BMW M135i vs Ford Focus RS

1-series, News | July 22nd, 2016 by 13
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If the BMW M2 hadn’t just been released, the hottest car on the market would be the Ford Focus RS. Released around the same time …

If the BMW M2 hadn’t just been released, the hottest car on the market would be the Ford Focus RS. Released around the same time as the M2, the Focus RS is an absolute monster of a hatchback. With its 2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the Focus RS makes 350 hp and powers all four wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s the hottest hatch on the market right now. However, BMW has its own hot hatchback that’s slowly being forgotten as it gets older, but it’s still a serious contender — the BMW M135i.

Not having ever been made available in North America, many Americans are unaware of the M135i hatch. Much like the M235i, it boasts a 3.0 liter turbocharged I6 engine that develops 322 hp and powers its rear wheels. That last bit is important because it makes the M135i the only rear-wheel drive hot hatch on the market.

So how do these two hatches stack up against each other? Whatcar decided to find out.

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Despite both being hot hatches, both of these cars are very different. The Ford Focus RS has a sort of crazed, manic personality to it, with its loud exhaust that pops and burbles all the time, it’s lightening fast twitchy steering and tenacious all-wheel drive grip. It’s like an excited puppy, always wanting to play and if you don’t pay attention, it’ll eat your furniture. While that’s incredibly fun on tight, twisty back roads, it can be a bit exhausting on highways or broken pavement. Its suspension is incredibly stiff and its cabin can be pretty loud. But get it on the right road and holy hell is it fun to drive.

On the flip side, the BMW M135i is a bit more mature, more reserved. It’s not boring by any means, it’s just less manic. While it doesn’t have the monster grip of the all-wheel drive Ford, its rear-wheel drive nature allows it to be more fun and feel more natural in corners. It’s a smooth car that requires more skill that the Ford, which you can just point and shoot and its crazed all-wheel drive system will get you through without much effort. The BMW also has a nicer interior, which is filled with richer materials and its ride is much more comfortable, without compromising performance.

Whereas the engine in the Focus RS is loud and packs all of its turbocharged punch in the mid-range, the BMW M135i engine is smoother and more linear, making a more refined growl. Both are plenty fast, but the Bimmer trails the Ford from 0-60 mph, with a time of 5.8 seconds compared to the Ford’s 5.2. However, both are plenty good fun.

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In terms of practicality, as these are hatchbacks after all, the Focus RS has a bit more cargo space and better rearward visibility. But the BMW M135i has better back seat space and better space up front as well. The BMW has the much nicer interior, though, with more premium materials and much more mature look. The Focus RS has really cool Recaro seats that are supremely comfortable, but they aren’t height adjustable, which can be an issue. It’s also a bit boy-racerish on the inside, with its blue stitching everywhere and boost gauges. It’s a fine cabin and looks cool, but will likely get tiring and nowhere near as classy as the Bimmer’s.

Both of these cars are outstanding cars, especially for enthusiasts that like to drive like hooligans. They’re both more than fast enough to be fun, both have great handling dynamics and both look cool. However, Whatcar had to choose between them and decided that the BMW M135i was the better car of the two. It’s almost as fast but has the better engine, has rear-wheel drive handling dynamics and a much nicer interior. While the Ford Focus RS is an incredible driving car, its harsh ride and cheap cabin put it in second place.

[Source: Whatcar]

13 responses to “BMW M135i vs Ford Focus RS”

  1. Kaisuke971 says:

    The Focus RS is probably one of the very best hot hatch ever made, so i’d go for it even if i’m a BMW guy. I’m not judging your taste, but aren’t the harsh ride and rather cheap (well i’ve seen cheaper interiors honestly) interior part of the charm of these Hot hatches though ?

    • PerfectlyPeter says:

      I find the RS interior far from ‘cheap’ though I’d prefer less bling and more simplicity. The Recaro shell seats with matching rear seats do lift the ambience to an acceptable level.
      The ‘harsh’ ride is in reality a firm taut ride that feels pliant and supple when RS is driven at speed on imperfect twisty ‘B’ roads. actually I can’t get enough of the car in those conditions.
      At the other end of the spectrum the RS is surprisingly tractable and driveable at city speeds.
      The biggest oversight by Ford is that they underestimated worldwide demand.

  2. Bob Zormeir says:

    The BMW Blog prefers BMWs. So unexpected.

  3. PerfectlyPeter says:

    It is to be expected after countless reviews which have consistently lauded the RS as a game-changer that there comes along some late in the day reviewers hellbent on taking a contrary view.

    But I’m afraid your case is weak.
    Take a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLjyd5JheUA
    Here the RS is pitted against several ‘premium’ brand cars on a WET Anglesey racetrack. You will see that your BMW gets bunched along with VWs, Audis, Mercs and others as a mediocre drive alongside the RS. Here you can observe that ‘rear wheel drive handling dynamics’ get overshadowed bigtime.

    You say of the BMW: ‘feels more natural in corners’ By that, don’t you instead mean ‘traditional’ ? What is natural about excessive oversteer, while the RS powers ahead?

    Why do I support the RS? Well I drive mine very day at speed on twisty, undulating, bumpy ‘B’ roads. The supple, pliant ride and phenomenal cornering ability of the RS in these conditions is phenomenal.

    Now the price: The RS is priced way less than a BMW. But beyond the purchase price are the exorbitant maintenance costs associated with a BMW. (I know from experience from owning a BMW E46 for many years)

    The team which gave us the Le Mans winning Ford GT this year also designed the RS. They have done a fantastic job.

    • The Focus RS is an outstanding car, we’re not saying it isn’t. In fact, we weren’t saying anything in this article, really. We were simply reporting the findings of another publication, as stated above and in the article…

    • Fritz says:

      Don’t you think that oversteer is why a lot of people love the BMW brand so much? Also, how can you compare the maintenance costs of the E46 with the F20? C’mon now…

      • PerfectlyPeter says:

        It was due to its oversteer characteristics that I bought the Focus RS.
        In one particular YouTube video, a similar BMW – an M2 – can be seen on a wet race track cornering in full-lock oversteer. – loads of fun for sure. The RS through the same corner exhibits a lesser degree of oversteer whilst making more headway.
        The computer-controlled AWD system could be described as a drive-by-wire system due to its automated shift of torque to the rear wheels. I concede that RWD purists may scoff at that. But it does make amateur drivers like me appear to have a modicum of driving skill.
        This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_LCunEbH44 presents a similar BMW as the more appealing car in many ways. However, the reviewer in the final moments says: ‘On a wet racetrack, the BMW driver would not see which way the RS went’
        So it is in this context that I use the term ‘excessive oversteer’

        OK maybe I ought not to draw a comparison of maintenance costs between the E46 and the F20. Though I’m sure I’m on safe ground asserting that service costs for a BMW are higher than that for a Ford Focus RS.

  4. Fritz says:

    With the new M140i in production, this is pretty much a useless review by ‘Whatcar’.

  5. Senne says:

    0-60 time for the M135i is 4.8 seconds, I think. Not 5.8 anyway… and idk about the Ford. If it’s faster (in a straight line, because its AWD), is it 4.2, then? Because that’s crazy fast! Though tests on the track show that the M135i with RWD is faster than the Ford Focus RS. RWD is superior to AWD for dynamic driving. :)

  6. […] this year BMW decided to replace the popular M135i with an even more powerful version, the new BMW M140i. Unfortunately, U.S. customers are still […]

  7. […] of a comprehensive favorite prohibited hatches on a marketplace is a BMW M135i. It isn’t since we’re BMWBLOG, though since it’s a usually prohibited induce on a marketplace […]

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