Owner Review: Alternative to Uncle's Car? - My Process of Owning & Refining the BMW 320i

Owner Review/Jun 26, 2020 08:50 PM

** This article is the personal experience of a 2016 BMW 320i Sport Line owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar

Facebook: Andrew Chum


Prior to Purchasing the BMW 320i

This is my current daily, a 2016 BMW 320i LCI Sport Line. I purchased this car back in early 2017 from Premium Selection after considering a numbered of cars in the same segment as well as a different segment with a similar price range. The survey started more than 6 months before settling down with this unit.

Since mid-2016, I had numerous visits to different brand showrooms as well as events to search for a good car to replace the 9th Gen Honda Accord 2.0 VTi-L. No, the 9th Gen Honda Accord was not a bad car at all, however, the 2 airbags, as well as an underpowered engine, were my major concern to replace it with something safer and more powerful to drive to carry my family around and have something fun when I'm driving alone. Coming from the Volkswagen TSI + DSG experience in the past, the Accord experience was far from powerful but it was the perfect family car with a huge amount of space and great reliability.

My very first choice was to get an SUV to have a different experience as all my previous cars were mostly saloons and hatchbacks. I have shortlisted the F48 BMW X1 sDrive 20i and I went to test drive it at the BMW event in Bukit Jalil. The driving experience was great, but the air conditioner was not cold at a hot afternoon and the seat of the BMW X1 is not comfortable for my body size.

The other cars that I have tested were the Mercedes Benz C-class, GLA, Audi Q3, BMW 328i, 320i LCI, Volkswagen Passat B8 2.0HL and the Subaru Forester. All of them are not bad, but the one that really got my attention was the BMW F30. Coming from a 2.0 i-VTEC NA, the 328i felt a bit scary on acceleration, so the 320i LCI was the obvious choice for me. The air conditioner of the BMW F30 was way better than the BMW X1. My family member sitting at the back can feel the coolness and was not sweating like the BMW X1.

Decision to Purchase

The BMW X1, being an FWD platform as well as the hot air conditioner and seat issues stopped me from purchasing it. I was in a dilemma as my intention was to replace the Honda Accord with an SUV and not another saloon car, but the driving experience of the F30 was lingering my mind all the time.

In early 2017, after knowing BMW Malaysia discontinued the 330i and 320i due to the arrival of 330e, I know this will be the last chance for me to get it. In order to replace the reliable Accord, I set my expectation to only change it if only I am able to find a 320i LCI, Alpine White, less than 1000km unit and price at not more than RM200k. Finally, AB KL is having the exact unit that I am finding.

Collection Experience

My experience in collecting the Ultimate Driving Machine is as expected from a premium brand. The sales advisor was explaining well on some of the features of the car as well as several important notes. Guiding me to download the mobile application and demonstrating what can be done with the mobile application. There is no service booklet or user manual as all of those are available in the iDrive system.

Ownership Experience

The BMW 320i LCI Sport Line is surprisingly a very comfortable car. The suspension is very balanced between comfort and sport. Since this is not an M-sport model, I can definitely feel the body roll on cornering, but it is comfortable to drive my family around.

BMW added some goodies to the LCI. The car came with BMW Connected Drive. It allowed me to connect with the car via a mobile app to perform the below commands:

  1. Ventilation - turning on the fan remotely to ventilate the car for 30 minutes
  2. Lock/Unlock the car
  3. Turn on the light
  4. Activate Horn
  5. Locate the car
  6. Call Roadside Assistant

Another safety feature worth mentioning is the SOS Emergency Call. There is an SOS button located near the rearview mirror that I can press to connect to an operator when there is an emergency. In the event of airbag deployed, the car system will inform an operator to call to the registered phone number and if I did not pick up, the operator will send an ambulance to the known location of the car.

The 320i also gets comfort access as well as hands-free kick operated boot lid. This will prevent the mistake from locking the car boot with the key inside.

The dashboard of the car rather plain, but this is not a problem for me as the driving experience is much more important. After reading numerous reviews on BMW iDrive, it is true that this is easily one of the best car infotainment system in the market. There is no learning curve and the UI/UX is straight to the point.

The rear of the F30 is more spacious than the C-class W205 in both legroom and headroom. The rear seat bench is also longer than the C-class, this helps the rear passengers to rest their knee especially on long-distance travels. 

The boot volume is 480 litres and the seat is not foldable. The opening is wide and the boot space is square for the ease of loading items. It is sufficient for small family use.

Speedometer

There is a disappointing factor is that the car is coming without a reverse camera. Well, I have to accept the fact that even the 528i does not come with it. Therefore, one of the very first "modification" is to add a reverse camera. An original reverse camera costs around RM2,000 but the quality is good and most importantly the video feed is visible during at night.

Noise, vibration & harshness (NVH)

The BMW F30 is poor in NVH as reviewed by most people. However, I found out that the NVH is not as bad actually. Wind noise will start to be noticeable when driving above 150km/h and that can serve as a warning to the driver (and passengers) that the car is travelling above the speed limit.

One complaint that I have on the soundproofing is the roof. The "attap roof" sound is very noticeable during raining and it can be loud enough that your rear passengers will need to raise their voice when talking with people sitting in front.

Drivetrain

The BMW B48 2.0 litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine pair with the ZF 8-speed gearbox provides a very smooth driving experience. Gear shifting is lightning fast, other than shifting from gear 1 to 2, I am not able to feel the gear change unless I take look at the engine rpm. I can barely rev the engine on day-to-day usage and gear changed at as low as 1500rpm. The engine is revving at below 2000rpm when travelling at national speed limit.

There is a famous issue with the B48 engine which is the water hose. There are quite a lot of units of B48 sent back to the service centre with water hose failure. So far it happened twice for me throughout the 3.5 years ownership on low water temperature. The service centre did pressure testing for me and there was nothing wrong with it, perhaps I am the lucky one (or maybe not lucky enough to claim a new set of hose).

BMW Driving Experience Event

There was an opportunity when BMW organised the Driving Experience event in Sepang. In order to understand the car better, I signed up for the event. That year the training car was the F32. It is my luck that I get to experience a car that is very close to my F30. The event includes defensive driving as well as a taxi ride on the circuit. After participating in the event, I am now able to understand the handling of the F30 more and knowing if the car is closed to the limit.

Modification

Coating & PPF

"It is not easy to take care of a white car", as said by most people. After thorough research, I decided to go for a coating. I had chosen Ceramic Pro due to the 5 years warranty and free maintenance. The coating includes exterior as well as the interior. The headlamp was also wrapped with PPF as these headlamps are not cheap to replace.

This picture was taken after 2 years of the coating. I am sending the car for maintenance at least once a year and it is absolutely free.

Body Kits

The BMW F30 looked much better in its M-sport body kits, maybe this is also the reason that I didn't take many pictures of the car in the Sport Line body kit. After surveying from a few shops, finally, I have settled with Taiwan AN's body kit due to the quality. I have changed the front bumper, 3 stripes grill, side skirt, rear bumper as well as the M3 style side mirror. The roof is also wrapped in black after the body kit modification to match with the side mirror and front grill.

Yes, I know I need to do something with those rims…

Volt Rectifier

All the cars owned by my family are using the ESP Volt Rectifier for better pick up response. So there is no difference for the BMW as well for better throttle response. The difference is not as obvious as my Honda Accord but I definitely feel that the car has better response after installing this. This does not increase any horsepower.

Drivetrain

After getting used to the rear-wheel drive, 50:50 weight distribution car for 3 years, I have to get used to the power as well as handling. It is time to modify in order to have a new feeling of the same car.

Having a group of friends that tried a trusted ECU tuning, I have decided to go for Aktiv+ Stage 1 tuning as it is closed to Bootmod3 and does not over boost to a dangerous level like some other tunes in the market.

The car feels much more alive after the tune and definitely I am now having the new feeling that I am looking for. After having this power, I started to feel that I need more traction (yes again, I know about the rims and tyres) and brake. Those will be the next modification on the list.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness

As I have mentioned about the wind noise as well as "attap roof" noise above, some modifications were being done to solve it.

Chassis Foaming was done on A and B pillar as well as the undercarriage for better handling, comfort and some help on wind noise. After the foam, the wind noise is now noticeable at above 170km/h.

Foaming process

Foaming the undercarriage

At the same time, I have also done some work soundproofing the roof. It is a 3 layer soundproof to solve the "attap roof" noise as well as some heat deflection. There is no more "attap roof" noise and I can enjoy my music after completing the roof soundproofing.

Original roof soundproofing

Roof soundproof

Audio

BMW upgrade the sound system of the 320i during the facelift. It now has 9 speakers (instead of 6 in pre-LCI). The stock sound system is very good overall. The middle speakers are good but a bit lacking on bass and on high frequencies.

In order to enjoy my music better after foaming and soundproofing, I have added a sub-woofer, upgraded the mid speaker, 2 ribbon tweeters, 4 pieces of mystic sound wood and passive crossover.

The sub-woofer is installed under the glove box (strange but that was how the shop did it for many F30s) and it works.

2 mystic sound wood on the dash (for the sound to focus on mid)

Another 2 at the side of the rearview mirror

Sub-woofer installed under the front passenger glove box

Pros & Cons

Ratings

Total Score: 4/5

Performance: 4/5

Quality & Features: 4/5

Space: 4/5

Ride Comfort: 5/5

Fuel Economy: 4/5

Price & Cost: 4/5

Conclusion

Every car came with pros and cons. As part of the search of my ride, I will always segregate the cons into two categories:

  1. Can be fixed after purchase
    • Example: reverse camera, soundproofing, audio system and other accessories
  2. Cannot be fixed after purchase (or too expensive to fix)
    • Example: chassis, engine, gearbox, built quality and safety features like Airbags, AEB, LDW, LKA, etc.

For the cons on point 1 above, they are something that I can do to fix or mitigate it, hence it will not be an issue to purchase the car with these cons.

Those fall into the second category will be something that I must ensure that I am willing to accept it and live with it throughout the entire ownership of the car. The cons that fall into this category will be the deciding factor before purchasing the car.

The BMW F30 is with me for about 3.5 years now and it had been a hassle-free experience. It served me well and I enjoyed every moment driving the car.

I wouldn’t compare my “boring” dashboard against other makes including those from the non-premium brands like the Mazda, Peugeot or Volkswagen as I have made my choice in the first place. It is the same that I will not compare how the F30 drives against the Mazda 6, 508 or the Passat as each of them are unique and drives differently. Love what you buy and buy what you love.

Last but not least, I am aware that there is a stalk on the left of the steering that can tap up and down to blink some light, I am making use of it all the time and sometimes pushing the stalk.

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