And then you climb down into the M135i. High scuttle, low roofline, wheel securely at chest height: in short, much more enveloping. The ride is authentically hot hatch taut, but it isn’t brittle. And although the steering is considerably more vulnerable to deflection than that of the T-Roc R, and the quick elasticity of its action isn’t so immediately easy to get along with, there’s an earthy connection you get from having less metal, rubber and plastic between your anatomy and the treadblocks.
Within the space of two committed corners, you’re aware of the latency in the taller car between your input and its reactions. It’s harder to read the road ahead, because you don’t have height on your side, but equally you’re given more confidence to properly attack.
The T-Roc R is the more compliant long-distance car, especially with its dampers set to their syrupy softest. It’s also easier to climb aboard and your back-row passengers will feel more relaxed and comfortable than they would in the M135i at all times. Actually, perhaps not when you approach the ultra-high limits of grip and traction, because it wouldn’t be a surprise if the T-Roc R were even quicker than the M135i in terms of point-to-point pace.
Luggage capacity isn’t the strolling crossover victory you might expect, though. There are just 12 litres in it, and the hatchback’s boot is deeper. Economy? Predictably, less mass and a smaller frontal area mean the crossover comes off worse, with a combined 32.5mpg versus 35.3mpg for its old-fashioned rival. There’s no doubt the T-Roc R would slip into your life with barely a ripple, which makes its B-road ability all the more impressive. But let’s not pretend the M135i wouldn’t be supremely easy to live with also.
And what about those who do want a ripple or two from their performance car, even one with a daily brief? Well, they’re better served by the BMW. Its steering has more life, its chassis has more natural agility and, although we haven’t touched much on it here, its driveline is simply more finessed when you ask it difficult questions. The hot hatch formula seems so simple, yet it doesn’t necessarily translate perfectly to other automotive realms. To the casual driver, there may be no discernible difference between the T-Roc R and M135i. But to the rest of us, with the crossover’s extra height and weight, the magic is lost.
Hot hatch alternatives over the age