BMW’s 3 Series is continually in the top 10 vehicles sold in South Africa, with over 1100 units sold per month in 2013. There’s no denying the incredible breadth of the 3 series, appealing to both the dynamic and more relaxed Sunday driver.
The 316i is the newest addition to the range. The previous generation did away with the 316 and 318, with these engines only featuring in the 1 series. Thank goodness, because they lacked torque and power and had a nasty 4-cylinder twang, but BMW fixed that with the new 316i engine that has been doing justice in the new 1series range.
The new engineThe new 316i brings with it a brand new 4-cylinder 1.6-litre engine, featuring TwinTurbo Power technology that pushes out 100kW and 220Nm of torque. It’s considerably more than the previous 316i and does an excellent job at moving around the 3series body.
Yes there’s some turbo lag, and the 4cylinder powerplant doesn’t have huge amounts of low down torque, but once you’re in the turbo rev zone you’re a-for-away. On the move there’s enough power to overtake, but the auto box does need to get down a few gears to access the power. That said, it does still have the familiar 4-cylinder twang, but only high up in the rev range.
Gearbox and driveA huge contributor to the highly accessible nature of the engine is the 8-speed auto box which does justice in the rest of the 3series range. It does a superb job of making sure you’re always in the right gear, and I never had to mash the throttle down to get it into the right gear. Opt for the Auto, nobody wants clutch leg, and this isn’t the engine for a manual.
Thankfully, driving dynamics is standard, which is one of the best types of drive selection systems on the market today. When in eco-mode, the vehicle is totally relaxed, and over a short period of time I was able to gain 7km in usable driving distance by driving economically as suggested. Claimed consumption is at 6.2l/100km, however I achieved close to 7.5l/100km in a mix of highway and city driving. Switch to Sport and the 316i livens up, gearing down quicker, and a more response throttle and steering rewards the driver.
HandlingMy test unit came with the Sport package which gave it 18-inch rims and runflat low profile rubber, providing a somewhat sportier ride. Not to fear, the standard 3series runs on fat rubber and 17inch rims leaving a much more comfortable ride, but sacrificing a bit of the excellent 3 series handling. It’s your choice here, but due to dynamic drive settings the 3 series is one of the most dynamically capable and yet comfortable sedans on the road today, whatever the tyre spec.
InteriorThe interior is equipped with quality materials, solid tactile feel and improved space in the back seats. There’s also more space in the boot, which might bode well for those purchasing this as a family run around.
My test unit came with quite a few extras, but the standard 316i is sparsely kitted out with faux leather seats, manual aircon, fat rubber on the tires and smaller simpler rims, and a single exhaust. Electric windows, mirrors, on board computer, iDrive for functions and aux-plug in is however standard. I was a bit surprised that the reading lights had been removed. Surely those can’t be that expensive, even the Polo has those! You’ll have to spend a little bit of money to spec it with some creature comforts.
OverallThe 316i Auto brings the 3series into range for many who wouldn’t be able to afford the 320i. BMW is currently (correct at time of publishing) offering great deals on the 316i, which will definitely get bums into seats. That said, consider looking at a second hand 320i, where you’d get more standard kit. With near on R40 000 difference between 316i and 320i you have to be very careful with options on the 316i, spec too heavily and you might as well buy the more powerful and better equipped 320i, or the very well equipped and stylish VW Passat.
BMW 316i Auto Price in South AfricaBMW 316i Auto – 110/220 - R368 936
5yr/100K maintenance plan standard
Also look atAudi A4 1.8T S Multitronic – 125/230 – R370 000
VW Passat 1.8T Comfortline DSG – 118/250 – R345 200
Mercedes Benz C180 CE Auto – 115/250 - R392 000