What is it? The 3 series is the most important vehicle in the BMW range and it’s a car we’ve had a long love affair with. BMW’s engineers have spent the past three years working on this new version, we like to think of it as refashioning almost perfection.
Who is it aimed at? The 3 series has always enjoyed an army of devoted fans in search of the ultimate driving experience. With the new version BMW has added super fuel economy to the mix to tempt even the more practical drivers.
Styling? The current BMW styling works best on the 3 series. The sculpted bonnet, the stretched kidney grill and the modern lines simply oozes sophistication.
Under the Bonnet? Our test car was the BMW 320d SE, likely to be one of the most popular choices in the new range. It has a top speed of 230 kms and dashes from 0 to 100 in a nifty 7.6 seconds.
What’s it like inside? Inside the increase in space is immediately apparent. The seats are supremely comfortable and the driving position almost perfect. The interior is familiar BMW, minimalist and simple yet purposeful. Thanks to the iDrive system all controls are easily accessed from one point. Rear passenger leg room has increased and boot space is larger (now up to 480 litres). All of this is a very welcome improvement on the previous model.
On the Road? Press the start button and instantly you are reminded why this is such an iconic car. It is an intoxicating car to drive and is perfectly balanced with a super refined engine. On the road it is lightning-quick and has the capacity to reassure and thrill in equal measure. The steering is incredibly accurate, the gear shift smooth and its road manners are impeccable.
And Safety? The 3 is equipped with a host of advanced technology that works to avoid a crash or in the case of a collision dramatically assist to reduce injury.
Options? Six trim levels are on offer, the ES, SE, M Sport, Sport, Modern and Luxury models. In addition all models including the ES have high levels of standard equipment, including 17-inch light alloy wheels, automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth, BMW Professional radio with 6.5-inch colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, USB, a multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening. Optional parking aids include Park Assist, which allows the car to parallel park itself, a reversing assist camera and surround-view cameras.
How about Fuel Economy? Although larger than the previous model it is also more fuel efficient. The combined fuel economy is a very impressive 4.5 litres per 100 km (62.8 mpg). Emissions are just 118g/km so the annual motor tax bill is the lowest possible at €160.
Okay so the verdict? Our love affair continues… the 3 series is a super car, it is fast, nimble and the handling is as good as ever. BMW have raised the bar again and the new 3 leaves rivals standing.
Why you’ll buy one? Outstanding efficiency; driving dynamics; rivals feel like yesterday’s car.
Why you won’t? Extensive options; Expensive options
Audi A4 2.0 TDi S-Line 177bhp €48,740
Mercedes C-Class C220 CDI BlueEfficiency Avantgarde €44,040
Lexus IS200d F-Sport €39,365
BMW 320d SE Saloon 2.0d
Engine: 1995cc diesel putting out 184bhp @ 4,000rpm and 380Nm of torque from 1,750rpm
Max speed: 230 kms
0-100km/h: 7.6 seconds
Emissions (motor tax): 118g/km (€160)
Starting price: €35,600
Model price range: €35,600 – €58,590 (Test car €46,007*)
No of Doors: 5
Euro NCAP: Not tested
Fuel type: Diesel
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): 4.5 litres per 100 km or 62.8 mpg
Boot Capacity Seats up: 480 Litres
Car Seats: Isofix points for two car seats in the back, both simple to access
*Options included Automatic Gearbox, Servotronic Steering, Reversing Assist camera, Seat Heating, Brushed aluminium trim, Extended interior light package, Headlining, Anthracite
26th June, 2012