What you need to know:
If you are really looking to buy a car, perhaps a second look at the Auris is warranted? If the Toyota is not appealing, then the BMW may be even less so.
Let us start with the Auris and get it out of the way because I have a lot to say about the BMW 116i. I have to say that the Auris is one of Toyota’s finer moments in car manufacture.
It is appreciably better to drive than a lot of the white rice that they throw at their own home market, which eventually gets imported here, such as the Belta and the Ractis and Passo. Perhaps a second look at the Auris is warranted? If the Toyota is not appealing, then the BMW may be even less so.
The 116’s ride may not necessarily be a bumpy one, but it sure will be a slow one. The car accelerates to 100 from rest in 11 never-ending seconds, which is just about long enough to save up and buy a second 116i.
The car is lethargic, and it is easy to see why; the 1.6 litre four makes 114hp (two more and its name would be synonymous with its horsepower count), which is more or less what I got from my previous Mazdalago with 100cc less. A 2012 BMW with 2006 Demio power.
There is more. The car’s looks are “polarising” which, in diluted English, means “looks funny”. The proportions are a little odd. Practicality is compromised by BMW’s curious decision to go rear-drive in a segment where all vehicles pull from the front.
This means in the real world it will not seat five. There is a transmission tunnel housing, a driveshaft eating up what would otherwise be the backseat passenger’s leg space, and the boot is woefully small because there is a diff where your shopping would normally nestle.
And then we come to the real fly in the ointment; security (or the lack thereof).
Let us talk about something called “security through obscurity”. This is a concept powered by the deliberate lack of information in that a system designed or enforced by secretive methods is safe from compromise because, well, everything about it is a secret.
You cannot hack anything if you do not know how it works. Some cars have their ECUs locked through this technique to prevent random mapping by lead-footed hoons with laptops. It is not exactly a great system, but it has worked for people such as Toyota.
Enter BMW with their electronic key. Nothing wrong with that, everybody has an electronic key nowadays, even Mazda.
In the course of embracing security through obscurity (STO), they failed to develop a strict enough firewall, which allowed easy access to the OBD network, which is where and how a 1 Series is started.
With hope and prayer that thieves will not figure out the loopholes in the security (STO), and without a passcode-protected firewall, thieves did figure out loopholes in the security and blam! 1 Series TWOCcing ensued, in large numbers.
It was as simple as programming a blank key fob to crank the vehicle via the OBD port, basically anyone with a blank electronic key could log in and start up a 1 Series with a few deft keystrokes. One documented case had hackers violate the vehicle in under three minutes. It got so bad that Midlands and East London police in the United Kingdom had to remove the OBD ports from their own 1 Series fleet in fear of losing their inventory.
One Emmanuel Adebayor of Istanbul, Turkey, formerly of London, UK, lost his X6 through this subterfuge.
A software update had to be hashed up pronto to prevent the Woodstock-style, late-’60s hippie-like free love the BMW 1 Series was receiving from those who prefer not to pay for their own cars.
Scared yet? No? So we continue. The N43 engine, which is one of the pair powering the 116i (the other is the N47), has problems with ignition coils and fuel injectors.
So, do you avoid the N43 and go for the N47? You wish! The N47 on the other hand has a timing chain failure problem. Ask Subaru owners such as myself the kind of stomach-churning horror that accompanies a timing kit failure on a running engine. We will narrate a tale of pain, terror and demoralisation, and we will narrate it with a glint in our eye.
The glint not being a fiery resolve to battle timing issues to the bitter end, but a single diamond; a lone tear balancing on the edge of our eyelid as we recall the strength oozing out of our shoulders when we first heard that noise, that clatter like someone blending pebbles in a juice mixer, before the power went out from under us in a depressing surge, manifesting what car magazines refer to as catastrophic engine failure. It is not a good space to be in.
(Note: the 1.6 litre Toyota Auris does 0-100 in eight seconds)
(Note 2: A quick peek at the piston heads forum reveals that the weak security may not really be BMW’s fault after all.
European competition regulations dictate that OBD access should not be restricted, which allows non-BMW enterprises to work on the car. Interesting... It allows thieves to work on the car too.
So, is the 1 Series your enemy? Perhaps, perhaps not. If you want to do something, do it properly.
Take advantage of BMW’s superior driving dynamics and stern-oriented drivability by bestowing it with the firepower necessary and deserving to eke out the maximum driving experience from it. Get the 130i (with a 6MT); or take a glass of cold water, sober up and get a three Series instead if you really want a small BMW, or a Volkwagen Golf if you really want a German hatchback.