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Baby BMW wears its badge with pride

12.08.2013

I GREW up in a mining community, and in such a community only two cars really matter: a double-cab bakkie (doesn’t matter which one, as long as it has a Toyota, Ford, Mazda or Nissan badge) and the BMW 3 Series

Ownership of one of these vehicles would normally turn the neighbours a very nasty shade of green, which would give the driver a smug glow as they drove past. Things got even more interesting when a new company car scheme came along a few years later. It made it possible for hundreds of mine employees to buy a Beemer on the mine’s dime. Unfortunately, these people couldn’t stretch the budget far enough to get into a ‘proper’ 3 Series like the 323i or 325i, so the town was overflowing with smug people in BMW 318i’s.

You could always tell it was a 318i by the lack of a badge on the bootlid. Those were the glory days of the badge-deletion option.

The above makes me realise just how ridiculous people can be sometimes. I’m sure the 318i was a decent car that deserved to have its badge on display. It’s also the very first thing I thought of when I stepped out of the office and found a new BMW 316i standing in the parking lot.

This car snuck into South Africa a few months ago and I’ve been waiting to drive it ever since. I just had to see if the baby 3 was worthy enough to keep its badge, or if the workers should rather leave it lying on the BMW factory floor.

As the name suggests, the 316i is equipped with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with BMW’s TwinPower turbo technology. It develops 100kW and 220Nm of torque and can be mated to a six-speed manual, but we had a unit fitted with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The figures aren’t that impressive, considering the fact that the 3 Series has always been marketed as a sporty saloon. A paltry 100kW isn’t enough then, is it?

As it turns out, it is. With the optional automatic gearbox, it accelerates to 100km/h in 9.2 seconds, which is fast enough for most people. More importantly, it’s still enough power to make the 316i a comfortable car to live with and highly entertaining in the right place at the right time.

There’s also another equally impressive side to this story. BMW claims an average fuel consumption of 5.8 litres/100km, which makes the 316i the default choice for anyone who wants a frugal Beemer, but can’t stretch the budget far enough to get into a 320d.

The only downside as far as I can see is the expensive options list. As standard the 316i comes with everything you might need, but the price quickly rises once you tick a few boxes. The three trim lines (Modern, Luxury and Sport) are optional extras, as was basically everything else inside our test mule. This increased the price by almost R200 000, which just goes to show how expensive a German car can get if you’re not careful with that options list.

The standard car was plenty enough for me. At around R340 000, you might even call it a bargain. I was expecting it to feel less special than a 320i or 320d, but it just doesn’t. It’s as much a BMW as any other in the line-up.

Which brings us back to the initial question: should the badge be left on the factory floor? Definitely not. In fact, if I had one, I’d be proud to display the 316i on the bootlid.

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12.08.2013
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