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BMW Australia wants M135i hot hatch

Range-topper: The new M135i hot hatch, seen here in three-door guise, should arrive Down Under as a five-door by year’s end.

Flagship M Performance 1 Series hatch for Australia, but new three-door ruled out

14 May 2012

BMW Australia is primed to introduce a hot M Performance version of the 1 Series five-door hatch by the end of this year.

The ballistic new variant was confirmed over the weekend alongside the second-generation 1 Series three-door hatch range, which BMW Australia has ruled out of local contention citing a lack of local interest.

Although revealed only in three-door guise, BMW has confirmed the M135i – which was previewed by the concept version shown at the Geneva motor show in February this year – will also be produced with five doors.

The potent new variant is the first petrol-powered member of BMW’s new M Performance Automobiles sub-brand that also includes the triple-turbo diesel X5 M50d and X6 M50d SUVs due here mid-year.

This sub-brand is not to be confused with M division performance models such as the M3 and M5 and 1 Series M Coupe.

The M135i is powered by a 235kW/450Nm turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual or eight-speed semi-automatic transmission.

BMW claims the M135i hatch can sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds (5.2 for the manual) – the same as the 1 Series M coupe and just 0.1 seconds shy of the mighty M3 coupe – on its way to a top speed of 250km/h.

BMW Australia product communications manager Scott Croaker told GoAuto today that the local subsidiary had “both hands up and both fingers crossed” that it would get the green light from head office to bring the car here “sooner rather than later”.

The car will become the new headline act of the 1 Series five-door hatch range, supplanting the Volkswagen Golf GTI-rivalling 125i.

14 center imageLeft: BMW 1 Series three-door.

The German company has confirmed that it will introduce an xDrive all-wheel-drive version of the M135i in Europe from the end of this year (as well as an xDrive 120d base model) although this configuration will not make it to Australia as it is limited to left-hand-drive vehicles only.

The 3.0-litre TwinPower direct injected six-cylinder engine in the M135i produces maximum torque from as low as 1300rpm, and chews as little as 7.5 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle (8.0 for the six-speed manual).

The M135i is differentiated from its more humble stablemates by a unique front apron with large air intake, side skirts, 18-inch alloy wheels and a tweaked rear diffuser surrounding dual exhausts.

Inside, the car gets exclusive cloth/Alcantra seats, an M leather stitched steering wheel with blue-accented stitching and an Anthracite roof liner.

Also unique to the M135i in the 1 Series hatch line-up is standard Variable Sports Steering that reduces the degree of steering movement required on turn-in by way of a variable rack-and-pinion set-up. As well, it has lowered M Sport suspension and M Sport brakes with blue metallic fixed callipers.

Meanwhile, BMW Australia has confirmed it will again opt not to import the new 1 Series three-door hatch revealed in Europe over the weekend, just as it did with the first generation model.

The three-door, which interestingly shares all key dimensions with its five-door sibling, remains too compromised to be considered for a market like Australia, according to Mr Croaker.

“The three door is not really a car that suits our market, especially when you’re talking about the premium cars because you’re paying a fair bit for, I’ll be quite honest, a compromised car that you’ve got to fold the seats down to get into,” he said.

“It’s not a car that we expect to see a great number of interest in or sales of.” The three-door will be available with a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines ranging from the base 75kW/180Nm 114i petrol to the 160kW/450Nm 125d diesel, which sprints from 0-100km/h in 6.3s while using 4.9L/100km of fuel.

The new model features 21 mm more rear legroom and 30 litres more cargo space than its first-generation predecessor (up to 360 litres, expanding to 1220L with the 60:40 rear seats folded).

BMW claims the new configuration is differentiated by its “dynamically stretched side line”, longer doors with frameless windows and brawny rear wheel arches.

The three-door hatch brings the number of bodystyles available in the global 1 Series range to four – alongside the five-door hatch and two-door coupe and cabriolet.

However, as we reported last week, BMW reportedly is set to alleviate this confusion by ditching the 1 Series moniker from the new coupe and cabriolet versions due in 2014 in favour of all-new 2 Series badges.

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