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One for sorrow, two for joy. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

One for sorrow, two for joy
The visible differences between the M and non-M car are surprisingly evident.

 



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A few months ago we tested the BMW 130i M Sport and were left rather more shaken than stirred by the sports suspension, particularly at the rear. We found that on the pockmarked and subsiding roads we have to endure here in Britain the suspension was just too hard, too unyielding to keep the whole picture together when pushed beyond 6/10ths, which let's face it, a six-cylinder 1 Series should be more than capable of.

The visible differences between the M and non-M car are surprisingly evident. The normal 130i looks much like any other 1 Series bar some different wheels and two chromed tail pipes protruding from beneath the rear valence. The M car has bigger wheels, skirts and sculpted spoilers fore and aft all hunkered on lowered suspension.

Inside, the differences are equally conspicuous; the M version has much nicer seats, wheel and trim although, as you'd expect, everything else is the same. This similarity is repeated under the bonnet where the familiar 260bhp 3-litre six nestles back against the fire wall.

Performance between the two cars is all but identical, although the M version felt to us to have sharper throttle response. Other than that it is business as usual with effortless torque complemented by plenty of top-end drama, all accompanied with an appropriately engaging sound track.

The real crux is the difference on the open road. On exactly the same stretches of tarmac the more softly suspended car proves to be the consummate all-rounder, absorbing ridges and ruts that unsettled its stable mate. Where the M Sport felt unsettled and nervous, this car remains planted. There is still a hard edge to the suspension, something we'd put down, along with some tramlining, to the construction of the run-flat tyres and their low profile.

Undoubtedly the M Sport 130i would be much the quicker car on a track, or indeed a smooth A-road. The suspension and larger tyres offer significant advantages in such circumstances, but, and it's a big but, depending on where you live and the frequency of your track day excursions (if any) the normal car offers the better package on most roads. There is some loss of agility and absolute dynamic ability on perfect surfaces. However, the trade off is worth it in our eyes.

Our advice would be to drive both, consider the contexts of your driving requirements and check the options list for the M bits if you want them. In the conditions we drive in, this is very much a case of less is more.
BMW 1 Series UK range overview

- BMW 116i: 15,995
- BMW 118d: 17,885
- BMW 118i: 17,800
- BMW 120d: 19,410
- BMW 120i: 18,885
- BMW 116i ES: 16,820
- BMW 118d ES: 18,710
- BMW 118i ES: 18,625
- BMW 120d ES: 20,235
- BMW 120i ES: 19,710
- BMW 116i SE: 17,945
- BMW 118d SE: 19,835
- BMW 118i SE: 19,750
- BMW 120d SE: 21,360
- BMW 120i SE: 20,835
- BMW 130i SE: 24,770
- BMW 116i Sport: 17,945
- BMW 118d Sport: 19,835
- BMW 118i Sport: 19,750
- BMW 120d Sport: 21,260
- BMW 120i Sport: 20,735
- BMW 116i M Sport: 19,690
- BMW 118d M Sport: 21,580
- BMW 118i M Sport: 21,495
- BMW 120d M Sport: 23,035
- BMW 120i M Sport: 22,510
- BMW 130i M Sport: 26,540

Dave Jenkins - 8 Aug 2006









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2006 BMW 130i specifications: (SE)
Price: 24,770 on-the-road (test car was fitted with optional extras).
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Combined economy: 30.7mpg
Emissions: 221g/km
Kerb weight: 1450kg

Full technical specifications

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 BMW 130i. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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