318 iS – a response for the Golf GTi or a new idea?
The popular, performance car era began briefly after the launch of the VW Gti in the summer of 1976. This particular model is one of the most appreciated cars in the history of motoring. Combining good performance with a decent price, it instantly became a hit. But, its small size and funky looks made it more popular among the young drivers, and people that just enjoy a good drive, while the well off business men desired something bigger that fitted better their financial status. Here BMW came to help, with its E30 318 iS that had to win the fight with the second generation of the mighty GTi.
The power units
The slightly bigger 1796 cc engine from the BMW 318 iS develops 136 hp and 127lb ft of torque at 6000 rpm, and gets the power to the ground through the rear wheels.
To the help comes a five speed gearbox, with the option of an automatic unit that delivers less performance, at a higher expense and takes away some of the driving pleasure and fine control.
In comparison, the best seller Golf Gti puts out from 112 to 134 hp and 117 to 124 lb ft of torque. The 2.0 liter engine can deliver the maximum performances at 6100 rpm. The gearbox is also a five speed unit, with no option of fitting automatic transmission.
Both the cars have performance tuned suspensions and brakes that can deal with the increased amount of power coming from the engines.
Regarding suspensions, the Mac Pherson system was adopted by both manufacturers, but BMW used the semi linked rear arms, opposing to VW that sticked with the classic, cheaper solution – linked rear arms. The brakes in the BMW are disk brakes, on all four wheels, a solution that was more expensive and not yet mainstream in that period. In essence, the BMW 318 iS sticked to its manufacturer’s premium reputation, and offered a more modern approach than the Golf GTi. But all these high tech components came with a price. The 318 iS was and still is considerably more expensive than a GTi, but packed a lot more technology and safety features. It was certainly the more modern car from the two, but the an important question is raised: did all this make it the 318 iS the better car?
Is there a winner?
Is very hard to judge objectively these two cars. If you do, you could come up with two conclusions: “the BMW 318 iS is the better car because it had up to date components, and latest technologies for its period, it was sensibly more faster than the GTi, had better stability and was a lot more safer”. On the other hand, you could also say that “the 318 iS was an overpriced response to the Golf GTi, that didn’t perform much better and wasn’t as fun to drive, thus making it a pretty bad deal.”
My personal opinion is that this comparison is a bit wrong and unfair for both of the cars. As I told you earlier, it depends on what reference you judge them. If the references are technology and performance, or affordable price and driving fun, both cars win in one of them, and lose in the other. And this particular aspect makes the comparison unfair, because both cars are great achievements for their manufacturers, and very good vehicles in general. But they have different purposes, and if you see them in this manner, they both come in the first place. The Golf GTi is a great little car that will put a smile on your face when you drive it, and leave in a cloud of smoke cars that cost twice as much. This made the GTi the perfect choice for young people that didn’t had a very large bank account, but had high standards regarding driving. It is also multi-purpose, its more practical than the 318 iS, even though it is significantly smaller, has more room in the back, and plenty of space in the boot. The 318 iS is definitely the more refined car of the two. It is a BMW, and a very good one, indeed. This car has better build quality, a more luxurious interior, a better engine, and a chassis that made every journey a great driving experience. Its major drawback was the price, but that made it more exclusive, and the perfect option for the young business men that had a more than average income, and wanted to buy something that would fit their emerging social status.
Nowadays both of them became classics, and a good example may be quite expensive. Also, the price gap doesn’t exist any longer, so if you want to buy one of them, you would have to choose the one that fits you better, regardless of your social status or income. I hope that I captured their essence and I am waiting for your replies, here on the comment section.