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The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Reader test: BMW 135i Coupe

2009-06-12 07:45

Claude Geral

As an engineer, most of my decisions in life are based on calculations ranging from planning my day to the exact hour (even Saturdays and Sundays, I know, it’s sad…) to modelling advanced systems to predict outcomes. Therefore, when it came to deciding what car to buy, my approach was no different.

After driving a Mini Cooper S for five fantastic years I decided to part with the “Rat” (appropriately named for its colour, size and the sound from its whining supercharger!).

Apart from the mileage (and thus the lack of a Motorplan), reasons also included the shoe-box sized boot, the non-existent suspension and power/torque curves that seemed to have flattened over the last couple of years when compared with newer vehicles…

What to buy?

After spending model after model (computer model that is) taking into account variables such as power, torque, fuel consumption, warranty, price and depreciation, to name a few, my decision was narrowed to two formidable contenders - the BMW 135i and Audi S3!

My final decision came down to an “unknown variable” in the world of science, something you cannot measure, quantify or begin to understand. All I know is it gets your senses rushing, your heart thumping and it's addictive! I felt it on the test drive and knew straight away that I had a winner in the 135i Coupe.

Instead of regurgitating the facts and figures or trying to draw comparisons, I'd rather tell you what it’s like to drive this car on a daily basis and about the things I have come to love and hate about it over a period of nine months.


Not much different to the current 1 Series hatch, the interior is relatively safe. It’s comfortable and functional, unless you cannot live without heated seats, large LCD displays and a fine leather stitched dash, and finishes and feel are of a high quality.

One nice feature is the adjustable side bolster on the seats should you require that extra support, or should I rather say less lateral movement, in the corners. Overall, the tone of the cabin is sufficient for what it is and I wouldn’t change a thing.


After driving a Cooper S for years, the one thing I thought I'd miss is the handling.

However, I am constantly pleasantly surprised by the amounts of grip. Even with a higher centre of gravity and a longer wheelbase than the Mini, it performs equally, if not better, than the Cooper S. This is probably a result of the equal weight distribution, rear wheel drive and fatter tyres. The 135i as sure footed as a mountain goat while still remaining comfortable.


The car accelerates like a scolded cat, although I often find it difficult to put down all the power. Stomping the pedal in first, second or even third, results in a fancy light show on the dash, which sadly works intermittently and especially when passengers are on board.

Accelerate hard while turning and you will find yourself facing the wrong direction and requiring some fancy hand work on the steering wheel to get it straight again. From driving front wheel drive cars my whole life, I’ve definitely thrown myself into the deep end - and I love it every day!

A lot of people comment on the linearity of the power delivery, but it’s the torque from as low as 1 900 r/min that impresses me most. It's a contagious thrust that throws you back into your seat and often results in a wife complaining of whiplash!  


Owning a multiple award-winning engine is a privilege and one I am so lucky to experience it every time I press the little button called “Start”.

The engine sounds as good as it performs and one thing for sure, there is nothing that sounds quite like a BMW straight six in full throttle, especially with an added “psshh” here and there!

To sum up, the 135i Coupe is the best car for me. I’ve proved this mathematically and the results have been verified every day for the last nine months.


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