The BMW 116i ES is easy to love and easier to hate, some people claim. So, let us
first consider why it makes motorists weak at the knees. At £18,030, the 116i ES is the
cheapest new car in BMW's range. Prices for the 3-Series start at £22,695, the X3 costs
from £31,440, and the top-spec 7-Series costs an alarming £102,525. The 116i ES also
has fun-focussed handling, rear-wheel-drive, excellent build quality, and a pleasing
equipment specification. Furthermore, the 2.0-litre 122bhp petrol engine feels punchy
and propels this lifestyle statement to 62mph in a reasonable 9.8 seconds. Unlike its
predecessor that has looks only a mother can love, this new version is fairly attractive too.
That is a healthy list of plus points but there are negatives too. One major consideration
for buyers of this type of car is image. Fair enough, the 116i ES proudly sports its 'BMW'
badge. But so what? It feels like everybody has a new BMW these days - and every one
of them is more prestigious than the base-spec 116i ES. And is this Volkswagen Golf rival
worth the money? The Golf S 1.4 TFSI is faster to 62mph, has more torque, near identical
fuel consumption, and costs £800 less. It also shares the BMW's rock-solid handling and
build. The 116i ES is a nice car - but so are many of its cheaper rivals. So, love or hate it?