2021 BMW 318i Sport Review – A true Bimmer, through and through

In my many years of reviewing cars, I’ve driven so many that I could imagine – from affordable econoboxes to those I won’t be able to afford within the foreseeable future. From dream cars to the so-so ones, I’ve come into acquaintance with many heroes and villains; nameplates have come into and gone off my shortlist. But there’s this one German vehicle that won’t be scratched off of my list.

I’m talking about the BMW 3 Series, which has been a want for me since my innocence in the 90s. But with the latest update coming from BMW, is the 3er still a Bimmer worth aspiring to own? Got the keys to the entry-level 318i Sport trim from BMW Philippines and here are my thoughts.

Exterior

One of the things I love about the 3 Series is its compactness. By no means the G20 3er is a small sedan – it is bigger than the Civic but smaller than the Accord (but has a longer wheelbase than the latter, more on this later) – but BMW has managed to keep it compact by German standards.

I love the 3er’s understated elegance. Yet, this particular Sport Line trim manages to look sporty with black accents found all over, plus the athletic proportions (relatively wide body, long hood, and short deck) and solid shark’s fin antenna and trunk lid shape combination. The ever-present Hofmeister Kink and the timeless design execution keep the character on course for this sedan, and here’s to hoping it stays that way in the generations to come.

Four things I appreciate with this entry-level model: scarce chrome, good-looking 18-inch two-tone rims, taillights that mimic the 7 Series flagship’s, and the set of LEDs. With these employed, the 318i Sport doesn’t look like a base model at all.

Interior

For an entry-level variant, the 318i Sport impresses with its cabin amenities, albeit more on the logical sense. I was hard-pressed to find hard plastics in the cabin, except maybe for the generous amount of scratch-prone piano blacks. Everything else is supple, plus buttons and switches return great haptic feedback. The type of synthetic leather used is highly notable – it has a textured finish yet the cushioning’s plush. One simple trait present in BMWs (and the Supra) is the intuitive clustering of controls, which allows for a great overall driving experience.

There’s a bevy of adjustments for the driver and front passenger seats, including bolster adjustments for the one behind the tiller, though the rear isn’t the best place to be in. Despite the 3er’s long wheelbase, space at the back isn’t stellar for taller individuals. Add the fact that there isn’t any foldable center armrest and the transmission tunnel’s too tall for your feet’s freedom.

Then again, the three-zone climate control acts as a saving grace as rear passengers would have a say on the temperature in the rear cabin.

As for the trunk, the 480L volume’s quite massive for expected use and more, though long items aren’t possible since the rear backrests don’t fold. At least the trunk opens with a touch of a button.

Tech & Safety

The BMW 318i Sport’s instrument cluster has a digital display at the center, while the dials, albeit analog, are the most digital-looking dials I’ve ever seen. Or are they digital?

Everything’s practically electronic in the 318i Sport, including the parking brake and the heaven-sent auto hold. The right side mirror even tilts down automatically when on reverse. Other standard safety toys expected on a luxury vehicle are present as well, so I don’t have to list them down.

The crown of the cabin is the 8.8-inch BMW iDrive infotainment system that has good-looking icons and fonts. It doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but iPhone integration’s fairly seamless whether via Bluetooth or USB. The screen also doubles as a crisp display for the rear cameras and a graphic representation of the proximity sensors.

Two qualms, though: there isn’t wireless charging despite the icon on the storage pad, while the charging ports are mostly USB-Cs so it’s either you upgrade to iPhone 12, buy a USB-C to Lightning cable, or switch to the latest Android. But that shouldn’t be an issue if you have the means to buy a BMW, right?

Driving & Handling

Despite having the least powerful 2.0-liter four-pot of the range, the 318i wasn’t lackluster with its road manners. The unremarkable 156hp and 250Nm torque didn’t seem to be an issue, and that’s thanks largely to the lively 8-speed automatic transmission. Whether I let it shift on its own, or do so via the gear lever (sorry, no paddle shifters here), the torque converter gearbox knew exactly when I need power. Plus with a twin-scroll turbo employed, torque’s readily available early in the rev range with barely noticeable lag.

Out on long drives or within the city, the 318i isn’t cumbersome to drive at all, even with the non-stellar power figures.

Another notable trait would be the 318i’s handling. The steering’s assisted yet obedient, and rolls were controlled at reasonable lengths. Ride comfort’s top-notch, brought about by the quiet cabin and stable ride even at speeds. At this point, I’m struggling to find any major qualm on the short test drive, although a longer one would have given me more time to fall in love with the car. Consider this an infatuation.

Fuel Efficiency

The BMW 318i Sport has three drive modes (Normal, Sport, and Eco Pro), but I wasn’t really keen on switching between them during tests.

With that said, driving within the city while switching between Normal and Sport modes, I was able to clock in 9.2 km/l. Out on the open highway, I got 18.1 km/l with the cruise control nailed at 90 km/h. 

Of note, these are notable numbers for a sporty luxury sedan, taken with only two people on board.

Verdict

What makes a Bimmer a Bimmer? Rear-wheel-drive, superb handling, and premium cabin – all these make for an Ultimate Driving Machine. After a few days with the 318i Sport, I’m glad to report that all these are present even on an entry-level model. 

Never mind the unemotional design execution as you enter the car – it’s still your entry point if you want a BMW sedan that still runs on the rear axle, a true Bimmer through and through. It’s the Goldilocks zone of BMW sedans, a great choice if you want a balance of sporty, comfort, and elegance.

Even better, at the current promo price of P2,990,000, the 318i Sport is a bargain compared against its German rivals like the Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4. That price comes with a 5-year warranty and all the things that come with driving a BMW, more so, a 3 Series.

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