The BMW M135i has been hailed as one of the motoring bargains of the century. The BMW M235i, meanwhile, has escaped this title thanks to a) being released after the hot 1-Series and b) costing give-or-take £5,000 more. But it's still a fantastic deal; can you think of another 5 second 0 - 62 mph car with RWD and a chassis that's designed to perform as well on the road as on the track that costs under £35k?
Didn't think so.
The M235i then is the best drivers car you can get for the price new. It serves up 326 horsepower and 332 lb /ft of torque through a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is sent through to the rear wheels and fed through a very clever traction control system that shuffles the power between each corner for the best grip. It really is a blisteringly quick car, with the only cars at this price point that can keep up featuring all-wheel-drive (think Audi S3, and Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG).
It also looks the part. The standard 2-Series is a little too conservative for my liking, but the M235i with its big alloys, fat arches, and deep bumpers - along with lowered ride height and optional blue paint job - looks incredible and like the true successor to the stunning BMW M1 Coupe (this car isn't a sequel, but it is closely related as far as design and size goes). This stretches to the interior, where the 2-Series enjoys many of the parts of the M135i but has an all-round nicer design, with a little more space up front but marginally less space in the rear.
Some of the materials are unique to the M235i, and little sporty touches such as the sports steering wheel, unique fascia design and badges make the M235i a special place to be.
As blistering as this car is in a straight line - the 3.0-litre turbocharged engine delivers sports car pace, well above hot hatch pace - it is in the corners where it really shines; the chassis is extremely forgiving on harsh roads, and on smoother roads the car comes alive with the playfulness you would expect from a BMW range-topper, which is to say controllable drifts are easily achievable.
Incredibly, the 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine in this car is also reasonably economical. It will return up to 34.9 mpg according to BMW and emits only 189 g/km of CO2 with the 6-speed manual gearbox, which amazingly is the same as a 2.0-litre turbocharged Astra GTC VXR... which is to say certain manufacturers need to step up their efficiency game.
The combination of performance, luxury, and accessible pricing makes the BMW M235i one of the best performance cars on the market right now. But for buyers who seek more luxury and more practicability, there is a BMW with the same heart that costs a little more...