BMW 318i Sport: A Drive to Remember
Story and photos by Irwin Tan
I vividly recall the times I got behind the wheel of my first ride – a used BMW E90 3-Series. It was perhaps one of the sturdiest 3-Series built till date, and truth be told, the quality and solidness of the car proved second to none in its class.
BMW then followed up with the F30 3-Series, boasting a sleeker and sharper profile line, while at the same time, retaining the marque’s signature features.
Now, in line with its progress history, a facelift will always be in order. The new F30 LCI (or “Life Cycle Impulse” as what BMW calls it), doesn’t really look too different, and it would really take a car enthusiast to differentiate it from its predecessor.
Truth be told, I’m not too big a fan of the F30’s design when it was first launched. It looked a tad too sharp for my liking, and while it accentuates its aggressiveness and sleekness, it didn’t exactly tie in well with the rest of the Bimmers in the family line.
Same goes for the 3-Series facelift. In fact, the F30 LCI possesses only a few features that would identify itself apart from its predecessor.
Up front, BMW’s signature corona ring LED daytime running lights are now cut into half, profiling itself somewhat as two curves merged into a single strip rather than two separate circles. The rear lamp assembly gets a makeover too, with its brake strips appearing more distinct as compared to that of previous models.
Because I have had the chance to own an E90, the F30 LCI felt all too familiar to me when I slipped into the driving cabin. BMW’s designs prove too similar and standard across its line, and previous BMW owners would feel right at home even in this LCI variant.
Minor improved features include the ambient light trimmings along the air-conditioning center console panel. In addition, BMW has finally included a sliding cover for the cup holders.
As per all entry-level variants, BMW presents you with the normal 6.5” ConnectedDrive screen, coupled with their standard gear shift lever – something which irked me a little since I’ve been a fan of their larger BMW Professional screen and sports gear knob.
All these minor cosmetic changes couldn’t add up to telling how different the LCI is from the old F30. I’ve had friends expressing surprise at BMW’s new 1.5 litre pot, which premiered in the 218i Active Tourer, and now in this facelifted 3-Series.
I admit I was a little skeptical at first, since the 218i AT wasn’t the smoothest Bimmer I’ve driven. But 5 minutes into the drive in the 318i and I had completely forgotten that all this power came from just a 3-cylinder plant.
Putting out 136 horses and 220 Nm of torque (almost matching with its predecessor), the 318i caught up with most other cars from the lights, and I didn’t feel the need to plant my foot to get my desired acceleration kick.
This was further complemented by the seamless ZF 8-speed transmission, making gear changes almost unnoticeable. No paddle shifters for playing, but even flicking the gear lever to change gears wasn’t too difficult a task.
From a passenger’s point, the ride in this facelift was reasonably smooth. I wouldn’t put it past comfortable, but it was firm and well padded. Not something you’d expect in a bigger 5-Series, but it definitely sits well enough to even cushion any huge potholes and sudden directional changes when you yank the steering.
Comparing between this and my previous 318i, I have to admit that while I’m still a huge fan of the E90, the F30 LCI opened my eyes and impressed me with what a small 3-cylinder could offer.
One would expect improvements in the ride across facelifts and model renewals, but the F30 LCI proved to deliver more than that. You get seamless rides, smooth power delivery, accurate throttle and steering response – all from just a plant that was revised from the original MINI engine.
It is, thus, unfortunate that even with the S$9,000 COE drop in Category A cars, this facelift wouldn’t qualify for the significant price change thanks to its 136 horses. But for slightly above S$180,000, the F30 LCI is truly a drive for all to remember.