Keeping the weight down

2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe gearshift(Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

About 35 kg of lightness was added, in part by refusing to provide a sunroof even as an option. If you have a problem with the logic behind this policy (namely, to enhance both performance and handling by removing some 15 kg of mass from the highest point of the vehicle) then you shouldn't even be considering an M car. Besides, as BMW drily notes, the lack of a sliding roof also maximises headroom, "or helmet room, as the case may be."

Although the M3 offers a dual-clutch automated manual transmission that even stick-shift die-hards find hard to hate, the 1M comes only with a six-speed manual.

"BMW M" and "affordable" are not phrases that usually share the same sentence, but all things considered the 1M's asking price of $53,600 seems quite reasonable considering all the go-harder hardware that comes with it. Compare that with, say, an Audi S5 for $60,500, an Infiniti IPL G Coupe at $57,200 and a Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe at $66,900. Although we don't see them being directly cross-shopped, Detroit iron of similar intent would include the Ford Mustang Boss 302 for $48,199.

2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe interior(Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

Of course, while BMW may deny you a sunroof, it will gladly burden your bill-of-sale with other options such as Navigation ($2,000), metallic paint ($800), a smartphone-integration Apps Package ($300) and a failure-to-grasp-the-concept Executive Package ($4,900) that adds such items as power seats, park distance control, SIRIUS and a Harman/Kardon audio.

Thus equipped, one 1M we drove asked $61,600 as tested. The car we photographed and track-tested was a bare-bones stripper but still contained such standard niceties as adaptive Xenon headlamps with washers, power windows and locks, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, leather, and an AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/Aux audio with Bluetooth.

One bad-ass baby Bimmer

2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe(Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

Once you let it rip, you'll forget to worry whether the engine is M-worthy. This thing is riotously rapid. The 5.0-second 0-100-km/h time is proof enough, but even that doesn't fully convey the hair-trigger throttle response and the massive wallop waiting to be unleashed across a broad rev range. The turbo is fully awake before 2,000 rpm, and the thrust doesn't fade until just shy of the red paint at 7,000 — all accompanied by a glorious mechanical sound-track.

Complement that with a smooth, solid and accurate shifter, plus a clutch that bites decisively when needed yet easily allows shunt-free shifting in moderate driving, and I'll submit that the "unworthy" powertrain is actually the best part of the 1M. It's even easy on gas: we averaged 10.6 L/100 km.

The rest of it? Well, I've never been a fan of the 1 Coupe's shape, and to my eyes it's not improved by the M's fangy front fascia (which does, however, have serious aerodynamic purpose) or the steroidal bulges containing the huge wheels. But I could live with the look if everything else was as near-perfect as the powertrain.