Pitching an entry level model for a premium brand can be tricky in different markets. Take the BMW 1 series for instance. The first generation E87 1 Series was introduced to the Malaysian market a couple of years ago. So far the response appears to be lukewarm and from my daily drives, I could recall seeing only a handful on the road. Contrast this to a trip which I made to Munich in 2011, where this car was a common sight and appears to be enthusiastically embraced.
The test model is the F20 118i which is the second generation 1 Series. This new model still has some resemblance to E87 but now looks more slick with some nice curves, larger dimensions and more interior room. However, it would appear that the designers opted for a safer approach and a common look, especially for the rear design.
Overall the F20 118i is still a compact car with a width of 1,765mm, length of 4,324mm and height of 1,421mm. Its wheelbase measures at 2,690mm. The interior width for the front occupants is at 1,400mm while the interior width at the rear is at 1,417mm. Front seat to roof is at 1,018mm while the rear seat to roof is at 972mm.
An interesting point to note is that the new F20 118i completely outperforms its predecessor the E87 118i in all crucial technical specifications and to top it off, has a lower retail selling price possibly due to the smaller engine displacement. A quick comparison of the technical specs reveals the following:-
|Max Output (hp):
|Max Torque (nm):
|Top Speed (km/h):
|Fuel Consumption (ltr/100km):
|Acceleration 0-100km/h (s):
BMW Malaysia offers 2 trims for the 118i, ie the Sport Line and The Urban Line. The former as the name suggest offers sporty finishes such as star spoke alloy rims, internal coral red matt finishers, red contrast stitching and sports leather seats etc. While the latter is a bit more subdued but no less exciting with unique white colored alloy rims, internal acrylic glass black finishers, chrome surround on its kidney grille. The Urban line offers a cloth/leather ‘Metro’ upholstery while the Sports line offers cloth ‘Track’ upholstery.
With 5 doors, this car does not suffer from the impracticalities of 2 door hatches. Adults can easily get in comfortably into the rear seats, although legroom is still at a premium. The rear seats can be folded to maximize storage space from the rear boot, but this is only possible if the front seats are not pushed too far back. From these photos, I could not fold down the rear seats completely as I needed more legroom as a driver. One possibility is to remove the rear headrests (which I did not try) or for BMW to redesign smaller rear headrests.
The cloth/leather combination seats offers satisfactory support and is of good quality, but my personal choice would be to have all leathers for practical reasons. From my experience cloth seats tend to soil over the years and would require professional cleaning whereas leather seats can be DIY cleaned with good leather cleaning products. Front seats adjustments are done manually using front and side levers below the seats.
Those familiar with the usual BMW standards will notice that the interior fittings for this car is touch lower in quality compared to the higher models (3 Series and above). This is particularly true for the dashboard soft touch plastics which looked a bit harsh and rough. Notwithstanding the materials, fittings and finishing is still of a high standard and an improvement over its predecessor which looked even more basic.
Two important features which were lacking in the older model are now emplaced in this new 118i. The first is the iDrive controller with the 6.5 inch LCD display screen on the dashboard. The other is the driving experience control (BMW’s variable damper control) which more or less is becoming a mandatory feature for all newer BMW models. I would have preferred the car to come equipped with a navigation system and for this particular model, this was left out.
In line with the current trend, there is also an auto Start/Stop function and ECO Pro mode (under the driving experience control) to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Safety features are plentiful with multiple air bags, dynamic stability and traction controls, ABS, all around disc brakes and dynamic braking lights. You can also adjust the interior ambiance lights from tungsten to blue.
It is only logical that with the move to fit the F20 118i with a smaller engine, forced induction through turbo charging would be required to maintain performance. Despite being tagged as 118i, the actual engine displacement is only around 1,600cc. The twin power turbo 4 cylinder engine is capable of producing a max output of 125kW / 170 hp @ 4,800 rpm and a max torque of 250 Nm @ 1,500 – 4,500 rpm.
In actual driving conditions, there was no lack of power or torque. However, the car does suffer from the occasional lag in response when you floor the accelerator and I would have preferred a more linear power delivery. The meaty torque ensures that there is sufficient pulling power from a standstill position. The engineers have cleverly tuned/mapped the ECU to ensure that the car cruises at relatively low rpms to improve fuel consumption.
The test car was very new having limited mileage and run-in. After returning the car, the best fuel consumption reading we could get from the on board computer was around 9.2 litres per 100 km. I fully expect this to improve with further run-ins and estimate that fuel consumption should stabilize at around 8 litres per 100 km for daily urban runs and some limited trips on the freeway.
In some ways, this car can be considered a ‘hot hatch’. It can be pushed hard and the car never felt out of control. The car is able to give a more direct feel to the driver compared to its larger siblings and with its compact dimensions makes it a bit easier to maneuver and control. It would feel right at home in a congested place like Kuala Lumpur where you have to jostle side by side with other cars for space in your daily commute.
BMW purists will rejoice knowing that despite this being a compact car, the engine is longitudinally mounted to facilitate a rear wheel drive system. This gives that familiar rear end push when you floor the accelerator. Transmission is now upgraded to an 8 speed automatic providing smooth and seamless gearshifts but there are no pedal shifters on the steering wheel for this test model.
Ride quality is good at the default COMFORT setting under the driving experience control. The car succeeded in shielding its occupants from harsh road conditions. The SPORT mode gives a firmer ride and raises the rpm and response of engine for spirited drives. The more subdued ECO PRO mode remains effective and was well engineered with minimal loss of performance and minimizing fuel consumption for daily drives.
Handling remains fist rate despite the electric power steering system. With the passage of time, and improvements in refinement, there is greater appreciation for this type of steering systems which minimise driving fatigue. The steering is light, accurate and very easy to steer. With the in-built servotronic, this system automatically adjusts the steering assistance according to the speed of the vehicle.
Cabin insulation from external noises performed above expectations for this entry level BMW car. The engine note is only prominent when you push the car hard, otherwise interior noise levels when cruising are acceptable and at levels which do not require you to increase the volume of the radio/CD player significantly for it to be heard.
One unique feature came from an area which you least expect, ie the alloy wheels. The V-Spoke 17 inch alloys are in bi-colour white/sliver highlights gloss finish. This moved away from the norm where alloys are normally chrome, black or silver coloured. I found this to be a nice contrast so long as the car is of a darker colour. Whether this will start a new trend I am not sure. On the downside, dirt and grime show up prominently on these white alloy wheels.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the performance of the F20 118i which is a definite step up from its predecessor. Power and torque is sufficient. It has good balance, rides and handles well, all typical virtues which we expect from a BMW car. This is a case where performance clearly triumphs over looks. If only it has looks of the BMW i3, then perhaps people might sit up and start to take notice.
|52 litres @ RM110 (Ron 95)
|Free service for first 3 years
|3 Years or 60,000km whichever is earlier
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized BMW dealer.
|BMW Twin Power Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine
|125 kW (170hp) @ 4,800 rpm
|250 Nm @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
|5.8 litres per 100 km (combined)
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!