BMW 318i Sport1
The sixth generation 3 series BMW has a heritage stretching back 40 years. Does it still cut it as a business car today?
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BMW 318i Sport review

What is it?

THE BMW 3 Series is 40 years old this year; to celebrate and keep it ahead of more modern rivals such as the Jaguar XE, Munich has launched a revised range.

Interestingly, the 318i is the entry-level petrol model in the revised range and despite the badge, it’s powered by the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol that was first fitted in the MINI Cooper–with the same 134bhp.

So, is the BMW 318i petrol a better business buy than the BMW 320d diesel – we hit the road to find out in our BMW 318i Sport review car.

What’s hot?

  • Okay, so the current sixth-generation BMW 3 Series might not be the most distinctive in a 40 year volume- but it still looks sharp and sporty. Points are also scored for spotting the face-lift changes, as on first look, it seem that BMW designers have wisely left the 2012 design well alone. On closer look, you’ll probably spot the new front and rear lights and bumpers.
  • Inside, like the outside, you’ll be struggling to spot the changes over the pre-facelift car – piano black and chrome highlights are the order of the day here. Still as they say, if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it! Facelift mods or not, the 3 Series’ interior is spacious enough and it’s hard not to be impressed by the quality and driver-focused feel to the interior.
  • It might be the entry model in the range, but hit the road and even in petrol form, it’s easy to see why the 3 Series is the driver’s choice. The 318i might have just 134bhp, but thicker anti-roll bars and stiffer suspension, plus the same responsive steering and the necessary optional M-Tech suspension and you’ve got a keen, virtually roll-free drive.
  • The 134bhp version of the 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine doesn’t feel as keen to perform as the chassis. However, work the excellent six-speed manual gearbox harder and you’re able to make decent progress. For a three-cylinder it stays remarkably refined right the way through the rev-range too. Acceleration to 62mph takes 8.9 seconds and the top speed is 130mph. Combined consumption is 52.3 mpg, the 318i falls into the 19% company car tax band with 124 g/km CO2 emission figures.
  • Sport isn’t quite at the top of the 3 Series specification pile, but it includes air-conditioning, 18-inch alloys, sat-nav, keyless go, stop/start and parking sensors – but you pay for it, as even without all the BMW press car options, the £25,275 list price is still steep.
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What’s not?

  • It might be smooth and willing, but like other models fitted with three-cylinder engines and the capable chassis, we reckon you’ll struggle getting the 52.3 mpg economy.
  • Options such as the leather trim really improve the premium feel of the 3 Series’ interior, but at over £1,200 it adds some cost to the P11D value.

BMW 318i Sport

The Verdict on the BMW 318i Sport

The BMW 3 Series is a justifiably popular compact executive. Not only is it great fun to drive, but all models are impressively efficient via Efficient Dynamics tweaks and it has an impressively premium image too.

But the game has moved on since the launch of the current F30-generation 3 Series in 2012, with this BMW feeling the heat from new opposition, such as the new Audi A4 that we get to drive shortly and the new baby Jaguar, the XE.

So, has BMW done enough to keep the 3 Series rivals at bay?

If this entry-level BMW 318i Sport review car is anything to go by, then yes. Even more fun to drive, this 3 Series adds a layer of refinement that wasn’t there before. We just wish the three-cylinder engine was more willing from lower down the rev-range and the real-world fuel consumption was as good as the figures suggest.

However, is it good enough to topple the other big 3 Series for business – the also face-lifted 320d diesel?

The BMW 320d in Sport trim, is probably this car’s closest rival. The 318i gets off to a good start by being some £5,000 cheaper on its P11D, but it has higher 124g/km CO2 emissions and a higher 20% company car tax band than the diesel (119g/km and 19%).

But that’s not the end of the story: because the BMW 318i Sport has a lower P11D value its overall benefit in kind beats the 320d Sport: for a company car driver in the 20% tax band the saving is £20 a month – double that if on the higher rate.

And for directors managing company cars, there will be less Class 1A National Insurance to pay as well.

So the BMW 318i Sport is a new company car star – beating the diesel on tax figures.

Who would have thought?

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BMW 318i Sport

The Low Down for the BMW 318i Sport

Doors and bodystyle:Four-door saloon
Engine/Gearbox:1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol/6-speed manual gearbox
CO2 Emissions:124 g/km
Economy:52.3mpg
Power/Torque:134bhp/221Nm
0-62mph/top speed:8.9 secs/130mph
Insurance Group:23

And what it costs…

P11D Value:£25,220
Monthly Business Car Lease ex VAT (10k miles pa, 3+35 payments, non-maintained):From £256.03
Road Tax:Band D
Company Car Tax bands 2015/2016 to 2017/18:19%, 21%, 23%
Benefit in kind 2015/16 to 2017/18:4,792, 5,296, 5,801
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (20%):840/70
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (40%):1,680/140
Annual/Monthly company car tax (20%):958/80
Annual/Monthly company car tax (40%):1,917/1600

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