BMW 318 review – When alright is, actually Alright

It was around the turn of the millennium that the BMW 318i badge first rolled off the production line. It sported the good looks and some/most of the drivability of the series and quickly became viewed as the entry point to the BMW range (Series 1 & 2 were possibly still only sketches at that stage).  Anyway, after what could be deemed a 12-year hiatus the iconic badge is back and BMW NZ gave me the keys.

From the outside, it looks just like a new BMW 3 series sedan (funny that).  Same upmarket poise, same strong features and thus has the same prestige. This new model boasts 18”Alloys, Black Sapphire metallic paint, satinated aluminium trim and LED head and tail lights too.

The similarities continue inside too – but be aware it’s not keyless entry (oh the humanity). High gloss blacks with pearl chrome finishes. Heated electric seats in sensatec leatherette upholstery (no it’s not leather), cruise control, lane departure and lane change warning, rear view camera, Navigation and BMW’s connected drive – all in all, it’s pretty well spec’d.

In fact, the difference only really appears when you lift the bonnet. What lies beneath is the debut of the 1.5L 3 cylinder Twin Power Turbo engine (essentially the same one that lives in the i8 – but unfortunately not as tuned) to the 3 series. On the face of it, the removal of 1 whole cylinder may sound catastrophic but in actual fact, it still produces 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, which most of the time is more than alright. It’s not going to win many drag races (with a reported 0-100kph time of 9.1 seconds) but it doesn’t feel overly sluggish; mainly because the torque comes in at 1,250rpm. There have of course been gains in efficiency and emissions (5.4 L/100km and 126 g/km respectively), so that may help you sleep at night.

I took the family on an outing to Glenbrook railway, partly because the divide between a modern engine and steam power amused me, another because trains are cool and finally because the drive out there was a good test for the car itself. As it turns out, there’s been no scrimping when it comes to driving safety either. The new 318 maintains a 50:50 balance, and it comes with dynamic stability and traction control, ABS, Brake Assistant and Cornering Brake Control, so it really feels confident under foot.

The 8-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic was a pleasure to drive with but I felt compelled to keep her in ‘Sport’ for the majority of my time behind the wheel. The seats are comfortable and although I’ve heard that the sensatec upholstery lacks breathability early in its life (and in the summer), it felt alright to me.

The new BMW 318 has got the status and driving competence you’d expect from the European Marques 3 series. The combination of luxury, prestige with an environmental awareness makes this sedan a bit of alright, and to be honest, without the badge on the back only you would know the difference. Oh, this tidy packaged sedan comes at a price you won’t need to donate a kidney for too!

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