Car Magazine test drives and compares three of the hottest hatches on the market. The BMW M135i is pitted against the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and Audi S3.

BMW M135i is powered by a 3-litre, straight six-cylinder engine and 235 kW/320 hp and 450 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm. The technology package includes a TwinScroll turbocharger, direct High Precision Injection with central multi-hole injectors, VALVETRONIC variable valve control and Double VANOS variable camshaft timing.

The BMW M135i sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds (automatic: 4.9 seconds) and reaches a top speed of 250 km/h – the top limit permitted by the vehicle’s electronic speed control system. Average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle is 8.0 liters (7.5 liters)/100 km, and the CO2 emissions level is 188 grams (175 grams) per kilometer.

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Mercedes Benz A45 AMG is engineered by the AMG division to include numerous performance, handling and styling upgrades. The one thing that impresses us is the powerplant found under the hood: a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder which produces 360 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired to a seven-speed AMG dual-clutch transmission and power is sent to the ground using 4Matic all-wheel drive.

It runs from 0 to 60 mph time of 4.5 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph.

The Audi S3 is powered by an EA888 turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has been massaged to produce an even 300 hp. Force-fed by a single turbocharger, the 2.0-liter engine serves up its 280 lb-ft of twist from 1800 to 5500 rpm. Power peaks at 5500 rpm, and the long-stroke four-banger has a 6800-rpm redline.

0 to 62 mph is said to take 5.1 seconds with the optional six-speed dual-clutch box and 5.4 seconds with the six-speed manual.

Here is what the magazine had to say about the BMW M135i. You can also read our own review of the M135i with xDrive.

Is the ‘M-Performance’ 1-series a poor relation?

The M135i feels significantly softer edged than the now-defunct 335bhp 1-series M Coupe. That little bruiser, mixing the M3’s suspension and brakes with a squat chassis, manual gearbox and punchy turbo engine was a riotous experience, but the M135i is different. Believe it or not, but the high-end 1-series makes the charismatic 1M Coupe pale in more ways than one. How come? Because this half-breed M car is benign instead of brutal, cossetting instead of crash-bang hard, relaxed instead of highly strung, easily accessible instead of radically focused.
Through the countless hairpins, up steep slopes, and on a very mixed bag of winding roads, the absence of driven front wheels and a limited-slip differential looked at the beginning of our drive like a deciding dynamic deficiency of the BMW – but we were wrong. Thanks to its good dynamic weight distribution, the chip-controlled traction management and those fine composed-to-order Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres, the semi-M car rarely put a foot wrong. 

That engine is sweeter than apfelstrudel with cream, whipping eagerly through the revs, the mighty mid-range urge putting the four-cylinder competition into perspective, the two extra cylinders of the straight-six ensuring there are absolutely no artificial ingredients involved in making this 3.0-litre motor sound spine-tinglingly good when the mixture gates open. The optional eight-speed automatic cracks quickly through the upshifts too, is keener to downshift than the Merc’s dual-clutch ’box, and hides any trace of turbo lag. And the BMW also is clearly the most comfortable car in this group: even with the driving experience selector in Sport or Sport Plus, the suspension will soak up most vagaries with a smile.

So which hot hatch takes the win?

It means, after 48 hours, 500-odd miles, 269 litres of premium unleaded, and three fresh shirts, the A45 AMG takes the trophy ahead of the BMW and the Audi, off-putting price tag notwithstanding.