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Review: BMW 116i
Driven April 2014
The automobile industry is increasingly a brave new world. Gone are the days when the luxury manufacturers made only three-box cars. Merc and BMW have already cranked out luxury hatchbacks during the last year, and there are others in close pursuit. After driving the diesel 1 series a couple of months ago and pitting it against its arch rival, the Merc A-Class, we now have the country’s only front-engined, rear-wheel drive hatchback in its petrol avatar – the BMW 116i.
The engine specs on the 116i are rather average-looking. It has a four-cylinder 1.6-litre mill. To add some zest to that, BMW has paired it with a set of twin turbochargers. And with that combination, it puts out a good 136bhp and 220Nm of torque. If you think that’s not much, then get this – it can hit 100kph from standstill in just 8.28 seconds. That’s pretty quick.
The twin turbochargers make sure you don’t have any lag when you need power from this little engine. The grunt is right there when you want it. No matter where the needle on the rev meter is pointing. It’s a nice free-revving motor that hits its redline only at 6,500rpm.
The 1.6-litre petrol block is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. If you think eight speeds is a bit much, it turns out, in this case, more is merrier. This ’box is decently quick and efficient, but it does tend to get a bit baffled sometimes with the number of ratios it needs to deal with. Nevertheless, overall, it’s quite bang-on.
The higher number of ratios allows the engine to rev lazily even at highway speeds. Which in turn means every drop of petrol is used optimally – 13.6kpl on the highway and 10.1kpl in the city.
Ride quality on this, unlike other BMWs, is supple. It goes over potholes without being harsh on your back. But there’s a fair amount of body roll – much more than what you’d expect from a Beemer. It handles well. But despite being front-wheel drive, the A-Class feels more confident and planted taking high-speed corners.
The petrol 1 series is not available in multiple trim levels. There’s just one. Does that one trim have the bells and whistles you want? No. It has no electric or leather seats, no climate control (manual AC only), no iDrive (only a basic media system with single-line display), no reverse camera, no auto dimming mirrors, no Xenon headlamps. So it’s very basic when it comes to equipment, and that’s because the 116i is the cheapest 1 series you can buy in India. Of course, ‘cheapest’ is a relative term – this one is pegged at Rs 28 lakh (the top-end diesel is a staggering Rs 41 lakh!), all prices are on-road, Mumbai.
The interior too isn’t particularly plush. It’s all-black, which is a good thing, but materials and fit and finish aren’t as plush as with the other Germans.
Should you go for the petrol 1 series? No. You’d be better off with the A-Class petrol, which looks and drives better than this one and is much better equipped. But if you simply must have a rear-wheel drive car, head to the BeeM showroom.
4-cyl, 1,598cc, 136bhp, 220Nm, turbo-petrol, 8A, RWD, 0-100kph: 8.28sec, 30-50kph: 1.86sec, 50-70kph: 2.28sec, 80-0kph: 24.85metres; 2.45sec Rs 28 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
The 1 series is a sorted car that delivers nicely. The petrol’s engine-gearbox combination is strong. But it’s not the fun-to-drive car you expect it to be.