What is it?
This is the car BMW said for ages that it wouldn't make. The 1 Series M Coupé (so called because calling it the M1 would step on the toes of the eponymous 1978 BMW supercar) is the cheapest proper M car BMW makes.
But don't let that fool you into thinking it's not a serious piece of kit: at £40,020 without options this is hardly the working man's M car. Nope, this is an extremely rapid and highly focused driving machine. Actually, it's probably the most exciting - and in reality the quickest - BMW on sale today.
Is it any good?
The 1 Series M Coupé is the antidote to the last couple of cars from BMW's high performance specialist, M Division. Those cars, the X5 M and X6 M, are surreally fast, but they're also outrageously expensive and, being based on huge SUVs, hardly sports cars.
For the 1 M, BMW has taken the chassis, suspension, brakes, steering and a few other bits from the M3 - one of the best driver's cars in the world - and stuffed them under the body of a 1 Series Coupé. As you can see from the flared wheel arches, some modifications had to be made to accommodate the bigger car's innards. As a result, this comically wide two-door has the look of a touring car whose advertising stickers have been peeled off.
But does the drive live up to the visual hype? Oh yes. For a start, it's brutally quick. The twin-turbo 3.0-litre engine develops 335bhp, but it's the torque figure that's most significant: 369lb.ft from just 1,500rpm. That's compared to 295lb.ft in the M3 - which is over £14,000 more expensive, by the way. The 0-62mph thing is done with in 4.9 seconds, although a BMW person we spoke to said that's a very conservative figure. He wasn't kidding.
It's not the pace of this car that's most impressive, though, it's the purity of it. It has no fancy adaptable chassis trickery and it's only available with one, short-shift manual gearbox. Simple.
The result is a rear-drive car that's edgy enough to command respect - mash the throttle mid corner and the back end will slide out - but that has so much grip, balance and feel that most of the time you can thrash it like a hot hatch. It's like an M3 with little man syndrome. Yet it's as comfy as your boss's leather office chair.
Should I call the bank manager?
A sum of £40,000 is a lot of money for a 1 Series - and closer to £45,000 with a few desirable options - but that's the wrong way to look at this car. For a start BMW is only making 450 of them for the UK (and there's a badge on the centre console to prove that) so it will at least feel exclusive. You better be quick too, because 300 were taken before it even went on sale.
Engine aside, all the main performance parts that turn this car from a common 1 Series into a proper M car are taken from the £54,000 BMW M3. That includes the chassis, suspension, wheels (the lightweight ones from the M3 CSL) and steering rack. And because it's turbocharged, rather than having a whopping big V8, it does 29.4mpg. Not bad.
The 1 Series M Coupé is the antithesis of the X5 M and X6 M SUVs, focused first and foremost on being great to drive. Whether you're behind the wheel or just gawking at it from the pavement, it's one of the most exciting cars on sale today. That it also happens to be capable of anodyne four-seat transport makes it one of the most complete sports cars we've driven. Cancel that M3 order, quick.