Sometimes I wonder how long I can keep beating the hatchback drum. We here in America don’t like them, but we should. I feel as if Americans are small children who don’t want to eat their vegetables and I’m the parent that keeps insisting vegetables are good for them. Except in this instance, veggies are hatches, and they’re good for Americans yet we still don’t want them.
Europe loves ‘em. Hatches sell faster in Europe than upskirt pictures of Kim Kardashian sell to TMZ. There’s good reason for this, though. Hatchbacks offer the same sporty driving dynamics of a car but just with some added utility and better rearward visibility.
It’s a shame we don’t want them because BMW offers one of the better hatchbacks in the world, over in Europe, called the M135i. And we can’t have it here, even though it would meet, as far as we know, all of U.S. emissions and crash standards. It uses an engine we get in the states — the N55 turbocharged inline-six making 315 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Good enough to take you to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.
What a wonderful engine it is too. We’ve driven the previous generation M135i, and the 335i and 435i with the N55 engine, and that engine is a gem. Despite being turbocharged, it sings to redline which lives at 7,000 RPM and feels smooth and powerful throughout its linear powerband. Punch the throttle at any RPM in any gear and all you’ll feel is instant thrust. It sounds pretty great too, with a mechanical, metallic sounding growl.
Now, a car with similar specs and power that is also a hatchback is the VW Golf R. With 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque coming from a 2.0 liter turbocharged engine, the Golf R can hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. That’s mighty quick for a car with just two liters of displacement. The interesting thing about the Golf R is that it’s sold in the States. So why is it that VW can sell the Golf R here but BMW can’t sell the M135i? I think it’s image.
American drivers typically don’t want a small hatchbacks. Many Americans find hatchbacks to be synonymous with cheap, economy cars. The reason VW can sell the Golf R here, is that VW has a cult following, especially for the Golf and its go-fast variants. Almost all VWs are bought by people who want something a bit different, something to break them free from the normalcy of their Camrys. So VW can market a quirky little hatchback. BMW, on the other hand, is known for luxury and performance, so a small hatchback would be tough to market here and probably wouldn’t sell very well.
However, I do think that after some time, Americans would warm to the idea of a BMW hatch. It would gain a cult following just like the Golf and the 135i Coupe has. Because the first people to buy them would be us enthusiasts and it would just catch on from there. All it would take is a few hatchback haters to climb aboard an M135i to see that it has the same quality and performance you’d come to expect in a BMW, only smaller. Plus, if you think about it, it has a big, powerful six cylinder engine in a tiny little car. That practically makes it a German muscle car, and we all know how much America like muscle cars.
The M135i is a dynamite package, it combines power, performance, driving dynamics and practicality all in one car. It even has an xDrive option for folks who live in harsh climates. If the M135i were to come to the States, I’d be one of the first in line. I’m assuming, as BMW enthusiast yourselves, that most of you would be in line as well. But for now we’ll have to do without it. At least the M235i is really good.