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BMW M140i 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
8.7
Four doors, five seats, a big boot and a blistering turbocharged engine capable of unleashing outrageous feats of acceleration? BMW's M140i is my kind of family car...

There is a small but militant group of Australian parents who refuse to accept that having kids should mean limiting your driving experiences to sedate SUVs or boring people-movers. I love these people. Mostly because I'm one of them. 

While I appreciate the practical aspect of SUVs, they don't exactly deliver on driving pleasure, so any car able to deliver on practicality and performance is sure to hit my radar. Add to this an engine producing 250kW/500Nm and the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.6sec and you have my full and undivided attention. 

Enter the 2018 BMW M140i.    

In a world of four-cylinder hot hatches, the BMW M140i - with its three-litre, in-line, six-cylinder engine - stands alone. Add rear-wheel drive and a sub-$60k sticker, and you have something really special. 

So, could the M140i be the ultimate antidote for parents looking to save themselves from the monotony of SUV driving? I had the weekend to find out. 

Saturday

There was a full schedule of duties on the cards for our test car that included shopping trips, a birthday party as well as numerous other pick-ups and drop-offs. 

Our test car looked suitably menacing dressed in all black and sporting an aggressive front grille and black-painted 18-inch rims, leaving it looking more like Darth Vader’s daily driver than a family hauler. With a side profile more reminiscent of a small wagon or SUV, though, it does not exactly scream hot hatch.

On closer inspection, there are some nice design touches with the various M badges, two angry looking black-chrome exhaust pipes and metallic grey side mirror caps. The blue-painted brake calipers at the front and rear nestled behind the rims provide another eye-catching feature against the black.

At the rear of the M140i there are two angry looking black-chrome exhaust pipes. (image credit: Dan Pugh) At the rear of the M140i there are two angry looking black-chrome exhaust pipes. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Inside, we plonked ourselves on the cloth trim seats as we surveyed the refined, yet slightly dated, interior finishes and fixtures. Up front, there are two cupholders in the centre console, a moderately sized cubby beneath the armrest, a glovebox and long door bins. The snug driving seat and M-stamped steering wheel give a clear signal of the intent of this car. 

The M140i comes loaded with standard equipment, including adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist, the 'iDrive6' multimedia system, digital radio, sat nav with live traffic, climate-control air, a reversing camera and rain-sensing wipers.

The M140i comes with BMW's 'iDrive6' multimedia system. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The M140i comes with BMW's 'iDrive6' multimedia system. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Backseat legroom is tight. Sitting behind my driving position, I had less than a finger-width gap between my knees and the concave rear of the driver's seat. The middle seat is less forgiving and best left to the kids. Rear passengers also forgo cup and bottle holders with only air vents to keep them company.

Any practical shortcomings in the rear were quickly ignored upon waking up the six cylinders sitting in front. Even at idle it sounds delicious. It's hard to believe what was once common place, a big engine up front with drive to the back, is now considered unconventional.

We spent the majority of the day in comfort mode cruising around the 'burbs, where the M140i was perfectly content, not to mention comfortable and composed. The engine and exhaust notes making their presence felt in the cabin without being too obnoxious.

The three-litre, in-line, six-cylinder engine produces 250kW/500Nm. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The three-litre, in-line, six-cylinder engine produces 250kW/500Nm. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

The ride quality and handling around the back streets was supple with only the most ridiculous of oversized speed humps able to ruffle it. In comfort mode, acceleration was exceptional – from standing starts off the lights to head-snapping mid-range acceleration. There was plenty on tap to help navigate whatever the day's traffic could throw at us.

Fuel consumption driving around town with the four of us on board for the day was (according the to the trip computer) around 10.2 litres/100km.  

Sunday - Sport

It was a stunning day, so the call was made to hit the beach. But first, I needed to test the M140i on some twisty blacktop.  

BMW has gifted this car with something truly special, a crazy amount of power that unlocks the ability to hit 100km/h from a standing start in 4.6sec. Remember, this is not even a true ‘M’ car...

That awesome engine is matched to a superb eight-speed automatic transmission working hard to deliver a seriously addictive amount of acceleration from virtually any speed, in any gear. What was smooth and silky around town in Comfort mode was devastatingly sharp and responsive in Sport. 

Take control of the paddles and shifts are snappy, rocketing the fun factor up past 10. With the window down, the symphony from the engine and exhaust filling the cabin far surpassed anything the 12-speaker harman/kardon stereo could produce.

Take control of the paddles and shifts are snappy, rocketing the fun factor up past 10.

With 500Nm of torque available from 1500rpm, there's a deep well of pulling power from low down right through the rev range. Mid-range urgency in third and fourth gears was a highly addictive experience – and it even provided a decent job in sixth gear.    

The steering had a nice weight to it, and it was direct and agile, responding intuitively to inputs. As with most Beemers, it’s a well balanced package that feels as planted from a standing start as it does navigating the winding back roads, and the Michelin Pilots provide oodles of grip. 

Around bumpy corners, though, the front end felt less composed, requiring a little more awareness with inputs. But the fact this hot hatch is not a completely buttoned-down package is one of its best qualities as it leaves something for the driver to do. 

With play time over the M140i easily slipped back into family hauling mode with kids on board and gear in the boot (which at 360 litres is decent for this category). The 60/40 split rear seats fold almost flat to provide a generous 1200 litres of space.

  • With the seats up, the BMW has 360 litres of boot space. (image credit: Dan Pugh) With the seats up, the BMW has 360 litres of boot space. (image credit: Dan Pugh)
  • The 60/40 split rear seats fold almost flat to provide a generous 1200 litres of space. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The 60/40 split rear seats fold almost flat to provide a generous 1200 litres of space. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

The M140i comes loaded with standard safety kit, including six airbags (two front, head airbags in the front and rear and curtain airbags that cover both the front and rear seats) along with a reversing camera, adaptive cruise, front and rear parking sensors and the usual traction and brake assist systems. 

BMW’s 'Driving Assistant' also comes as standard, adding AEB, lane departure warning and pedestrian warning to a pretty comprehensive safety package.

According to the trip computer fuel consumption for the day averaged 10.9L/100km. Quite a bit higher than BMW’s claimed 7.1L/100km, but worth the price of admission for the driving thrills on offer. 

Verdict

Docile one minute and dopamine-inducing the next, the M140i is a hot hatch providing an exceptional taste of what an M badge can offer for a fraction of the price of one of the bigger M cars. If the M140i doesn't fill the performance driving void in your life, then nothing will. 

Would you have a BMW M140i over an SUV? Let us know in the comments.

Pricing Guides

$44,900
Based on 169 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$29,800
Highest Price
$68,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M140i 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $49,900 – 68,900 2018 BMW 1 SERIES 2018 M140i Pricing and Specs
118i M-SPORT 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $38,800 – 39,900 2018 BMW 1 SERIES 2018 118i M-SPORT Pricing and Specs
125i SHADOW EDITION 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $38,500 – 45,320 2018 BMW 1 SERIES 2018 125i SHADOW EDITION Pricing and Specs
118d SPORT LINE 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $37,880 – 39,980 2018 BMW 1 SERIES 2018 118d SPORT LINE Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.7
Dan Pugh
Marketing Director

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