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bmw 118i m sport review the last of its kind

BMW 118i M Sport review: The last of its kind

The BMW 118i is the last bastion of mirthful motoring. Once the sun of this generation sets, there won’t be another rear-wheel-drive hatchback for a long time.

Christopher Ng Photo

Christopher Ng

12 Jun 2018

Hatchbacks these days are all the same – compact in size, practical in spaciousness with an engine that drives the front wheels. Every car manufacturer has at least one in their repertoire, save for the makers of cars for the cherries of society. Yes, it does sound a little bit boring but trust me when I say there are still FWD hatchbacks that’s a treat to drive. It just that none can stand on the same step as a BMW 1 Series.

The BMW 1 Series you see here is the 118i all dressed up in M Sport trim that gives it the proper aggressive look it so deserves even if the puny engine doesn’t light up the imagination. Aside from the M Aerodynamics kit, the 118i also wears light-weight 18-inch allow wheels and fitted with M Sport Suspension package that drops the car a few millimetres closer to the ground while improving the agility of this already very agile car.

This car is the last of its kind, and if reports are true, then this rear-wheel-drive hatchback will become extinct when the next-gen 1 Series comes to take the place of the current generation. Such is the tale of evolution.

As any car nut knows, all of the best cars in the world are rear-wheel drive simply because it is better balanced. In an FWD car, the front wheels have to bear the weight of the engine and transaxle. In an RWD, the weight of the drivetrain is distributed from front to rear, balancing both ends of the vehicle. This gives RWD cars handling capabilities bar none.

Take the 118i around the corner and you'll catch yourself taking it around a few more corners because it is fun. The reason is that simple. You can't tell why, at first, just that it feels better. The steering holds lighter in your hands and more direct in its response to your inputs. Because there's less weight helicoptering over the front wheels, the 118i’s light front has an easier time hugging the corners and slicing apexes feels like hot scalpel butter. 

The drivetrain transfers power and torque to the wheel without delay, although the numbers don’t exactly light up the imagination. A three-cylinder turbocharged 1.5-litre engine sits in front, producing a ‘mere’ 136hp and 220Nm for a 0-100kph time of 87 seconds and a top speed of 210kph. 

Yes, I know how that reads but the 118i’s acceleration is peppy, more so in Sport mode; Normal is no slouch either. The 8-speed automatic shifts fast and smooth, most of the time you won’t feel the gears are either moving up or down. ECO Pro takes the aggression down several notches. The gear is set to a fuel-saving pattern that shifts to the right cog at the right rpm. Throttle response is also dampened, somewhat, but the uptake here is that you’ll have a real-world mileage that’s close to the claimed 5.1l/100km.

The 118i is built to be a very driver-centric car, as all BMW’s are. The semi-bucket seats are set low to the floor, offering you a very sportscar-like driving position. The centre console is slanted towards you, as is the iDrive, shifter knob, rocker switches and parking brake on the transmission tunnel. 

The people in front dictates how much knee room is afforded to the rear. Having six-footers in front means that the knees of the rear passengers will touch the backs of the front seats. Nevertheless, the rear is also comfortable with plenty of headroom. Unlike the rivals, 118i can realistically only fit two in the back in comfort because of the tall transmission tunnel. 

The BMW 118i isn’t a complicated car. It offers a simple formula of giving you a drive that no other in its class can, with an efficient drivetrain that delivers power when you need it, in a shell that keeps on growing on you. Although the 1 Series is billed as a beginner Bimmer, veterans will enjoy this one too.

BMW 118i M Sport



Inline-3, BMW TwinPower Turbo


8-speed automatic

Rear-wheel drive






@1,250 - 4,300rpm


8.7s 0-100kph

210kph max speed, 5.1l/100km



On-the-road, without insurance

Overall Rating

9 Rating