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.
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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.
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.