every command. That’s how M Sport usually is, there’s just no warning when you’re approaching the danger zone – it remains confident and steady, then suddenly you’re in deep shit. But I never did get to the deep shit part with the 130i.
Coming down Genting was lovely, and the 6-speed gearbox did its just very well, keeping the car in the right gear and downshifting for extra engine braking whenever needed. I thought the choices it made was pretty smart, but then I decided it would be a waste letting the gearbox do the shifting for me and switched to manual shifting mode.
In manual mode, you can manually change the gear ratios using paddle shifts on the M Steering wheel. However the paddles are abit unconventional â€“ instead of the usual left for downshift and right for upshift, you push the paddle away from you to downshift and push the paddle towards you to upshift. Both paddles on the left and right work the same way.
The BMW 130i M Sport also has keyless entry and go, which means the key fob doesnt need to leave your pocket. Just approach the car, and when youre near enough to reach for the door handle and pull it, the drivers door will unlock at the same time. There are also little LEDs at the bottom of every door handle, presumably a safety feature so you can look at whats on the ground, or something.
Get in the car, and press the Engine Start button. Upon hearing the sound of the engine firing up, a friend of mine exclaimed, â€œIs this the stock exhaust system?!!â€ to which I replied: â€œYup. M Sport mah!â€ I suppose the M division engineers ensured the car sounds as great as it drives.
Now the bad – practically unusable rear legroom, sound system could have been more premium, a relatively small fuel tank compared to how much the engine guzzles, and despite a 330 litre claimed boot capacity, it really doesnt look like a lot.
But seriously, if you want a practical car, buy an MPV or something. The 130i M Sport is for the purist, and I understand why BMW wants its new 1-Series Coupe, especially the 135i, to be the spiritual successor of the likes of the E30 of the yesteryears.
Perhaps you could have as much fun as you can have in this car with something cheaper. Maybe even BMW’s own MINI Cooper S might do the trick. But I suppose BMW considers the premium justifiable because of it’s rear wheel drive configuration. The 1-Series has always had it’s price tag going against it no matter which engine option and form in many markets, not just our own. Which makes it abit hard to recommend this car to anyone because of the many other choices of hot hatches around. But still, it’s bloody fun.
What’s going through my mind now is this – if the 130i is already such a riot, what is the 135i going to be like?