Mid-way through a car's showroom life is the point in time when the manufacturer makes a few updates and upgrades, all to keep it up with the competition. The design is updated, the list of features is lengthened, and the niggles found from customer feedback are all addressed and improved, making for a better product overall.
Some manufacturers refer to them as minor-change, some call them facelifted and refreshed models. BMW, however, refers to them as LCI, or Life Cycle Impulse, and that's exactly what this 2016 BMW 1 Series is. Originally launched in 2011/2012, the 1 Series is BMW's entry level rear-wheel drive offering; the primary version we get in our market is the 5-door hatchback, and now we'll see what BMW have changed.
BMW likes the concept of multiple “lines” to cater to different tastes and owner preferences: Sport, Modern, Luxury, and the like. The previous BMW 1 Series I was able to try out four years ago was the 118d Sport Line, and this new one is the 118i Sport Line as well. The overall concept is the same: gloss black exterior pieces and sportier wheels to cater to those who like to drive spiritedly. The body is the same as this is an updated version of the second generation model, but BMW has made the headlights slimmer and sleeker, while the new taillights conform to the look that the bigger BMWs have.
Inside, not much has changed. Like any BMW, this new 118i has the same driver-centric interior with the center stack angled towards the driver's seat, and superb ergonomics all around. I wish they changed the shape of the steering wheel to something sportier (i.e. deep dish style), but still, I like the treatment of the black accent panels and red lines, trim pieces and stitching.
The major difference with the Philippine-spec 1 Series is the engine. The 118d from four years ago was a diesel, but at the heart of this 118i is a turbocharged 1.6-liter motor, a similar engine found in the Mini Cooper S. In the 118i, it makes 170 PS and 250 Nm of torque, and its paired up with an 8-speed automatic gearbox; and no, it's not dual clutch. And that's a good thing.
On a daily commute, the 118i drives very well. There are actually several driving modes: Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro. For the daily drive, Comfort really is the way to go as the 118i tones down and maximizes convenience for the driver for a smooth ride around town. I'm glad BMW didn't opt for a dual clutch gearbox just for the sake of using it; these advanced gearboxes, while great for fast paced motorway driving, are typically jerky in city traffic. The 8-speed slushbox auto in the 118i, however, is docile yet responsive.
Eco Pro mode is the mode you want to engage if you really want to be efficient; it adjusts many of the functions of the car to make incremental savings in fuel. With Eco Pro on, the 118i was registering 8.9 km/l in the city (19 km/h average) and 12.9 km/l on the highway (86 km/h average).
Head outside the city, engage Sport mode, and you'll have loads of driving fun at your fingertips. The engine and transmission both adjust themselves to deliver a more exhilarating drive, holding the gear a little longer and shifting a bit later. Dive on the brakes and the BMW exhibits what makes it special, and send the car into a corner and it will gladly oblige... if you do it properly, of course.
The best thing about the 118i's handling is the linear feel of the way it drives; even if you push it in with the stability control off, the 118i gives the driver confidence that it won't suddenly go for oversteer. Everything feels like its under control, even if you're tossing the BMW from one corner to another. When it comes to driver's cars in this segment, few really can come close to the 1 Series.