The 116i offers good performance and economy. Class leading interior.
The new BMW 1-Series faces stiff competition from the super affordable and talented Seat Leon, all round great car the VW Golf and luxury hatchback the A3. So, what's it like?
This is a car I suspect you are going to either love or hate. The original 1-Series was never an amazing looking car, and this new 1-Series has transferred that pedigree over. Available as a 3-door or 5-door, the 1-Series features BMW's latest design language which is to create all cars with GT like ergonomics; a long bonnet, long wheel base and short back end are the first things you'll notice about the BMW.
Take a look closer, and you'll appreciate the M Sport's gorgeous 18-inch alloy wheels and aggressive body kit. In blue in particular, the new 1-Series stands out from the crowd and although it's not as pretty as the new A3 from the back, the front end is menacing.
The ultimate driving machine. That's what consumers are buying in to more than anything else when they get their first BMW, so does the new 1-Series live up to a high expectation? Powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo that produces 136 bhp, the 116i performs strongly throughout the rev range, delivering warm hatch amounts of power. 0 - 62 comes up in 8.5 seconds which is good enough to compete with the majority of 2.0-litre diesels between the lights.
Just like all BMW, the 1-series is RWD, which means a lot more feedback is available to the driver compared to FWD resulting in a more enthralling drive. Out on twisty roads, the 1-Series handles more elegantly and responsively than a Volkswagen Golf, and the sheer amount of grip the 116i develops is impressive; the car tucks in tightly to corners, and with thanks to the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine under the hood, there's enough torque to propel you out of corners at a respectable pace.
Once you've slowed down, the 116i becomes a fantastic cruiser. The ride quality on M Sport suspension (which sits a few mm lower than Sport trim) is very good and the 1-Series never so much as crashes over bumpy roads. It's also very refined at speed, and the 6-speed manual gearbox has a long 6th gear for relaxed, quiet motorway cruising.
BMW has a knack for creating interiors that stand the test of time. Sit in a 2003 3-series and the steering wheel, dashboard and centre console just look top quality. Has the 1-series also got this timeless appeal?
Yes, it does. The interior is incredibly spacious and 10% more so than its predecessor, allowing for an excellent amount of rear legroom (860 mm to be exact). Settle yourself in to the M-Sport's figure hugging seats and you can't help but be impressed at the layout of the dashboard and the quality on offer; there is soft touch rubber and leather everywhere, and other than the very bottom of the centre console, there are no horrible, cheap plastics in sight. The gear knob and steering wheel both feature cold, aluminium inserts and red stitching contrasts beautifully with the off black materials.
The boot has a capacity of 360-litres which is more than enough for the weekly shop, and the rear seats can be folded over. Doing this doubles boot capacity.
With strong acceleration throughout the rev range, the 116i doesn't need to be ragged to death to get anywhere. If you take this approach, the 116i will return a combined fuel economy of 50.4 mpg. Around town, 41 mpg is achievable, so long as you stay in the right gear. Air conditioning obviously decreases your economy dramatically.
With a Co2 rating of 131 g/km, after a year on the road, 12 months car tax will cost £125. That's not bad, and much less than BMW's diesel offerings.
Trim and equipment
At £22,000, the BMW 1 Series 116i M Sport is our pick of the range. There's a generous amount of standard equipment including electric heated mirrors, climate control, CD, iPod and MP3 connectivity, alloy wheels, fog lights, Bluetooth and passenger / side airbags. As it the way with almost every BMW, there is a generous amount of optional extras you can tick. These include electric sunroof (£895), power seats (£650), heated seats (£295), power folding mirrors (£365), automatic transmission (£1,550), metallic paint (£550), satellite navigation (£990), leather seats (£800), rear parking sensors (£360), reversing camera (£330), rain sensing wipers (£90), lane departure warning system (£390) and satellite tracking (£148).
To be honest, the fact that a Hyundai i30 has leather seats, satellite navigation and a reversing camera as standard is a true show of just how much the UK consumer is willing to pay for the BMW badge. It's a sad state of affairs when a Hyundai as standard comes better equipped than a BMW M Sport, and that's something I can only hope is remedied soon. For that to happen, though, consumers are and reviewers and going to need to wise up and hand it to BMW.
The BMW 1 Series 116i is the best 1 Series for private buyers. The diesels cost more money to buy and around town they will return a worse fuel economy than smaller, petrol powered counterparts. The 116i may not be fast, but the lively suspension and RWD ensure that there is some fun to be had in what is a very well made, well engineered car. The interior exceeds that of the MK7 VW Golf and is on par with the new Audi A3. Both of those cars however look sharper, and a 1.4 TFSI S Line A3 and M Sport 116i are near enough the same price. Which is best for you? Well, both will hold their value well, and the A3 looks nicer, but the new BMW 1 Series is the more premium product and it's a whole lot more involving to drive with better feedback. The 1 Series also has a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, which is good news for if you do the daily school run.
Love it or hate it, the new 1 Series is a serious contender for a private buyers money.