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May 23, 2021

Review: BMW 318i Sport

BMW certainly loves to experiment. If filling up every conceivable niche wasn’t enough, they’ve dabbled on things like all- and front-wheel drive; heck, they’ve even tweaked one of their core design traits: the double kidney grille. Whether or not people will accept the whole “kidney lung” debacle is still up in the air, but there’s one thing they can’t afford to fuck up: the 3 Series.

Forty years on, the 3 Series has been largely evolutionary. Sure, it’s grown in size, and the family tree has now split into two main branches depending on the number of doors, but the fact of the matter is that there aren’t many great surprises here. And good thing too because in an increasingly crowded premium compact sedan segment, the 2021 BMW 318i Sport is every bit sporty and smart.

Yes, the kidney grille on the 3 Series is larger, but thankfully, it hasn’t metastasized into lungs (yet). Thus, there’s no debating that it looks taunt, elegant, and timeless—as a 3 Series should. Having said that, the headlights, which now cut through the bumper do look a bit Peugeot-y, while the rear has a certain Lexus-y feel to it. Overall, no complaints though; it looks great. Bookmarking everything perfectly is the Sport trim which feature high-gloss black elements and tasty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels.

The 3 Series’ insistence on sticking to tradition bods well with the way it drives. Some of its competitors have caught up, but BMW still schools them on what it means to be a premium compact sedan with a sporting edge. A few kilometers are all that’s needed to tell you this car means business. The steering is pretty darn close to that of a sportscar with its sharp, accurate feel. Even better, it doesn’t feel that nervous through Manila’s pockmarked roads.

Driver inputs through the tiller are then beautifully communicated to a chassis that’s precise and obedient. When cruising, it has a great sense of stability and poise. Damping is firm, but disciplined; soaking up ruts and bumps with a sense of solidity. It’s extremely quiet and refined with 100 km/h feeling more like 60. Shove it through a corner though, and it’ll play hooky, swiveling around and out of the curve with ease. Tackling switchbacks is second nature. Wherever your eyes visually point out to, for as long as you put in the steering angle to match, the 3 Series will head there without a fuss. The brakes too are progressive and well-modulated.

This particular 3 Series is the 318i, and with that, it’s rocking BMW’s entry-level engine. Don’t let the badge or the figures—156 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque—fool you. The numbers tell just one part of the story; the other being that peak power comes in from 4,500 to 6,500 rpm, while peak torque is delivered from 1,300 to 4,300 rpm. It won’t win in a straight sprint, but it’s very balanced, and more importantly, well-suited to the local traffic conditions. There’s enough grunt from the 4-cylinder to overtake, cruise to the legal speed limit, or power down through corners. The 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly too, though paddle shifters would have been a welcome addition.

It would have been the perfect package if only BMW remembered to create an interior with a bit more drama and flair. Don’t get it wrong, it’s modern and everything is well-finished, but it also looks cold and unemotional. Spend enough time inside though, and the execution makes sense. 

For starters, there’s an abundance of adjustment whether it’s with the steering wheel or the seats. Getting the perfect driving position takes no time. Then, there’s the visibility which is great to say the least. A bevy of screens greet the driver—a 5.1-inch screen serving as the gauges, and an 8.8-inch screen serving as the interface to the infotainment system. Odd though that the virtual gauges are designed to mimic traditional ones as BMW could have better adopted to LCD screen tech. Still, they’re easy enough to read and understand.

Another glaring omission here is the lack of smartphone connectivity. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, wired or otherwise. So, the only way to make phone calls or listen to music without getting arrested for distracted driving is through Bluetooth. Want to use Google Maps or Waze? Hopefully you’ve got a cellphone holder at the ready. It’s a shame because the native system is snappy, easy-to-navigate, and thankfully, can be operated either by touchscreen or iDrive knob. Compounding matters, there’s only one USB Type A port, while there are three USB Type C ports.

At 4,709 mm in length, the “G20” 3 Series has grown a lot in this generation. Together with its 2,851 mm wheelbase, it now feels genuinely roomy. There’s no need to worry about head or legroom now, plus because it’s wider, there’s room to stretch sideways. At the back, there’s adult-sized space, and with rear vents and their own climate control zone to boot it helps keep everyone comfortable. Of note, BMW Philippines has chosen to fit Sensatec (aka synthetic leather). While this sounds like a bummer, it’s well-wearing, durable, and vegan (if you’re into such things). Plus, most buyers will probably mistake it for the real thing anyway. More noticeable is the lack of a folding seatback. While 480 liters is big, there’s no way to expand this number in the case of a last-minute airport run.

Also absent in the 3 Series is any sort of advanced driver assist. Apart from the usual gaggle of airbags and acronyms, there’s not much else to talk about in the safety department aside from clearance sensors, a back-up camera, and tire pressure sensors. You want to make sure this car keeps to its lane or avoids hitting pedestrians or cyclists? You’ll have to do it yourself.

No one was expecting BMW to screw up the 3 Series, and with the latest model, that thankfully hasn’t happened. Not only is it roomier and more comfortable than ever, but it’s managed to remain the standard when it comes to handling and refinement. Sure, it lacks driver assist features and smartphone connectivity, and the interior looks rather somber; but these could be fixed by ticking the right options. As it is, the 2021 318i Sport is also well-priced at just P 2.990 million undercutting the Jaguar XE, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It comes with a 5-year / 200,000-kilometer warranty to boot.

2021 BMW 318i Sport

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Ownership 2021 BMW 318i Sport
Year Introduced 2019
Vehicle Classification Luxury Car
Warranty 5 years / 200,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Luxury Car
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 156 @ 4,500-6,500
Nm @ rpm 250 @ 1,300-4,300
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 8AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 12.82 km/L @ 35 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,709
Width (mm) 1,827
Height (mm) 1,435
Wheelbase (mm) 2,851
Curb Weight (kg) 1,565
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Parking Brake Electric
Tires Hankook Ventus S1 Evo3 RFT 225/45 R 18 Y (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 8
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2,
3-pt ELR x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Parking Assistant
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front and Rear (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Electric
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way, w/ Memory
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-way
Seating Surface Synthetic Leather
Folding Rear Seat No
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto-dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Tri-Zone, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB Type A x 1
USB Type C x 3
Smartphone Connectivity None
# of Speakers 8
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Thanks! Excellent review!

    Been waiting for a review of the 318i for quite a while, as well as thr 320i. With the 300k difference between the two, wondering if the latter is a better buy?

    1. The 318i now P 2.990m thanks to a promo. Very, very, very good deal considering it's the same price as the 218i Gran Coupe.

      Personally, if it's Manila traffic, the 318i is more than enough car. I took it out of town, and it didn't feel strained at all. I'd go with value and stick with the 318i over the 320i.

  2. Is the unit CBU Ex-Malaysia?

    1. Germany. The Malaysia is limited to a couple of units brought in for some ASEAN conference.

  3. I'm glad to see BMW is continuing with their tradition of deliberately understating the power output of its engines. A 2.0L turbocharged engine making roughly the same HP as a NA engine of the same displacement (albeit nearer to redline, of course). If this was a Japanese or Korean car this would be advertised as having 200HP.

  4. Those rims would look good on my E90


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