You might remember one of my very first blogs, Chronicles of a 21-Year-Old Beemer (https://michaeldekock.com/2012/06/29/chronicles-of-a-21-year-old-beamer) from eight years ago. In that post, I had dreams of turning my dad’s little Beemertjie into a grand tourer or off-roader and fitting it with some kind of forced-induction. Yes, I was very naïve. This happened back in June 2012.
In 2013, we sold the Beemer to a guy from Polokwane who was a gardener. Right before he drove off with it, I told him in my best impersonation of Liam Neeson that if he ever takes the car ‘Spinning’, that ‘I will find him…’ He stopped by a week later to pick something up and I saw that he changed the rims from black steelies with hub-caps to the E30’s alloys. I didn’t like it. I thought about that car every day for two years. I still think about it at least once a week. Most recently, I thought of how cool it would be as a convertible here by the sea where I could have used it as a beach buggy. Anyway.
In early 2014, we moved to Cairo, Egypt, for four and a half years and returned in August 2018. I was 22 already and had been dreaming of a first car since I was 17. Well, a year and a half ago (on the 22nd of January 2019 to be exact), I finally got my first car and as you could deduce from the title, it was also a Beemer. I would never have thought that I would actually get a Beemer as a first car!
As per petrolhead custom, I started by looking at all the cars that were far outside my budget and moved downwards toward the cheaper ones. Whilst looking at BMWs, Volvos, Mercs, VWs and others, I kept having this depressing feeling that I was going to end up with a Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift or that dreaded Toyota Etios. I didn’t much like that feeling. But I persevered. I stayed clear of the Hyundais, as I find them really boring, but I knew they would be stupidly reliable. I liked the Kia Rio, but the newer model was too expensive. I then realised how expensive VW Polos were. It’s ridiculous!
In the end, I decided that I like the F20 BMW 1-Series and the hatchback Volvo V40. I checked a few Volvos out and one BMW. They were slightly higher than my budget, but I kept at it. In the end, I found a listing on Gumtree for a blue BMW 118i manual, almost the same Liquid Metallic Blue that our old 316i was. I called the dealership – who was incredibly helpful – and we drove through the next morning. I checked the car out, took it for a test-drive and instantly fell in love. We went to pick it up three days later. (We were so impressed with the dealer’s service that my dad called the same sales-person directly a few months later and bought his Santa Fé through him as well).
So here we are, a year and a half later and the Beemer is awesome! Allow me to provide the specs: it is a 2012 BMW 118i Sports-Line manual, not M-Sport. (I don’t know why there are two sporty trims.) It has a 1.6L Inline-4 (like the 316i) with a turbo (unlike the 316i). It produces 125KW and 250NM of torque through a 6-Speed Getrag manual. The engine is a joint BMW-Groupe PSA (Peugeot) endeavour called the Prince engine (known as the N13 at BMW). In BMWs, they make more power that in PSA’s applications and unlike PSA’s cars, it is mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.
In my experience with the car, the acceleration is good, but not fast. It’s not bad, but it is the in-gear acceleration that is really impressive. In 3rd going 50kph, put your foot down and you’ll be at 80kph really quickly. The cool thing about the transmission is that the gears are really long, so you can do 100km/h in 2nd if you want to. You can also short-shift into 6th doing 50km/h. As with many cars, the top gear – 6th in this case – is the economy gear, so it takes a while to accelerate when putting your foot down. However, in Sport Mode, shift down to 5th and you’ll be breaking the speed-limit in no time – not that I do that a lot, but I had two tickets in the first two months to show for this experiment.
I do have some complaints about the car though. The first not being a complaint with the car, but rather the person who specced it when they ordered it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. The button is there and it looks like the previous owner used it, but it doesn’t work. I cannot find anything in the i-Drive system pertaining to Bluetooth either.
Another complaint is towards BMW. The Prince engine is relatively small and turbocharged, so you would think that it is relatively fuel efficient? Wrong. It is much thirstier than I thought it would be and much worse than what BMW claimed. Though I don’t drive all that much and a tank still lasts me around 450km with town driving.
It recently had its first service since I bought the car and I saved up quite a bit in case it was going to be ridiculously expensive, with it being a premium German automotive product. I was pleasantly surprised. It cost about a third of what I budgeted and everything seems to be fine.
All-in-all, I absolutely love my car. Every time the garage door is open, I catch glimpses of it parked there. When I drive it – even when I’m just cruising through town at 30-40kph in 4th – I love every moment in it. Many days I still cannot believe that I actually have a BMW as a first car! I love the feeling. It drives awesomely, it’s a pleasant and dynamic-feeling and it is rear-wheel-drive! I know in the real world it doesn’t really matter what the drivetrain is for most cars, but for a petrolhead it does. I dislike driving on gravel or dirt roads as I had a bad experience once, but when I do find myself on one, I cannot help but dump the accelerator and feel the back-end kick out. It is an awesome feeling. I just wish I could get access to a skidpan…
©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK
Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.