BMW: 2014 116i Innovation Edition quick drive

BMW: 2014 116i Innovation Edition quick drive

DSC_0023What’s not to like about a compact premium rear-wheel-drive hatchback, especially when it comes laden with lots of additional equipment at no extra cost?

DSC_0043BMW is no stranger to producing added value limited edition cars in limited numbers, indeed so limited were the numbers that when I went back to their website to check on the content of the 116i Innovation Edition, it had been completely removed.

Thats the sign of a market that knows good value when they see it.

The drive-away price of the 116i Innovation Edition was $51,900 and this included more than $10,000 worth of normal optional features at no additional cost. Over and above your bog standard 116i hatch at $49,800 the Innovation Edition adds the following items (normal price in bracket):

  • M Sports package ($4000)
  • Park distance control ($750)
  • Lights package ($500)
  • Bi-Xenon headlights with washer system ($1250)
  • Business Navigation system ($2500)
  • Rear view camera ($950)
  • Sun protection glazing ($900)
  • Front seat heating ($800)

The M Sport package includes M Sport suspension which lowers the car by 10mm, and it also adds the M Sport multifunction steering wheel and front sports-style seats, as well as the M aerodynamics package and the M performance high-gloss black kidney grille.

DSC_0031A discreet M badge adorns the two front wings of the car, and there are M door sill plates as well, least you forget how special this car is when you open the door.

The cloth upholstered sports seats with a stylish blue thread and stitching pattern made a refreshing change from the usual charcoal leather associated with premium German vehicles, and the seat heaters were also appreciated on chilly mornings.

Another useful feature is the reversing camera, despite its compact nature, the small aperture of the rear windscreen in the tailgate and thick rear pillars do create quite a blind spot, so having the confidence of an onboard camera was reassuring when parallel parking and reversing out of awkward driveways.

DSC_0041Ideally this is a car for people who live in the city and occasionally carry two passengers, the interior is comfortable but tall people will find legroom in the rear seats is tight even with the shorties sitting up front, fitting five in is definitely a squeeze as we discovered when going to rugby training one evening.

But the truly special feature about the 116i Innovation Edition is that it’s a rear-wheel-drive premium compact hatch in a sea of front-wheel-drivers, and this provides its greatest point of difference.

The Audi A3, VW Golf, and Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchbacks are all class acts, and a very good drive in their own right, but none have quite the sporting dynamic of the 116i.

DSC_0045You can feel the sense of urgency through the seat of your pants as the new twin scroll 1.6-litre turbocharged engine pushes the power to the rear wheels through the 8-speed automatic transmission, while the steering remains light yet communicative.

It’s that 50:50 weight distribution allied to the rear-wheel-drive power train that allows the driver to enjoy the power and handling of what BMW rightly call, the ultimate driving machine.

This new generation 1.6-litre engine is a thing of beauty, power is rated at 100 kilowatts but torque is 220 Newton metres, and while it may not have the off-the-line thrust of the inline four-cylinder 2-litre turbocharged engine fitted to the 125i M Sport or the ridiculous mumbo of the 3-litre in-line six-cylinder fitted to the M135i, it does not have their greater thirst for fuel or additional weight to overcome.

The forced-induction system of the new 1.6-ltre engine uses the twin-scroll principle, with separate ducts both in the exhaust manifold and the turbocharger itself, each serving one pair of two cylinders.

This results in a car that can sprint from 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds and has a top speed of 210km/h.

Fuel consumption is rated at 5.8l/100km. Auto start/stop is standard along with brake energy regeneration, and a self-disconnecting air-conditioning compressor meant that we managed to get an average consumption figure of 8L/100km after more than 300km.

The 116i is also fitted with BMW’s variable drive system that includes sport, comfort and ECO PRO modes. Engaging ECO PRO will reap some extra kilometres per tank of fuel, but using the sport mode really brings the car alive and is recommended for a journey down a long and winding road.

It sharpens throttle response and makes the car generally more responsive in every way. Comfort mode however seems to be the best compromise of the three driving modes for commuting in heavy stop/start traffic.

Because the 116i Innovation is fitted with the larger 18-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension package, the handling is certainly taut, and the ride quality is firm, but not uncomfortably so.

Big wheel and tyre combinations previously used to equal a harsh ride in a BMW, especially over the worst of New Zealand road surfaces, but the suspension engineers in Munich seem to have cracked it on this car.

Run-flat tyre technology has now improved to the point where it’s almost imperceptible to tell the difference in ride quality from a standard tyre that doesn’t use the technology, unlike three tyre generations ago when the ride quality was so firm, you thought the car was fitted with wagon wheels!

Apart from the added-value of the Innovations package, the 116i hatch is proof that less is sometimes more in terms of overall drivability and enjoyment. The smaller 1.6-litre engine provides enough power and performance for a dynamic driver to enjoy on a daily basis, yet provides great fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

So, if you can find one lurking at your local BMW dealer, we’d suggest you get in quickly before they are all gone.

Pros:

  • Fun to drive character
  • Well equipped for a limited edition
  • Frugal consumption when required

Cons:

  • Rear passenger space still tight
  • Rear visibility compromised without reversing camera


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