This new BMW M135i marks the first front-wheel drive-based hot hatch for the Bavarians in Munich. While it’s actually all-wheel drive, its architecture is still that of a front-wheel drive car. Much like its new main rival, the Audi S3 Sportback, which is one of the most popular premium hot hatches on the market. So let’s take a look at these two main rivals and their designs to see how they stack up.
We haven’t driven the M135i yet, obviously, but we have driven the Audi S3 (Sedan) and it’s a surprisingly good little car. But without haven driven both, we aren’t going to compare their performance or on-road behavior, only their styling.
From the front, the BMW M135i is not a bad looking car but it’s not a particularly handsome one, either. Its new Kidney Grilles are massive and joined at the middle, the latter point being a point of contention among many of our readers. I does look a bit like a pig from Angry Birds, though. Still, it’s sporty and aggressive looking and that’s sort of the point of a hot hatch.
While the Audi S3 is all business. It’s the more handsome car to these eyes, with its crisper lines and more elegant design. Its Singleframe grille is more handsome and more proportionate to its body. Also, its sharp headlights with their little notches look better than the Bimmer’s.
In profile, the Audi S3 is the better looking car as well. Who would have ever thought that an Audi would seem less derivative than another brand, especially in this segment? Turns out, though, that the Audi S3 looks far more unique than the BMW M135i. Again, the BMW isn’t bad looking at all but it looks like every other front-wheel drive hatchback on the market. In fact, I recently saw a tweet from a designer in Finland that shows off just how similar the new 1er looks to every other hatch on the market, from German to Japanese to Korean manufacturers.
— Lee Walton (@eclat521) May 27, 2019
The Audi S3 Sportback actually looks different. It stands out from the crowd far more than the Bimmer and looks more premium doing it. There’s an elegance to it that the 1 Series lacks and, for those reasons, also wins in profile.
Out back, the BMW M135i may have the best argument for its styling. Its “L” shaped taillights, dual exhausts and aggressive rear roof spoiler all make it very sporty looking. However, to these eyes at least, the Audi S3 Sportback still looks better. While its taillights might be a bit bland, its squat stance, roof spoiler and quad exhausts all make it look better than the 1er. It’s also just tidier and sharper looking. So the Audi takes the “W” here as well.
Inside, I’m going to hand it to the BMW M135i. This might not be too fair, considering it wears a far newer interior design than the Audi but these cabins are what these cars have to work with right now and the Bimmer’s is better. It’s laid out better, with better ergonomics and a more driver-focused design. It also packs far better technology overall, even if Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is still the best digital instrument panel in the business. BMW’s new iDrive system is just superb and its own digital gauges are quite good, too.
In total, the Audi S3 Sportback is still the better looking car, though. In fact, it’s probably the best looking hatchback on sale. It’s smart looking, elegant and still sporty. While the BMW 1 Series sort of looks like every other front-wheel drive hatchback on the market, similar to even the new Toyota Corolla hatch, the S3 stands out from the crowd. It’s not that the BMW M135i is bad looking, it’s that the S3 is very good looking.