Purchasing the entry-level variant of any car model is often an astute decision, as you get most of what is good about the car minus some features you can probably do without. It is my modus operandi when buying a car.
The new BMW 318i Sport is an excellent example of this. Even though it is the starting point of the 3 Series range, it offers a high level of standard equipment and real-world practicality that surpasses many of its direct competitors.
I am 1.8m tall and I make every effort to sit in an ideal driving position. Often, in a car of this size, this means that anyone around the same height, who occupies the space directly behind, will not have much kneeroom.
The 318i Sport offers at least 40mm of kneeroom, which I measured after moving from the driver’s seat to the back. Best of all, with a 1460mm rear interior width, three of “me” can fit quite nicely.
Everyone will be comfortable, too, thanks to two rear blower vents mounted at the back of the centre console. Unlike passive ones found in many cars, I can also adjust the temperature of the air coming out of the vents.
Just as important as cabin room is boot space as I partake in sports such as tennis, cycling and running. I tend to bring a lot of stuff with me, but the 480-litre boot swallows everything easily.
If I have longer items like clothes poles or a dragon boat paddle, the Through-Loading System with a rear centre backrest that folds down and enables access to boot, comes to the rescue.
BRIMMING WITH TECH
With the key in my pocket, a “kick” under the bumper is all that is needed to open the boot lid.
Speaking of keys, you can download the BMW Digital Key to your Apple smartphone via the BMW Connected app. This lets you lock, unlock, and even start the engine without the physical key.
Staying connected and well informed is extremely important nowadays. Among the suite of apps in the 318i Sport are BMW Assistance, News, Weather and my favourite, the Intelligent Personal Assistant.
Sure, I can call upon Siri after connecting my iPhone via Apple CarPlay, but BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant is equally as knowledgeable and just as fun. And if I ever switch to an Android smartphone, Android Auto will ensure I remain connected on the go.
After activating it by saying “Hey BMW”, I managed to lower the cabin temperature (by saying “I am warm”) and get directions to the nearest McDonald’s restaurant (by saying “Take me to McDonald’s”).
Its ability to understand my voice commands is very commendable, often getting it right at first try.
Practicality also extends to overall driving experience and there are two features of the BMW 318i Sport which really impress me.
The first is BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which is comprised of the fully digital 12.3-inch display and high-resolution 10.25-inch display with navigation, which ensure that all the necessary info is shown.
That I can easily toggle between myriad details, functions, and data – was a real plus.
The second one is Driving Assistant, especially the nicely calibrated Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning, which alerts me whenever I stray past its limits.
PRACTICAL AND SUSTAINABLE
One item which is right at the top of my list when it comes to a practical car is fuel economy. While the new 318i Sport is fitted with a 2-litre engine, which is larger than its predecessor’s 1.5-litre unit, it proved to be very frugal.
I clocked a total of 180km over two-plus days of driving and the display showed 7.5 litres per 100km when I returned the car. This works out to an impressive 13.3km per litre – on par if not better than a few smaller and lighter Japanese and Korean models.
A function that contributed to this is the car’s coasting feature, which is part of the ECO PRO suite of fuel-saving functions.
Features and practicality aside, I must mention its driving performance. The turbocharged 2-litre 4-cylinder propelling the 318i Sport is the same one found under the bonnet of the more powerful 320i and 330i variants, just tweaked for more efficiency.
With 156hp and 250Nm on tap, the car sprints from zero to 100km/h in 8.4 seconds. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission (again, same unit as the 320i and 330i but different programming), I can easily get ahead at the traffic lights. Overtaking was also a cinch in all situations I encountered.
The BMW 318i Sport marks the entry point into the brand’s extremely popular range of compact executive saloons available locally.
With its comprehensive list of standard features, excellent driveability, and overall practicality, it is the ideal 3 Series for a driver like me – someone who wants to have his cake and eat it, too.
BMW 318i Sport 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1998cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 156hp at 4500-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 250Nm at 1300-4300rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 99.7hp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission
0-100KM/H 8.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 223km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.9km/litre (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $203,888 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Performance Motors Limited