The rise and rise of sporty trim kits fitted to ordinary cars is reaching epidemic proportions. We love the look of a high performance car but sadly most of us can’t afford to buy, run or insure the real deal. That’s why buyers are lapping up all the sportier looking versions and trims available on new cars like M Sport, S Line, GT Line, ST Line and ‘whatever your having yourself’. With these trims buyers get a hint of the look of a fire breathing M, bonkers ST or outrageously good RS for a fraction of the cost of the real McCoy.
BMW and its arch rival Audi are the kings of making standard cars look terrific with their M Sport and S Line grades respectively. So regardless of the engine power you have under the bonnet you can specify your car to look mean and kind of… menacing. More recently volume sellers like Kia, Renault and Ford have joined the sportier party. I’ve put the petrol powered 118i and 320i in M Sport models through their paces with a extra keen eye on how people perceived the machines.
Being badge ‘i’ both engines are obviously smooth relative to the diesels versions that still dominate sales. Despite looking good on paper neither engine felt particularly remarkable in high performance terms. The 320i uses a four cylinder unit we know a long time and one that has served the Bavarian firm well but I’ve never really felt the desire to drive it with great enthusiasm. The 2 litre pushes out 184hp and develops 270nm. 0-100kph takes a swift 7.3 seconds and fuel consumption averages out at 6.3. l/100km (44.8mpg). CO2 is 134g. I was keen to see how economical I could be in a petrol powered BMW and managed to average a respectable 40mpg over a week – that’s with me driving like a saint in Eco Pro mode mostly. The good news is I felt good behind the wheel of the handsome looking 3 Series – but at the same time I was conscious of the heavily tinted rear windows that could be seen as a little too boy racer (no offence intended to young car enthusiasts). This was also the case with onlookers who commented on the same single aspect. Our test car had a good few optional extras and packs fitted. One pack, that cost the guts of three grand, was the M Sport Plus package. It consists of cool looking 19″ M Double-spoke alloy wheels, M Sport braking system, Sun protection glass, High-beam Assistant and a high output Harman/Kardon surround sound system. The 320i M Sport starts at circa €44K, my test car had a host of extras that brought its price up to €54 grand. That price is still a hell of a lot less than an M3 at €99,930. The 3 Series continues to be a terrific machine and a really great drive. Overall it got a thumbs up from me and onlookers.
The BMW 1 Series is the baby in the range. The rear wheel drive hatchback is in its final years in this format and looks better than ever. 118i M Sport is powered by a three cylinder 1.5 litre petrol engine with 136hp and 220nm of torque. 0-100kph takes 8.7 seconds and fuel consumption is quoted at 5.2 l/100km (54.3mpg). I managed to get 47mpg on one 80 kilometre run. In day to day mixed driving, again in Eco pro mode mostly, I managed around 40mpg. CO2 is low too at 122g. The five door 118i M Sport starts from €35K and with the M Sport kit and striking blue ‘Estoril’ paint it looked very smart and turned quite a few heads. Our car had clear windows (unlike those pictured) and this helped us appreciate the car’s hatch shape. The 1 Series is a car you have to want if you know what I mean. It is great fun to drive thanks to its rear wheel drive and the steering is nice and precise. There is optional Adaptive M suspension and inch bigger 18 inch alloys too with the M Sport package. The trouble 1 Series has is the fact that so many family hatchbacks out there do an excellent job too – for less money e.g. the Focus or Golf. Our test car featured a number of extras that brought the price up to €44K. The really good news with the 1 Series is that for just €52,930 you can (and should) buy the brilliant M135i.
There’s no denying it BMW M Sport models are very good looking and dare I say youthful too. People will admire their nod to sportiness while some petrol-heads will dismiss them as ‘wannabes’. The vast majority of onlookers won’t necessarily know why they appear so smart looking but will crave them all the same.
M Sport models from BMW are the next best thing to getting the M version.