An automobile with four cylinders is completely matured. In these times of downsizing and hybridization, this is one of those auto truisms that is gradually losing its relevance. Why not in the tiny class? There are already even upper-class SUVs with mild hybrid three-cylinder engines, so why not here?
The BMW 1 Series, Seat Leon, and VW Golf all use three-cylinder petrol engines in their base models, although there are minor variances. In the test cars with 110 horsepower on these pages, the VW Group depends on a one-liter engine backed by belt starter generators and a 48-volt electrical system. Both versions are theoretically available without e-support and with 90 horsepower, but the Golf with this drive is now unavailable – allegedly because to a shortage of chips.
BMW 116i: 109 horsepower, 190 Nm, 7.9 l/100 km in tests, starting at 26,850 euros, basic price series 26,850 euros.
With 1.5 liters and 109 horsepower, the BMW triple in the 116i is a touch more generous. The BMW’s entry-level model starts at 26,850 euros, with 16-inch steel wheels and halogen headlights, but a M Sport model, such as the one in the test, costs at least 32,750 euros. A seven-speed dual clutch gearbox is also available for an additional 2,100 euros.
BMW: The joy of saving
The test car is worth roughly 55,000 euros with all of the optional accessories, although not all of them are beneficial or even required for driving enjoyment on the 116i. This is how an affordable motorized base model can go without the 18-Customs aluminum with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (2,460 euros), albeit the investment pays off with extremely strong braking values: The small BMW cuts a lot of ground here with 34.6 meters from 100 to 0 km/h, even if the competition is slowing down at a comparable rate.
The three-cylinder, on the other hand, is unable to fully use its higher displacement of 500 cm3. He moves more slowly, accelerates more slowly, and pays less attention to the gas pedal than the one-liter engines in the Golf and Leon, which have minimal hybrid assistance.
Dispensing with this technology has an influence on fuel economy, since the 116i uses roughly one liter more than its competitors in all scenarios. The fact that the BMW three-cylinder is also rougher and noisier than the VW Group‘s one-liter turbos adds to the sensation that you may have cut corners at the wrong end.
Seat Leon 1.0 eTSI: 110 PS, 200 Nm, 6.9 l/100 km in tests, starting at 26,520 euros, basic price series 21,090 euros.
Instead of emphasizing the engine’s brilliance as it formerly did, BMW appears to have been pushing operation as a hallmark of the brand for some time, and the 1 Series may do the same. The iDrive rotary push button is once again completely developed, complex, and intelligently segmented for control of the numerous functions.
In any event, it doesn’t operate as smoothly and naturally with the Leon and Golf, but the same can be said with the contemporary 1 Series: The redundancy in operation with iDrive control, touchscreen, and gesture control (300 euros) appears to be more perplexing than beneficial – something that also applies to the instrument design.
Space is not one of the 1 Series’ best qualities, especially in the rear, where you sit extremely close together. The loading volume, on the other hand, is in a format that is class-standard. At the very least, the switch to a front-wheel-drive architecture appears to have paid dividends.
Seat: sheer driving pleasure
The Seat, on the other hand, has significantly more area. Even the Golf is no longer available; the Skoda Octavia, at best, is almost as airy. As a result, the Leon is nearly unrestricted as a long-distance four-seater for adults, especially given the trunk is spacious enough at 380 liters.
The Seat’s comfort-oriented chassis is a big part of why it’s such a lovely friend. Despite the 18-inch wheels (710 euros), it handles bumps almost as gracefully as the Golf, which is excellent in this regard, and stays calm even while driving on the highway with short, hard transverse joints. This is all the more impressive considering that both Group vehicles use the simpler torsion beam rear axle.
The compliment does not, however, apply to the service. The Leon is equipped with the current iteration of the MIB system, which is also found in the Golf – with a few minor differences that make it more difficult to operate. These include, for example, the interactive symbols on the touchscreen that may not always disclose what is concealed behind them. The steering wheel function with the two rotary rollers on the right and left for changing the radio volume and scrolling through the menu, on the other hand, is more successful than the VW’s.
In the engine chapter, the contrasts between the platform brothers are less pronounced, which is unsurprising. The three-cylinder in the Seat uses somewhat more premium gasoline than the VW, although this is within measurement tolerance.
Because the Leon test car is significantly heavier than the Golf at 1,344 kg, weight may have a little influence here (1,316 kg).
After all, it’s a few millimeters longer, wider, and has a longer wheelbase, and greater dimensions normally indicate more weight. Of course, the BMW is heavier in this comparison, weighing in at 1,399 kg.
Otherwise, there’s not much to complain about with the Leon 1.0 eTSi’s driving; it’s smooth, quiet, and consumes 6.9 liters of Super on average. It can be even more cost-effective, because with a little restraint and a forward-thinking driving style, you can easily maintain your long-term gasoline usage below six liters.
VW: The pleasure of truth
This goes without saying for the VW Golf, which only used 0.2 liters less gasoline in the test.
In real life, however, identifying variations in consumption between the Leon and the Golf requires a close examination. Both group brothers are subject to the following: The 110-horsepower three-cylinder engine is portrayed as an equally harmonic and cost-effective drivetrain that, when combined with the attentive seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, seldom inspires the urge for more engines. Fast motorway travels, for example, are one of the few times when you would want the engine room to exert additional pressure.
The operating of this Golf is likewise more inconvenient. Dealing with the insensitive and incidentally unlit virtual slider in the center display, the too small-scale steering wheel controls, the strange control island for light functions, or the nested and not always very logical menus on the touchscreen and steering wheel tends to annoy even after dealing with the new system several times. After all, the lime yellow test car had no software problems.
What’s more, the human-machine interaction may cost the Golf its relevance – the Golf, once the automobile for everyone from rookie drivers to senior couples, is no longer so unconditionally applicable. In the present Volkswagen, older and less computer skilled consumers may not feel as welcome.
In addition, seemingly little factors, such as price lists that are no longer readily available on the Internet or at merchants, contribute to this.
If you’re wondering why the Golf continues to win this group test, it’s because it drives so well. Handling, driving comfort, and driving characteristics come together as a seamless whole, giving the impression of a well-engineered, finely tuned car worth a few extra euros.
Hardly any other small model springs as comfortable and harmoniously, has such a balanced application, since it is equally precise and relaxing, as well as a drive that equally combines outstanding driving performance with great savings potential. We haven’t even discussed the adequate area for passengers and luggage. That is not the case with the Gölfen, which has four cylinders.
With its balanced chassis and smooth drive, the Golf is ahead this time – despite the inadequacies in operation.
Although the Leon is a little cheaper and more spacious than the Golf, this time it comes in second – partly because it doesn’t brake quite as well.
The 116i can do little against the duo from the VW group. It offers less space, consumes more fuel and is also noticeably more expensive.
|BMW 116i M Sport||Seat Leon 1.0 eTSI FR||VW Golf 1.0 eTSI Life|
|Base price||€ 34,850||€ 28,420||€ 28,605|
|External dimensions||4319 x 1799 x 1434 mm||4368 x 1800 x 1442 mm||4284 x 1789 x 1491 mm|
|Trunk volume||380 to 1200 l||380 to 1301 l||381 to 1237 l|
|Cubic capacity / engine||1499 cc / 3 cylinder||999 cm³ / 3-cylinder||999 cm³ / 3-cylinder|
|power||80 kW / 109 PS at 4300 rpm||81 kW / 110 PS at 5500 rpm||81 kW / 110 PS at 5500 rpm|
|Top speed||200 km / h||192 km / h||202 km / h|
|0-100 km / h||11.5 s||11.1 s||11.1 s|
|consumption||5.1 l / 100 km||4.4 l / 100 km||4.3 l / 100 km|
|Test consumption||7.9 l / 100 km||6.9 l / 100 km||6.7 l / 100 km|