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15 May 2021

What We Dislike
Needs more power

With an excellent ride and safety features aplenty, the BMW 116i is a hatchback that offers nearly all you'd expect out of a premium product.

The third generation BMW 1 Series made quite the headline when it was first revealed, courtesy of its front-wheel drive layout, which was adopted in order to offer consumers more usable space aft of the driver.

Well, if it's practicality you're after in your premium hatchback, this new 116i variant should prove quite the tempting option.

Sensible commuter

Memory seats are just the start of the various premium features available on this 1 Series
For a start, the new 116i, in Sport trim, is now available from just $158,888 (although the Luxury variant we test here comes in at $163,888).

This means that the 1 Series now undercuts rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in A180 Style trim, (at $161,888) and the newly launched albeit more powerful Audi A3 Sportback (at $167,890, all prices as of 12 May 2021).

And if you're still in a practical frame of mind, you can take heart in knowing that the luxury variant adds 40:20:20 folding rear seats (as opposed to just 60:40), an automatic tailgate, and the 'Dakota' leather seats among others, all of which are items you could easily do without.

Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning work very well here
What you will get regardless of trim level, however, are all the trappings that come with a premium product, including items like ambient interior lighting, BMW's digital key, the two 10.25-inch instrument and central displays, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

More impressive perhaps, is the fact that you also get memory seats as standard despite purchasing from the bottom rung of the BMW ladder. Having said that, finding a comfortable seating position is hardly difficult in this hatchback.

Pleasing driver

Start that now 107bhp engine up and you likewise find that the 116i still offers a lot of what you'd expect from a premium vehicle.

190Nm of torque from this three-cylinder will see to most inner-city commutes
The engine is not only smooth and quiet, but with 190Nm of torque available from just 1,380rpm, moving from traffic light to traffic light hardly feels strenuous in the 1 Series.

Push the pedal down to the floor, however, and you'll find that the 116i has little more to give beyond that. It does not feel slow per se, but just rather disappointing when you do push the thing hard and that anticipation of looming acceleration as you reach into the higher ends of an engine's rev range just never materalises in the 116.

Still, take a drive over pockmarked roads and you'll find the ride excellent, with plenty of pliancy coupled with good body control over the rough stuff. And should you opt to carry more speed into the corners, the 1 Series rewards with reasonably feelsome steering.

Safe purchase

Apparent build quality is top-notch in the cabin
And while we are on the topic of driving at speed, once you're on the highway, the 1 Series' Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning safety systems work like a treat.

You even get the option to adjust the amount of vibration you get from the steering wheel, so you can get just the right amount of interferance you want while you're carving through city traffic.

Build quality all around the cabin is excellent, as you'd expect of a BMW, even if the materials used here could still be improved. Hard plastics abound on the door cards and you get plastic pieces in place of the speakers that usually sit at the bottom of the A-pillar, for example.

17-inch wheels come standard for the 116i
Look to the back and you'll find reasonable knee and leg room, while the boot space, at 380 litres, is still on par with that new Audi A3, while just barely managing to pip the Mercedes-Benz A-Class' 370 litres.

Fuel consumption over three days with the car stood at 10.7km/L.


Well, almost anyway. While the BMW 116i may have its rivals pipped when it comes to cost and with the sheer amount of tech on offer, whether or not you should buy one I think will boil down to one simple consideration: Do you need that sensation of having power in reserve in your premium product? Because if not, this new 116i variant will prove to be quite the tempting option.

If you're looking at getting a premium hatchback, do also catch our reviews of these popular alternatives:

The Audi A3 Sportback 1.5 comes with a refined mild hybrid drivetrain and offers a quiet drive

While the Mercedes-Benz A200 has a sharp exterior and an interior that is designed to impress
Also read our comparison article on:
BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Car Information


: -

Engine Type


3-cylinder in-line 12-valve TwinPower Turbocharged

Engine Cap





80kW (107 bhp) / 6500 rpm



190 Nm / 3800 rpm



7-speed (A) Steptronic DCT

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)



Top Speed



Fuel consumption



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