Audi A4 2016 review
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the new fifth-generation Audi A4, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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Yuppies moved on but the base 3 Series reprises badge, formula and pretence.
BMW's 318i became the apple of many a yuppie's eye in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was the car — or, to be precise, the badge — that told the world you were bound for corporate greatness.
Your journey to the CEO's suite would be a slow one.
The 3 Series made BMW's reputation as Germany's best handling brand but the base 318i, until its demise in 2005, was characterised by a distinct lack of blitz under the bonnet.
It went about as hard as a Nissan Pulsar. Some Pulsars were quicker …
Resurrected for this F30 3 Series update, the badge in 2016 brings more of the same.
Its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine produces a mere 100kW and, with the standard eight-speed automatic, takes 9.1 seconds to reach 100km/h — not exactly compelling bang for your bucks when you factor in a $54,900 price tag.
BMW's plastics aren't as premium in appearance or to the touch, either, but iDrive remains the benchmark multimedia setup.
In the 318i you get basic Bluetooth with audio streaming and nothing more.
Rear legroom and overall comfort are fine for most adults.
"Connected Drive Lifestyle," a subscription-based service that uses the car's dedicated SIM card to access BMW Online news, weather and other humdrum info you can easily tap into on any smartphone, is standard (for three years), as is automatic emergency services calling via BMW Australia's call centre, located in the Philippines.
Our test car also had the "Connected Drive Freedom" option ($330 for three years). When I called using iDrive, it put me through to a nice woman in Manila who said she could help me find a restaurant and tell me all about "sports", among other things. I wanted to ask what she thought of South Sydney's chances in the NRL but time didn't permit.
You can, in theory, also surf the net using iDrive ($154 a year) but in the test car it would not connect. The voice control button on the steering wheel did nothing, either.
This is where the 1.5-litre is engineered to deliver, because power is much less relevant than fuel efficiency and torque — of which it has plenty (220Nm), available from just 1250rpm through to 4000rpm.
In Comfort mode, the low speed ride is surprisingly compliant, even with standard run-flat tyres.
The wide ratio spread in the eight-speed helps the 1.5 to acceptable responsiveness from rest. It's similar to a small turbo diesel in its gentle yet tractable delivery and frugal fuel numbers: 8.0L-9.0L/100km in Sydney traffic with the auto stop-start turned off, because it's slow, clunky and deeply annoying.
Our car came with adaptive M Suspension ($1692), standard on other models. In Comfort mode, the low speed ride is surprisingly compliant, even with standard run-flat tyres.
The "Sports" driver's seat is a typical base model German pew: it's narrow, it feels like a plank at first but on long journeys it's comfortable and supportive.
Again the diesel comparison is apt. The 318i ticks along in eighth, pulling 1700rpm at 100km/h where, in Eco Pro or Comfort modes, it's capable of 5.0L-6.0L/100km on flat ground.
At highway speeds, the "variable sport" ($308) electric steering option in the test car felt overassisted a few degrees either side of straight ahead, then inconsistent in feedback and weighting as more lock was applied. That's unfortunate, as the adaptive M suspension, set to Sport or Sport+, delivers taut handling, still with acceptable compliance and fine balance, assisted by rear-wheel drive, a tight, trim 1425kg kerb weight and powerful brakes.
It's at this point you start to wish for more power.
If performance is a priority, this is not your car. The 1.5 is quite a sweet, flexible little motor and the eight-speed auto does its best to help the cause. However, the 318i doesn't so much accelerate as gather speed incrementally. I'm sure the Nissan Pulsar is still faster.
This 318i carries the DNA of its ancestors. It does the job but at the price you're seriously short changed in features and performance. At least there's no need to worry about being counted among the yuppies. They're all driving the Mercedes C-Class now.
Six airbags, 18-inch alloys, rear camera, surround view with top and side view cameras, head-up display, lane departure warning, blind spot assist, navigation, LED headlights, Connected Drive, Bluetooth, USB connectivity.
Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone connectivity, radar cruise, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive headlights, leather upholstery, keyless entry, power adjustable front seats, digital radio.
The car monitors its own servicing requirements, based on how you use it, and alerts you when a service is due. BMW has a Service Inclusive Basic package, at $1340 for five years or 80,000km.
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