BMW 318i: Back to basics
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Increasingly these days, the notion of the “entry-level” model undersells things entirely. Scroll back 20 years and “entry-level” was as basic as it sounds.
You could make your dollar stretch further, but first world items such as air conditioning and a factory stereo wouldn’t be yours to enjoy without spending a bit extra.
That’s not the case these days. Such is the raft of comfort and convenience technology expected by consumers, even the first rung on the ladder is usually a good one.
In some overseas markets, entry-level models still come sans A/C and with wind-up windows in the back. Kiwi consumers wouldn’t settle for such frugalness though, and as a result most brands offer a baseline feature set much higher than you might anticipate.
The idea of a BMW without the frills is actually an unusual one; the distributor is well-known for offering tantalising packages to purchasers beyond standard specification.
Here though, what you see is what you get. This new 318i isn’t even offered with a full palette of exterior colours; black or white sir, that’s your lot.
Still, this aside, it’s somewhat surprising to discover you’re not wanting for much in this base-level 3-Series. So much so, some of the stuff offered further up the model line starts to feel a tad superfluous when you consider what’s on offer for $60,000.
The 318i is also an interesting addition to the F30 era 3-Series range, as we haven’t seen this particular model in the New Zealand market for almost a decade.
Until now the $73,350 BMW 320i has undertaken the heavy-lifting for the brand, although that price point hardly makes you think ‘entry-level’.
There are plenty of other options, especially in terms of premium European metal, in this corner of the market.
Drop the price until it starts with a “five” though, and BMW might be on to something. Line the 318i up against something else from the range – well, something that isn’t dressed in M Performance-themed sports finery anyway — and you’d be hard pressed to pick it out.
The 318i still arrives with 18-inch ‘V Spoke’ alloy wheels, metallic paint with chrome trim detailing and LED headlights.
Inside, you get BMW’s iDrive system as standard, with satellite navigation and real-time traffic update information, heated seats, automatically-controlled lights, parking sensors front and rear (and a reversing camera), two-zone air conditioning and BMW’s ConnectedDrive system too, that features the ability to make an emergency call to a remote service centre in the event of a mechanical mishap.
The 318i’s interior isn’t quite leather (it’s a “leatherette” upholstery).
But I didn’t mind this trim. It gives the base-level model another push towards the premium end and is hard-wearing, for added peace of mind with little ones in the back.
Naturally, you’re not scrimping on safety with the 318i either.
As standard, buyers receive cruise control with automated braking, BMW Driver Assistant with Lane Departure Warning functionality, as well as Light City Braking and the ability to warn of pedestrians encroaching on the car.
The 318i sings a slightly different song, too. Under the bonnet is the BMW Group’s three-cylinder TwinPower turbo petrol engine.
With 100kW of turbo-assisted power on tap, there’s no deficit on acceleration feel or the ability to push on when you want to.
It’s a unique engine for BMW but doesn’t detract from what you’re expecting; this 3-Series drives exactly like a 3-Series should, which is a good thing indeed.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is also standard.
Combined fuel economy is rated at 5.4L/100km, although the 318i still has that engaging, sprightly feel on-road, encouraging a bit pf pace.
You’ve saved on the purchase price, so don’t worry about the fuel bill. (And I never saw anything south of high sixes in terms of fuel economy).
Even this entry-level model features BMW’s Drive Experience Control system though, allowing you to opt for Sport or ECO Pro, depending on your mood and circumstances.
My only criticism? BMW New Zealand has opted to delete the 318i boot badge on this cut-price car. I think that’s a mistake. It’s a great model; an interesting proposition in the wider line-up.
With all the hallmarks of the still-excellent 3-Series present and correct, there’s no need to hide this entry-level edition’s light under a bushel.
ENGINES: Three cylinder TwinPower turbo petrol (100kW / 220Nm)
PRO: Cheapest 3-Series available but still with plenty of BMW performance on tap
CON: Can we have the same spec, but in 3-Series wagon format please?