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BMW 116i 2012 Review

It's no powerhouse but there's plenty of zip from the willing engine.

Everyone loves to dream about owning a BMW M3, M5 or Z4 but the truth is, not everyone has that sort of budget to play with.


The good news is you can get into a 'real' BMW in distilled form - the 116i hatch entry level car from as little as $36,900. Far from being a bog-stock, boned-out, budget model, the rear drive 116i actually delivers the requisite sporty BMW drive feel in spades and is a desirable car in its own right especially if you are single or a couple and have space constraints where you live. Or if you simply like the car - as we did.

The test model had extra stuff like 18-inch alloys and some tricky lighting and luxury goodies but it didn't escalate the price that much. Standard kit includes Bluetooth phone, 6.5-inch colour screen, keyless start and LED lights. Satnav is optional at around $1800.


Apart from the 1-Coupe, we never really warmed to the styling of the previous 1-Series or to this one for that matter but it's not offensive and is pretty from some (rear) angles. The five door hatch body is longish offering decent interior room and an acceptable (expandable) boot. Four adults can travel in the 116i in comfort but they wouldn't want too much luggage.


Motive power comes from a 1.6-litre twin scroll turbo, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 100kW/220Nm output. It's the same engine as in Mini Cooper S but detuned for better fuel economy and more flexibility. BMW optimises the engine with variable valve timing called Valvetronic and variable valve lift called Double Vanos. It also runs high tech injection and other tricky stuff to get the most from its 1.6-litres.

The six-speed manual has a slick change mechanism but the optional eight-speed auto would be our choice for predominantly city driving especially when the auto stop/start is operating. In the manual, you have to slip it into neutral, clutch out for stop/start fuel savings.

But the car itself is a real fuel miser thanks to a range of simple, effective technology such as disconnecting aircon compressor, low rolling resistance tyres, brake energy regeneration and electromechanical power steering. It's collectively called BMW EfficientDynamics and helps this particular car sip as little as 5.7-litres/100km.Three drive experience modes are available; Comfort, Sport and Eco-Pro. We tried all three and all have relevance but Sport is better if you like the car to respond a tad quicker.


Safety rates five stars with all that brings. One feature we particularly liked was the cruise control with brake function. It slows the car from a set speed if other traffic impedes directly in front.


The drive experience is all good thanks to sporty responses, rear wheel drive and the strong engine. It's no powerhouse but there's plenty of zip from the willing engine and it delivers maximum torque from a low 1350rpm - just off idle.


Shop it every day against Audi A3, Lexus CT200 and Volvo C30. Now with free servicing too.

BMW 116i

Price: from $36,900
Warranty: 3 year roadside
Safety: n/a
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl petrol, 100kW/220Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Body: 4324mm (L), 1765mm (W), 1421mm (H)
Weight: 1290kg
Thirst: 5.7/100km, 132g/km Co2

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