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BMW 118i - Driven

Hereís one of those rare cars where the manufacturer has got it just right.

The 118 is the smallest of BMWís Ďnormalí cars, with traditional small hatch layout. But itís front wheel drive, which aside from the companyís slightly weird 2-series (basically a Mercedes B-Class clone which sold here in miniscule quantities), is their first front driven model.

Itís a big step for a company which for so long espoused the virtues of rear wheel drive, when long before, the rest of the world was making all its small hatches with front wheel drive.

Thereís more thatís untraditional about the 118iÖ It has a 3-cylinder engine. Itís a 1500cc turbocharged unit, which aside from sounding reminiscent of a Daihatsu Charade when being pushed, is a truly excellent little unit. Itís flexible, economical and provides more than adequate performance Ė itís quite peppy.

In fact, the little triple is one of the highlights of this car.

The review car was fitted with an M package, including big wheels with low-profile tyres, which undoubtedly helped the roadholding when cornering, but this car handles brilliantly. Scooting around the suburbs or pushed with some vigour, the 118 handles with aplomb.

In any circumstances, itís really easy to drive. And that doesnít mean itís boring to drive. The feedback and feel of the car are excellent and it always feels rewarding experience - even tootling around suburban back streets. There a few cars I can say that about.

This car, with its M Sport Package is very well equipped, including standard fitment of Head-Up Display, rear view camera, Parking Assist, live speed limit information and wireless smartphone charging. The M Sport Pack brings sports seats, 10mm lower sports suspension, an aero package and M steering wheel and some minor decorative items.

Criticisms? Very few. The back seat is rather flat and at best moderately accommodating for adults.

The stop-start system is often over-eager to stop the engine, moreso than any other car Iíve driven. Sometimes I switched it off because it became too annoying.

The big alloy wheels with rim edges sticking out beyond the tyres are clearly an issue. The first thing the dealership staff did when I returned the car was check the edges of the rims. This is dumbness of styling outweighing practicality. BMW are not lone offenders here. Fortunately, Iíd avoided damaging the rimsÖ

And the last item one could criticize is the styling. All but the front is fineÖ which seems to offend the sensibilities of many people. It didnít bother me, because itís an element of what sets the BMW apart.

Overall, this car has to be looked at as great value. Itís well built, comprehensively equipped and tremendous to drive. Sure, it costs more than the average hatch, but itís going to appeal to a different buyer anyway. Those who do buy one are getting a bargain new car.

VITAL STATISTICS


Engine: 1499cc 3-cylinder petrol turbo
Transmission: 7-speed double clutch Steptronic
Power: 193kW
Torque: 220Nm
Performance: 0-100km/h 8.5 seconds
Price: $42,990 at time of review
Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)