BMW 116d: Your ideal one

There used to be a time where BMW’s 1-Series wasn’t the most popular car on the roads. Its quality wasn’t fantastic, the ride was average, and the rear couldn’t sit three adults comfortably.

But the Bavarian marque has since upped its game to the point where the 1-Series actually feels like the perfect first car for every driver. It’s no longer boring, no longer gives a mundane ride, and now even has the ability to travel a jaw-dropping 1,200 km on a single tank.

This, is the new 1-Series diesel hatchback.

Exterior

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We have to admit that the looks of the 1-Series took a bit of time to appeal to us. Compared to the rest in its class, it lacks appeal and doesn’t look as much a chick magnet as what an A-Class would pull off.

But its design has significantly improved since its predecessors. New headlamp assemblies featuring BMW’s new LED lights now exude more aggressiveness than before, and a revised tail lamp combination now moves it closer to the 2-Series range.

It retains its compact hatch design from before, but sits slightly longer than its predecessor.

Interior

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This baby Bimmer should make you feel at home if you’ve ever been behind the wheels of a BMW. If there’s something we love about Bimmers, it’s the user-friendliness of its cabin – everything is neat and within easy reach and control.

Mercedes’ fans would be disappointed to note that the interior of the 1-Series feels slightly more comfortable than that of the A-Class. It may not look as stylish as the three-pointed star, but it sits you more comfortably and feels that little bit wider than that of its competitors.

An entry-level hatch, the 116d provides you with the most basic of features that you would get on a BMW. Navigation and reverse cameras are a no-go, and the iDrive you get is the basic interface.

From a passenger’s point of view, the front of the 1-Series feels padded and well-comforted. It certainly is a place that you’ll feel safe in, knowing that you would, without a doubt, enjoy your ride.

But the rear still feels a tad squeezy, no thanks to its center console which stretches past your comfortable leg room zone. No doubt it sits two comfortably, in fact, much more than that of its predecessor, but try fitting a third in and he definitely won’t be impressed.

The Drive

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BMW’s incorporation of the Mini’s 1.5-litre 3 pot plant gives it 116 horses and 270 Nm of torque. This makes it the first BMW to fall into the Category A COE range (at last).

Before you judge based on its mediocre 116 horses, the 116d manages to get you to the century mark in just above 10 seconds. It’s not the fastest hatch we’ve driven in its class, but it performs reasonably well to get you thinking hard on whether there is an additional cylinder hidden elsewhere.

The drive of the 116d feels impressively smooth and refined compared to its predecessor. Coupled with ZF’s 8-speed transmission, gear changes in the 116d are seamless, even when you push the hatch under Sport mode to its maximum rev limit.

For a small hatch, the 116d behaves like a well-behaved puppy. It performs extraordinarily well around corners, delivers power almost on demand, and doesn’t feel too bumped up when going over the hardest of potholes.

And if that’s not enough for you to consider one in your garage, the 116’s diesel plant offers you the efficiency of up to 1,200 km on a single tank. That, of course, stems from majority of highway driving. But in tropical Singapore, we managed an astonishing 15 km/h even on normal driving conditions (read: more than occasional heavy-footed adrenaline rushes).

Conclusion

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The BMW 116d is probably one of the most ideal hatches everyone should consider for a first car. Yes, it’s stripped bare of all luxury functions found on its higher-end siblings, and it offers only the most basic of features any continental should offer.

But luxuries and features aside, the 116d behaves like what a decent hatch should be – powerful, responsive, comfortable, and efficient.

So what are you waiting for?

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