By Clive Funizwe
For years now, BMW enthusiasts knew that one day – the 1-Series will be front wheel drive, at least for the models below the flagship. When that day came – it didn’t gut the enthusiasts any less. To add salt to injury, 2 more cylinders were removed from the range topping model, the M235i. Despite all this downscaling – the M235i still gets a meaty 225kW/450Nm of power through BMW’s fantastic xDrive. No doubt then that there has been plenty of controversy around the car that replaces the well-respected M240i. We spent some time with it to find out if it matches up to its predecessor – and the results are not what you expect.
Starting from the inside. There is no doubt that the quality materials used here are bespoke along with fit, finish and execution. Admittedly, the look is the same (or similar) to other BMW’s – but there is no faulting the quality. Our test car had the red M-Sports seats, panoramic roof, dual 10.25-inch screens and rear air-vents. It felt every bit as luxurious as it looked. The infotainment remains one of the better ones in the market. It is very easy to use and quickly becomes second nature very early on in the acquaintance stage.
Moving on to the exterior, the M235i doesn’t scream coupe’ like the Mercedes-Benz CLA. In fact, the proportions are very sedan like. The design is very interesting and has grown on us during our time with it – but we remain a little divided with some angles. It does however have plenty road presence, especially in the Misano Blue. Our test car was a Black Sapphire metallic paint, which sometimes hid the lines of the exterior design.
Power and drive
Something that is not hidden – is the power. Until you get accelerator happy – you do not realize how Jekyll and Hyde this car is. There is a complete switch when you’re in sport mode. Throttle response, exhaust note, gear change ferocity from the 8-speed auto all sharpens up to tickle your petrol head bits. The xDrive system works very well and ensures ample grip on takeoff and corners. We obviously must mention that the sharpness, particularly of the steering and how the car handles – will not be as forensic as the rear wheel drive predecessor. It is however worth noting that this new formula will potentially be frowned upon by enthusiasts who have experienced the M240i (for purposes of measuring progress on the new car).
Does this make it a worthy successor? In many ways – Yes! If you have read this far – you are a car enthusiast that understands that downsizing has affected every manufacturer. So, this is not a question of whether BMW has missed the plot or not. It’s how close did they come to replicating a driving machine by using ingredients that are new age and environmentally conscious? In our view – very close. You will lose out on the power slides, but you will save at the pumps as our average of 7.2l/100km proved and replace the rubber infrequently. Add to that, the best ride refinement in its class and best interior by quality – and you have a class leading product… which is not cooler than the CLA, but still a fraction better by car standards.
The M235i comes with a standard 5-Year /100 000km Maintenance Plan and is priced from R763,300.
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