BMW318I

It’s all about the num­bers, reck­ons Damien O’car­roll.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

The BMW 3 Se­ries range now starts with a new num­ber, thanks to the re-in­tro­duc­tion of an old name. The 3 is still there, of course, it’s just the price that starts with a sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent num­ber – more specif­i­cally a 5 as op­posed to a 7. The 3 Se­ries range used to kick off with the 320i for $72,000, but now the 318i is back in the BMW range, res­ur­rect­ing a pop­u­lar model from a few years back and it now kicks off the 3 Se­ries range at just $59,900. The 318i’s big se­cret is the fact that it packs the same en­gine as the 2 Se­ries Ac­tive Tourer and the Mini Cooper – a 1.5-litre three-cylin­der turbo petrol unit that pro­duces 100kw of power and 220Nm of torque. It comes stan­dard with 18-inch al­loys, heated elec­tric seats, rain sens­ing wipers and au­to­matic head­lights, lane de­par­ture war­ing, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, park­ing sen­sors all round, a re­vers­ing cam­era, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, dual zone cli­mate con­trol and BMW’S Con­nected­drive ser­vice. This is pretty sim­i­lar equip­ment to the 320i, but the 318i is only avail­able in a smaller range of colours (just black and white, ac­tu­ally) and has less choice in stan­dard al­loy wheels and in­te­rior trim (just the one of both) and has ar­ti­fi­cial leather in­stead of the real thing. But what about that whole BMW “Ul­ti­mate Driv­ing Ma­chine” ex­pe­ri­ence, does the 318i live up to that? Yes and no. The lit­tle 1.5-litre three­cylin­der en­gine is bril­liantly flex­i­ble and more than ca­pa­ble of keep­ing up with traf­fic. In fact, it ac­tu­ally feels a bit un­will­ing to go as com­par­a­tively slow as we do in New Zealand, be­ing far hap­pier cruis­ing at around 120. Off the line it has more than enough grunt and at open road speeds it is quite ca­pa­ble of keep­ing up with and pass­ing far larger en­gined cars. It also has a bril­liant three­cylin­der growl, al­beit a lit­tle muted in more grown-up 3 Se­ries guise. The one place the mod­est power out­put is most no­tice­able, how­ever, is when you are get­ting a bit keen on a wind­ing back road. Here the lit­tle triple strug­gles out of cor­ners, par­tic­u­larly if they are up­hill. But there is also a huge up­side to this tiny en­gine equa­tion and that comes in the form of han­dling – the 318i is ut­terly sub­lime to chuck around a corner, thanks to the lack of weight over its front axle. The steer­ing is nicely com­mu­nica­tive and won­der­fully re­spon­sive, while the chas­sis is typ­i­cally 3 Se­ries good, but this time with a lot less weight over the nose. So in that re­gard the 318i could be said to be one of the most pure Ul­ti­mate Driv­ing Ma­chines in BMW’S range, with its sub­lime han­dling un­cor­rupted by big power and a lot of weight in the nose. On the in­side the 3 Se­ries is start­ing to look a bit dated and drab when com­pared to the op­po­si­tion. Adding to this is the lack of any kind of mo­bile phone mir­ror­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties that have rapidly be­come com­mon­place and the ar­ti­fi­cial leather is, well, aw­ful, but that han­dling is just so damn sub­lime that none of that re­ally mat­ters.

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