FOR the runt of the litter, the BMW 116i packs a sizable bite.
This entry-level BMW will still set you back close to *$160K, for which you get a feature-rich hatch. Despite its truncated rear, the 1, as the model likes to be referred to, has been proportionately shaped and has smoother lines than its predecessor.
The roofline slopes gently before tumbling to the hatch. In the other direction the faceted bonnet ends with angled LED headlights and the large grille. The wedge shape improves the coefficient of drag compared to its more boxy predecessor.
The 1.5L, three-cylinder turbo-charged engine pulls larger body masses like the 2 Grand Coupe without issue, so this smaller frame benefits from an economical engine that smoothly delivers. With a maximum power output of 80kW, don’t expect fancy-fast motoring — 0-100kmh in under 11 seconds and a top speed of 200kmh — but it is achieved with confidence and stability.
For city driving, the smaller profile works well. The responsive engine coupled with the sharp handling makes for an easy drive. And there’s a big enough boot for necessities and luggage, should the chance to travel open up in the near future.
The front-wheel drive architecture, used for the first time, allows for a bit more space all around, but it’s still more enjoyable in front.
While it may be the base model, it’s loaded with big features including the latest BMW Operating System 7.0, which allows you to get updates over the air, and works in tandem with the My BMW app to let you ventilate the car or check if you locked your vehicle and how much fuel you have.
There’s also a digital key that you can use to unlock the car and start it. You can use your iPhone (for cars manufactured from July 2020) for this, which saves you the hassle of carrying a large key around. Just make sure you have enough juice on your phone, and that you don’t have to valet park your car!
Access to the car’s features range from touchscreen, the iDrive controller, the multifunction steering wheel, voice control, and BMW gesture controls (an option). You’ll probably settle for one you prefer.
The connectivity, so vital in cars these days, can be a bit spotty, especially if there are two drivers using their own keys. It causes confusion as the driver profile can’t keep up too well.
Driving assistance offers blind spot monitoring, with adjustable steering vibration rates when you stray from your lane. The various driving modes allow you to get a punchier drive in sport, and an environmentally friendly cruise in eco, which you’ll probably never use, like the annoying engine start/stop feature that you will keep turning off.
And for those challenged to park even such a small car, there is parking assistance for parallel and lateral spaces.
The 1 is well thought-through and despite its physical limitations, it’s compact and convenient for those who prefer their cars small and punchy.
It’s the runt you’ll happily have straining at the end of your leash.
BMW 116i SPORT RATING
*Please reconfirm price with dealer.
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