Countryside drive with the BMW 1 Series 118i


An inline 6-cylinder engine produces 134 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque—not bad for a five-door “beginner’s BMW.”

Most people used to eating fastfood would no doubt appreciate an upgrade to a nice steak dinner at a fancy, fine dining restaurant.

In the same vein, moviegoers used to watching at a regular theater would probably enjoy it more when they get the full Imax viewing experience.

True, it might cost more, but you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

For the most part, the same holds true for cars. There’s nothing wrong with driving a basic, run-of-the-mill four-wheeler, but every now and then, most of us probably daydream of one day getting behind the wheel of one of those honest-to-goodness “luxury” brands.

This is where BMW’s 118i comes in. The definitive entry-level from the German marque, it’s a fun little hatchback that carries the power and prestige of its maker.

Think of the 118i as your first taste of what the revered Munich-based brand can offer; the first step into a totally new level of driving experience.

I’ll be honest—my regular wheels is a decade-plus old Japanese-made sedan, so the immediate effect of sliding into the driver’s seat of the 118i M Sport was doubly apparent.

Comfortable and familiar, the car makes it easy especially for those getting their first-ever chance of driving a German-made vehicle.

The gleaming electric blue hue of the test unit was a definite eyecatcher, but the gaze lingers just a bit more, maybe just because of the fact that it’s a BMW and carries a bit more “oomph” than most of the regular cars you see on the road here in Manila.

I decided to take the 118i for a quick food trip jaunt to the country’s culinary capital, Pampanga.

The car, of course, sports the original 1-series silhouette, but updated somewhat, especially in the rear, for a fresher, more modern look.

Let loose along Slex, the car was surprisingly agile; the lightest tap on the accelerator unleashed power I didn’t quite expect from a hatch. (I found out later the car actually possesses an inline 6-cylinder engine that produces 134 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque—not bad for a five-door “beginner’s BMW.”)

Our first stop was Apag Marangle, which is well-known for offering traditional Kapampangan fare. Afterwards we made our way to Nepo Mart for a platter of tapang kalabaw (frogmeat was unavailable) and a taste of Susie’s kakanin. We cleansed the palate with a refreshing cup of Gill’s buko sherbet.

In the smaller roads of Angeles and Mabalacat, past the green fields and through busy urban streets, I got to know the 118i a bit more.

The infotainment system was especially nifty—bluetooth connectivity was a cinch, the 6.5-inch color screen was clear and crisp, and the rotary control wheel just beside the gear stick was simple and functional.

The sound system itself was just a bit underwhelming for me, but maybe I just needed to make manual adjustments. Still, my favorite music on my Spotify playlist blaring from the speakers is a big part of what makes any leisurely drive enjoyable, and this one certainly was.

I wanted to check out something in Capas, Tarlac, about an hour away from Angeles, but we must have inputted the wrong destination on Waze because we ended up on a dusty, bumpy road.

I don’t think you’re supposed to put your BMW hatch off-roading like that, but I’m happy to report that we survived unscathed and the car handled it like a champ.

Although I didn’t get the chance to fill the trunk with luggage or any other sort of cargo, a quick check left me with no doubt that it would handle the essentials for a quick weekend getaway with family or friends.

In fact, that’s exactly my impression of the 1-series. BMW’s entry-level model is the kind you buy when you’re ready for a car upgrade because of a growing immediate circle of people in your life.

In future, you might decide to upgrade further. When you’ve reached that point in life where you finally have the means for a steak dinner or enjoy the latest blockbuster on Imax, BMW’s got just the car for you.

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