BMW M135i – The Last Rear-Wheel Drive Hatch?

1-series | July 12th, 2015 by 12
bmw m135i 1 750x500

The BMW M135i is probably the coolest hot hatch in the entire world. Not that it’s the best, or fastest or most practical, but it’s …

The BMW M135i is probably the coolest hot hatch in the entire world. Not that it’s the best, or fastest or most practical, but it’s almost certainly the coolest. The reason for this resides in the rump of the car. At the back of the M135i, if you take a look underneath, you’ll notice two axles connected to the rear wheels.

This is pretty much the only hatchback to have driven rear wheels, and driven rear wheels on a hot hatch is a very good thing, indeed.

2015 bmw m135i design images 12 750x499

The Volkswagen GTI might be a rather excellent all-rounder, possibly best on the market right now, the Audi RS3 Sportback is probably the most exciting hatch at the moment and the Ford Fiesta ST is probably the pluckiest of the bunch. But the M135i’s tail-out shenanigans make it more fun and more cool than anything with a rear tailgate. However, the tail-out shenanigans aren’t likely going to last. And that’s sad.

Here, in the ‘States, we don’t get the hatchback BMW 1 Series. It’s a car that US BMW enthusiasts have been begging BMW to send across the Atlantic for years now. However, in all of the lucky markets that do receive it, they rave about it. The M135i is stuff of legends because of its uniqueness in the hot hatch market, its incredible driving dynamics and great performance. But it might soon be coming to an end, as the BMW 1 Series will likely be switching to BMW’s front-wheel drive architecture, shared with MINI and the 2 Series Active Tourer. This means no more tail-out fun for the 1er anymore.


It does make business sense for BMW to make the switch. Front-wheel drive is cheaper to manufacture, leading to larger profit margins on high-volumes selling cars, like the 1 Series. It also frees up space in the rear seats and trunk, which are main priorities for 90 percent of car buyers. The switch to front-wheel drive will actually probably spike sales quite a bit and help compete with Audi’s A3 and Mercedes’ CLA Class. But throttle oversteer will be gone and that will make enthusiasts sad, regardless of how unnecessary it is for the majority of daily driving.

I’m sure the next FWD-based 1 Series will still be a great car and 90 percent of all owners won’t even notice the change. But for the few of us that do understand the difference, those of us who like to use the throttle to help rotate the car mid-corner and hate understeer, we will miss the rear-drive nature of the old car.

We may not ever get the M135i here is the US, and I will probably never drive one because of that, but us Yanks can understand the end of an era anyway. It’ll be sad to see the little guy go.

12 responses to “BMW M135i – The Last Rear-Wheel Drive Hatch?”

  1. jason bourne says:

    It’ll be a sad day in automotive history.

  2. SF Dede says:

    Nico, while I agree with you that it is a shame the 1er hatch is not sold in the US (particularly because I’d buy one in a heartbeat), this is not the end of the RWD hatch. Maybe with a ICE power train, but not electric. Look at the i3.

    • :) I did forget the i3 was a rear-drive hatch, though I was more talking about hot hatches (VW GTI, Fiesta ST, M135i etc). But the i3 is pretty fun so it could be the first electric rear-drive hot hatch!

  3. Martin says:

    I’m enjoying my E87 (first generation 1-series hatchback) every day and will be among the 10% that will deeply miss the dynamics of a RWD. We’re a family of 4 and internal space is not an issue. Sure the bean-counters at BMW know they’ll make a better profit switching to FWD, but I do feel BMW is selling their soul and diluting their brand big-time. Audi got superior interior quality and better looks but do lack the feeling of engagement when trashed along a twisting road. When next gen 1 series and Audi got FWD, guess who will win?

  4. I hope BMW do send it off with a limited release full kit 1M in a 3 door hatch style.

  5. Senne says:

    Though BMW has said the 1 Series will maybe stay RWD, because the extra room is not so important in a 1 Series. :)

    • RafaelDourado says:

      Exactly, in one needs more space, they can get the 2 series gran tourer, or, maybe a better alternative, jump off a really tall building.

  6. seancorr says:

    It was mentioned by the R&D boss that the BMW board had until end of this year to decide if the 1er will go ahead with FWD or stick with RWD?

  7. RafaelDourado says:

    I have one, just took delivery, orange, identical to the one in the photos. Even though is not as powerful as the competition from Audi and Mercedes, nothing beats the feel of a true RWD car. In my mind, the front wheels have no business powering a performance oriented car.

    It makes me sad to see it replaced by FWD, but I plan to keep mine for the long run, so if it’s actually the last RWD hot hatch, at least I’ll have a future classic in my hands.

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