Driving the BMW 116i Sport Line – Small hatch, small fortune, big returns

Ok, so I have a confession. Despite the hundreds of cars I’ve driven for EFTM… I’ve never spent quality time behind the wheel of a BMW other than a few years back driving the 318i owned by our very own Trevor Long. All that changed last week  as we took the BMW 116i Sport Line into the EFTM Garage.

Inside the BMW 116i

Inside the BMW 116i

The 10 Minute Test Drive.

The long nose and twin kidney grill makes this little hatch an unmistakable BMW. But with a price tag that will secure another acre of metal, with say a VF Commodore, what’s the fuss?

BMW 116i Sport Line

BMW 116i Sport Line

Sit down and have a look around, I liken it to a VW Golf that’s won lotto. The craftsmanship is excellent, swathes of decent materials abound. It’s just an excellent German interpretation of how a car interior should be.

A tablet like multimedia display sits centre dash, almost looking aftermarket until you delve into its deep and at first complicated interface. The iDrive interface which is operated via a dial takes some getting used to. I found myself instinctively going for the touchscreen, which isn’t one.

Familiarity is iDrive’s best friend.

BMW 116i Centre Console

BMW 116i Centre Console

The thick rubbery wheel feels like it’s been designed by steering wheel gods. As does the seating position, the convincing imitation leather seats are a match for the best.

But it’s once on the move this little German begins to mount a case for its price tag.

BMW 116i

BMW 116i

It steers with a great deal of certainty, surely a given for any car? Not really, some are bloody vague and over assisted. The BMW engineering gives you a confidence that has to be felt to understand. You could seriously lazily pilot this car all day with two light fingers on the wheel. It’s very close to pure precision.

What’s even more impressive is the heartiness of the little petrol burner under the bonnet. The disparity between some of the cheaper four cylinder engines I’ve driven and this is enormous.

Ins and outs.

The BMW 116i is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo charged petrol engine. It’s a complicated but rapid little unit with figures of 100kW @4,400 / 220Nm @1,350 – 4,300. An excellent 8-speed auto is now available as standard and is rare for any class.

The full front interior of the BMW 116i

The full front interior of the BMW 116i

There’s a relatively long list of technical features but one of particular note is the ECO PRO driving switch. It encourages fuel efficient driving via instrument cluster graphics, but flick into Sport mode and the 116i’s demeanour changes markedly. Steering inputs become sharper, the throttle mapping and transmission become primed for serious fun when the time calls. There’s even a mode beyond Sports mode, which limits the stability control assistance. Think wet road, punchy, rear wheel drive hatch and you know where I’m headed.

I’ve heard plenty about BMW’s run flat tyres and now understand some of the discontent. They can be slappy and coarse, on B roads the VW Golf is a far more cushioning. However the 116i seems just softly sprung enough to overcome the worst of it.

BMW 116i

BMW 116i

Options fitted for the Sport Line variant include 16” light-alloy wheels, chrome bling here and there, Sensatec upholstery (fake leather), nice door sill finishers with “Sport” designation, high-gloss black exterior trims, including the famous kidney grille, a special key fob, sports leather steering wheel and most importantly sports seats for driver and passenger.

Also fitted was a Convenience Package which combines rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror and a more accommodating experience for your Smartphone. An Advanced Parking Package provides one of the best reversing camera experiences to be had. Finally a Navigation System Package was thrown in. You certainly have options when choosing a BMW, you also need the cash.

Hip Pocket.

Under the bonnet - BMW 116i

Under the bonnet – BMW 116i

You can scrape into a BMW 116i for $35,600, who would have thought. But to upgrade to the Sport Line model, you’re looking at an extra $1100. The three aforementioned packages are priced at:

Convenience Package – $620
Advanced Parking Package – $1200
Navigation Package Business – $1200

Making our test car $38,620.

Fuel consumption sits at a claimed 5.8L/100km, we hovered closer to 8, but we would.

Bragging Rights

BMW 116i

BMW 116i

Some would argue (jealous narks) that the cheap BMW sitting in your driveway is an insult against the famous Roundel. More discerning neighbours may give you the occasional approving nod. From some angles the 116i is not the most attractive proposition, the headlamps in particular jolt me a little.

Still it’s no horror show.

Lasting Impression

Years of “pure driving pleasure” should follow the purchase of any BMW. The 116i feels strong and incredibly well put together. Interestingly my wife, who is car illiterate, commented that it simply felt “solid” – so true.

EFTM Rubber Stamp.

BMW 116i Sport receives the EFTM Credit Stamp

BMW 116i Sport receives the EFTM Credit Stamp

It’s been nice sampling a brand whose reputation precedes itself. The BMW 116i manages to respect and uphold the heritage of the German giant. It earns the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp.

BMW 116i Sport
Date Published: 01/27/2014
It’s been nice sampling a brand whose reputation precedes itself. The BMW 116i manages to respect and uphold the heritage of the German giant. It earns the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp.
4 / 5 stars

Chris is EFTM’s Motoring Editor, driving everything from your entry level hatch to the latest Luxury cars through to the Rolls Royce.

He has been in the media for 20 years, produced three Olympic games broadcasts, attending Beijing 2008 & London 2012.

Strangely he owns a Toyota Camry Hybrid, he defiantly rejects the knockers.

Chris is married to Gillian and resides in Sydney’s North West. They have Sam the English Springer Spaniel and Felix the Burmese cat to keep them company, and recently welcomed baby Henry to the family.

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