BMW 118i M Sport pushes the limits
The 118i is the quintessential hot hatchback, just with that BMW touch.Photos: Rory Daley

IT'S a cliché by now, the young or smallest one in the family is always the most fun. There is some truth to this as the freedom from legacy tends to make younger siblings more adventurous, especially when combined with their energy. The BMW 118i embodies that spirit. As the 2 Series has moved to where the 3 Series resides and the 3 Series moves even more upmarket, the 1 Series is left to usher the ambitious into the brand, feeding buyers enough of the BMW mantra to coax them further up the model range at later dates.

To that effect, the 118i is the quintessential hot hatchback. It looks like one. Its four doors stopped short at the rear to have a hatch instead of a sedan's trunk. This doesn't impact it any way as it still looks good in its profile boasting the 50th anniversary badging from the M Division.

Few will find the 118i wanting for much as there's room for four and the hatch is a tad more practical than regular trunk.

The whole experience is BMW from the start as keyless entry sees doors unlock upon approach, all door handles lit, and a puddle lamp to aid night-time entry. The interior is a carbon copy of the more luxurious BMWs, just scaled down for the car's size and price. However, few will find the 118i wanting for much. The cabin is driver focused having a powered driver's seat, with memory that allows the best driving position to be found in seconds. Material quality is on par with its larger siblings as is cabin refinement. There's room for four and the hatch is a tad more practical than regular trunk.

All the technology and premium features found elsewhere is here as well. Ambient lighting for night driving. A sunroof for those bright fun days. The infotainment is fast as its runs all the main functions through its sharp screen, including connectivity for smart devices. The car is even equipped with the suite of assistance features for parking, reversing, and voice control.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder is as engaging as any other BMW power plant. There's an abundance of low and mid-range shove making the car fun at those speeds.

The fun comes when it's time to drive and push the 118i. The chassis is light and agile for that hot hatchback handling feel. The suspension soaks up imperfections and provides plenty of grip when driven fast. It works well with the chassis to give the person behind the wheel the feedback they need for optimal control. Experienced drivers will push past the initial understeer and exploit its ability to rotate with the brake or throttle. The compact body melds well with enthusiastic operation on narrow Jamaican B roads.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder is as engaging as any other BMW engine. There's an abundance of low and mid-range shove making the car fun at those speeds. The transmission plays well, especially in SPORT mode, featuring the proper shifting mechanism — pull back for up and push forward for down — to make it feel like a mini-rally car at times.

The interior is a carbon copy of the more luxurious BMWs, just scaled down a bit for the car's size and price.

Settle down and the 118is does everything else well. The sport suspension doesn't beat up passengers at low speeds and a more frugal right foot can see 34 miles per gallon. What the 118i really does prove is that regardless of which wheels the power goes to, front, rear, or all four, BMW can still build an ultimate driving machine.

BY RORY DALEY Observer writer daleyr@jamaicaobserver.com

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