BMW’s 3 Series sedans have always been cars of desire. As status symbols go, owning a 3 Series and parking it in your driveway sends a message to the neighbours that you know your cars.
BMW has recognized this and also the requirement to bring new buyers into the 3 Series family. Boom! – here’s a new entry-level model called the 316i. So, for $52,300 you get a BMW 3 Series with the looks, the style and the glamour…but without breaking the bank.
Sure there are lots of cars in this price range, but this is a BMW, one of the great German names. And the latest 3 Series is BMW at its best.
BMW 316i Overview
BMW Australia launched the 316i in its now-usual model ‘Line’ – Sport (as tested by www.CarShowroom.com.au), Luxury and Modern. The main change is under the bonnet (a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine).
Otherwise there are just details – the 316i runs only rear park distance control, has manual (non-electronic) seat adjustment, lacks Smartphone connectivity etc.
BMW 316i Engine
BMW propels the 316i with the familiar turbocharged 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (also fitted to the 1 Series hatchback). Maximum power is 100kW at 4350rpm and peak torque of 220Nm is available from 1350rpm.
Drive is to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
As per the rest of the 3 Series range, the BMW 316i comes equipped with BMW’s EfficientDynamics technologies including auto start/stop (one of the smoothest of these we’ve driven), brake energy regeneration and ECO PRO in the Driving Experience Control. So with combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.9l/100kms, the BMW 316i is more fuel-efficient than the Mercedes-Benz C200 (6.8l/100kms).
BMW 316i The Interior
This may be the entry-level 3 Series but the 316i boasts the same top-shelf interior styling as the rest of the range – such as the sporty and elegant dashboard design and instrumentation and the slick gear lever. To the left of the driver is the familiar iDrive controller and above is the 6.5-inch display screen for the six-speaker ‘Radio Professional’ audio system and satellite navigation.
Our test car was the Sport Line and amongst its extras you’ll notice silver ‘BMW Sport’ door sills, high-gloss black trim highlights with ‘Coral Red’accents, red instruments and the sports leather steering wheel with red contrast stitching. Sport Line also adds sport seats (manually-adjustable) trimmed in ‘Dakota leather (Sensatec’ artificial leather is standard).
Rear seat accommodation matches the others in this league (not massive but our nine and 10-year olds had no complaints) and the seat split-folds 40:20:40 for cargo versatility. Boot capacity is 480-litres.
BMW 316i Exterior & Styling
In the looks department, the BMW 3 Series is a standout. Hallmark BMW long bonnet and set-back cabin and the latest interpretation of the classic BMW kidney grille is modern and sporty.
The Sport Line model as tested is distinguished by high-gloss black highlights for the grille, B-pillar and rear bumper finisher.
As well, our BMW 316i Sport Line rode on 17-inch double spoke alloy wheels with 225/50 R17 ‘run-flat’ tyres.
BMW 316i On The Road
Not the most powerful of the German entry-level sedans, BMW’s turbocharged 1.6-litre engine sounds the part when you hit the ignition…a reminder that this is after-all a BMW. And while the 316i lacks steering wheel paddle-shifters, it is the usual slick BMW shifter which slides into gear with uncanny smoothness at all speeds.
And at 35kgs lighter than the next-lightest 3 Series model, the 316i provides a decent dose of acceleration while remaining impressively refined even when working hard.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the BMW 316i was, as expected, a handy drive but perhaps not as nailed as the sportier 3 Series. For sure the optional ‘M’ adaptive suspension would firm things up and we’re not suggesting the regular 316i is at all tardy…it’s just not quite as dynamic and precise as we’ve come to expect from the 3 Series.
But it is very well balanced, the steering is beautifully weighted, the ride and road-holding are great and the mating of the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine to the eight-speed auto is spot-on with instantaneous power delivery mid-turn.
Around town and on the freeway the BMW 316i, with that slippery body shape and precise manufacturing is impressively quiet with little intrusion of wind, mechanical or tyre noise.
BMW 316i Issues
Suspension tune isn’t as pin-sharp as the better specified (and more expensive) 3 Series models.
BMW 316i Verdict
BMW is onto a winner with the 316i. At this price, BMW will welcome a bunch of new people to the brand who have long aspired to be BMW owners.
Sure, the 316i isn’t in the league of say the BMW 6 Series Coupe, but you are buying into one of the world’s great marques and there are a lot of cars in this price range which don’t come close to the 316i for quality, technology and driving dynamics.
And good as the standard BMW 316i is, we’d recommend stretching the dollars if you can and opting for the M Sport package, sports seats and adaptive M suspension – then you’re really onto something.
BMW 316i The Competition
Audi’s A4 lineup kicks-off with the 1.8TFSI at $52,700. A lot more under the bonnet with 125kW/320Nm from Audi’s turbocharged 1.8-litre and the latest A4 is certainly a looker. And while it’s the entry-level model, the Audi A4 1.8TFSI is a good steer. As always, cross-check the standard specifications lists to ensure you’re making a fair comparison.
You’ll need $59,900 for the entry-level Mercedes-Benz C-Class – the C200. We love the looks of the current C-Class and with 135kW/270Nm, the turbocharged 1.8-litre Merc does punch harder than the BMW 316i.