BMW 318i review: Sometimes the base is best

PHOTO: Motorist

Being around for nearly half a century, the 3 Series is unmistakable on our roads. It is arguably the quintessential model that defines BMW's heritage.

The 3 Series has always been a staple offering within the compact executive sedan segment. Some like it for being the "value-for-money" option, while for some other buyers, it's just simply being able to brag about owning something from the Bavarian marque.

There's nothing wrong with wanting the cheapest option available, but how does the base model 318i stack up against the competition?

Balanced & demure appearance

The 3 Series has yet to receive a facelift that entails BMW's new design language, and that arguably is a benefit, saving the car from the controversial large grille other BMW models have fallen "victim" to.

Although, it must be said that the 318i is a tad bland compared to its M Sport siblings, especially with the stock 17-inch rims.

If that bothers you, there are always sportier rim options from BMW, that will give the car a much better stance.

The 318i comes with an automatic boot release and 480 litres of space. It's carpeted too, preventing scratches on your precious cargo, although you may think twice when loading wet or dirty items.

In a world where corporate colours reign supreme, the sunburst orange is a breath of fresh air, and it complements the 318i well.

Overall, while a little plain, there's nothing to hate about the 318i. It doesn't try too hard to look garish or sporty, and honestly, it doesn't need to.

Marvellous interior

As with all premium cars, you are treated to a cocoon of luxury once you step into the cabin. Even though the 318i is the base model of the 3 series line-up, it doesn't detract from the luxury experience.

All of the touch-points and seats are fitted with premium Sensatec leather, and the front seats even come with adjustable bolster support, in the event you wish to take some corners more enthusiastically.

The rear seats are especially roomy, giving passengers ample amounts of headroom and legroom. You get a 3-zone aircon too, perfect for passengers who simply cannot agree with your preferred air-con settings.

The only glaring omission is the fancy wood trim pieces you get on other BMW models. But, let's be honest, that's not something that you'll dearly miss while being in this car.

Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto work an absolute treat, and the BMW iDrive system is well refined, as you've would expect. Information can either be displayed on the 12.3-inch digital cluster, dubbed the BMW Live Cockpit Professional, or via the 10.25-inch entertainment screen.

Pretty much whatever you want in a BMW comes with the 318i. Wireless charging, Parking Assistant, the lot.

During our test drive, one of the best features that we love is the Comfort Access System. You just need to walk up to the car with your key in your possession, and the car automatically unlocks.

Walk away, and it'll automatically lock behind you. It's a simple feature, but one that is so pleasingly convenient.

Whimsical when it wants to, calm when it's not

Even though this is detuned from the 320i, the 318i is no slouch. 0-100km/h happens in just 8.4 seconds, courtesy of its 2-litre Twinpower Turbo engine. Total output stands at 154bhp and 250Nm of torque.

The 318i is also very responsive in the corners, giving you the confidence to wring it around tight bends with relative ease. If you need to scrub speed quickly, the car is also equipped with ventilated discs both front and rear.

Safety and assistance systems are the same across all model variants currently offered. These include:

  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane change warning
  • Front collision warning with brake intervention
  • Crossing traffic warning rear
  • Rear collision prevention
  • Speed limit info with manual speed limit assist

During our test, the 318i averaged 14.2km/L, which is pretty respectable considering we did not employ any frugal driving tactics. With more conservative driving, the 17.2km/L rating touted by BMW is definitely achievable.

Overall, the 318i is great on the roads. The most surprising thing about it is its ability to adapt to different driving styles.

If you're the kind of person who employs more enthusiastic driving, the car is responsive and heeds to every pedal touch or steering input without fuss.

On the other hand, if you're someone who just likes to cruise gently, the car becomes dignified and refined, ushering you away in comfort.

It's fantastic at one thing - Exceeding expectations

So, is the 318i any good? Yes, it's very, very good.

Considering that this is the entry-level model, the car is extremely well-equipped. At no point while driving or being a passenger in this 318i will you think, "Oh, this feels like a cheap BMW, it's not that nice".

Truth be told, across the board the specs of the 318i do not differ much from its more expensive siblings.

Plus, even though this does have a detuned engine, its no slouch. Plus, the price difference between it and the 320i more than makes up for its performance deficit.

The availability of this then almost makes the 320i irrelevant, as far as pricing is concerned.

At $246,888 (as of Dec 18, 2021), this entry-level 3 Series still isn't anywhere near cheap for a compact sedan. In fact, it's still the priciest offering in its class, trailing behind rivals such as the Mercedes C Class and Audi A4.

Yes, it is expensive. But, this is a 3 Series after all. You're not just buying a car, you're buying something that has BMW's rich heritage and dynamism. That comes with a certain level of "atas" status.

As far as entry models go, this is one fantastic package. If you happen to be in the market for a new BMW, and the 3 series is one of your considerations, then the choice is obvious.


S$236,888 (inclusive of COE)

VES Banding: B

Engine: 2.0 litre 4-cylinder in-line 16-valve twinpower turbocharged, petrol

Power: 154 bhp

Torque: 250 Nm

Fuel consumption: 17.2 km/L

0-100km/h: 8.4 seconds

Top Speed: 223 km/h

Drivetrain: 8-speed (A) Steptronic; Rear-wheel drive

Brakes: Ventilated discs (Front & rear)

Wheelbase: 2,851 mm

Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,706 mm x 1,827 mm x 1,442 mm

Fuel tank capacity: 59 litres

Boot capacity: 480 litres

Ambient lighting (11 light designs)

Apple carplay & android auto

BMW digital key

BMW live cockpit professional

BMW connected package professional

BMW online/concierge service

Sport seats (sensatec upholstery)

Telephony with wireless charging

READ MORE: Mitsubishi L200 Triton review: Mighty, multipurpose and macho

The article was first published by Motorist.

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