BMW’s 1 Series has returned to COE Category A in the form of the 1.5-litre turbo-diesel 116d.
SIX months after the final units of the pre-facelift 116i were delivered, the facelifted model made its debut here. The newcomer is a 116d, with 116bhp from a turbocharged 1.5-litre 3-cylinder that also powers the MINI Cooper D. That output is considerably less than the 136bhp produced by the previous 116i’s petrol turbo 1.6-litre 4-cylinder. The acceleration is consequently less energetic, with the 116d taking 1.2 seconds longer than the 116i to reach 100km/h from a standstill. In fact, it’s the slowest new BMW right now. But with a healthy 270Nm of diesel-driven torque, the 116d performs quickly enough within the 30-60km/h road speed range, which would meet most citydriving requirements in Singapore. The engine’s performance sweet spot is between 2000rpm and 4000rpm. Too bad it doesn’t sound particularly sweet when revved.
Both the diesel engine and its 8-speed automatic transmission can seem hesitant when prompted for full-throttle acceleration, but they have less hesitation in Sport mode. There’s no hesitation at all when the rear-drive Bimmer is tasked to take a corner. Its steering is smooth, accurate and consistently wellweighted, its suspension is firmly in control, and it makes directional changes without complaint. The flip side to the happy handling is a rather stiff ride, especially over broken or poorly paved/repaved tarmac.
There’s noticeable road noise, too, not only from the front wheel-arch areas but also from the rear. Thankfully, its diesel engine isn’t too noisy or intrusive. Add a few gentle creaks to the mix (in the test car), plus some vibration every time the auto start/stop restarts the engine (the mildly irritating feature can, and should, be switched off ), and this machine comes across as more plebeian than premium.
The cabin of the 1 Series is more or less unchanged, while its interior quality and on-board equipment haven’t seen much improvement.
The same working-class vibes can be found elsewhere in the cabin. Most of the budget for the 1 Series update, it seems, has been spent on the exterior, because the interior is more or less like the old one. There’s newly added decoration, but the layout and controls are otherwise unchanged. If only BMW made the plastics less hard, the leather seats more supple and the glovebox latch classier. That being said, the car’s unintentionally retro cockpit makes me nostalgic – because the steering wheel is compact and not festooned with buttons; the driving aids are basic ones that do not try to drive the car for me; the infotainment is straightforward and off ers far fewer than a hundred mindboggling functions; and there’s a good old handbrake operated by hand, instead of an electronic thingy activated by fingertip.
Even BMW’s ConnectedDrive gadget has been simplified for the 1 Series, due to its older architecture that doesn’t support the complete suite of services. The cabin space of this vehicle is comfortably cosy for front occupants and reasonably roomy for rear ones, but parking three adults in the backseat isn’t recommended. The automatic airconditioning (with a panel display that now uses clear white fonts instead of orange) feels markedly more eff ective than before. Another obvious improvement is to the styling of the five-door hatchback. The front end looks sharper now and comes with nice, bright LED headlights, while the redesigned tail-lamps, also with LEDs, make the rear end more perky (or perhaps less dumpy).
Facelifted or not, the 1 Series will never be No. 1 on the list of stylish BMWs, but at least it’s sleeker than the 2 Series Active Tourer. The 116d is also considerably cheaper than the 218i Active Tourer, thanks to the $15,000 CEVS rebate earned by its low CO2 emission of 96g per kilometre. It’s fuel-effi cient, of course, theoretically able to travel over 27km on every litre of diesel. Assuming an annual mileage of 20,000km, the 116d only needs to be refuelled every three or four weeks. On top of that, diesel at the pump in Singapore costs about 40 percent less than 95-octane petrol (at press time). Even though the new 116d isn’t an exciting entry point to BMW ownership, it’s enjoyable enough to drive, economical, practical and uncomplicated