Fi­nally, an en­try 3 Se­ries that’s wor­thy of the BMW badge

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On The Web - PAUL POT­TINGER paul.pot­tinger@cars­

BMW’s old 320i was pretty lame. The new one has the heart to match the han­dling — as long as you get cer­tain op­tions

THEY re­ally should have changed the name.

Un­til last week the des­ig­na­tion 320i stood for the nadir of the pres­tige sedan: the over price­dun­der done-hav­ingy­our­self-on-bough tfor-the-badge’s-sake four-door.

But as of next week, 320i rep­re­sents what is pound for pound the best buy not only in the 3 Se­ries range but also ar­guably the seg­ment.

Not only does it suc­ceed where BMWS need to— in near peer­less dy­nam­ics and urge— but also in be­ing ob­tain­able by pun­ters who re­ally want a proper BMW. In Ger­many last year,

Cars­guide drove a 5 Se­ries with the sparkling N20 turbo petrol four-cylin­der en­gine in the same tune. We boldly pre­dicted the much lighter and more nim­ble 320i would rock. How very grat­i­fy­ing it is to prove our­selves right.


At $57,600, the 320i is one of two new en­try vari­ants. The 318d— the base model diesel also out this week— is $56,400. The prices are de­lib­er­ately pitched a few grand un­der MercedesBenz’s C200, to lure those with leases and first-time pres­tige pun­ters from top-end Asian and ’ Strayan built cars.

You doubt this? In a mar­ket where the C-class is the best-sell­ing mid-size im­port of any seg­ment, any­thing is pos­si­ble.

This sticker is also, if not in dol­lar terms, in­trin­si­cally the best price yet for a new 3 Se­ries, given the stan­dard eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, su­perb turbo en­gine, mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem and op­tional vari­able drive modes. Choose from four trim pack­ages: base, Sport, Mod­ern or Lux­ury. Com­pare and con­trast, mull it over, ask your mates . . . then choose Sport. Anm sport op­tion comes soon, but re­ally, must you?


In full 328i tune, the four smashes six-cylin­der op­po­nents. In the 320i, the 135kw/270nm avail­able is all you could need in civil­ian de­ploy­ment.

Un­der com­bined con­di­tions it uses pre­mium juice at the rate of 6.6L/100km and its 0-100km/h time is some 7.5 sec­onds— these fig­ures are surely enough to com­pel all but the gotta-have-the-top­spec crowd.

We have curled the lip some­what— well, I have— at bmw’s pen­chant for multi-drive modes. Why not just a de­fault that’s good enough, with a sport but­ton for the hell of it?

The 320i re­minds us why hav­ing Eco, Com­fort, Sporty (and the op­tional Sport+) is not so naff. Each is dis­tinct. Each works in its own way. They’re must-haves.


Bet­ter in ev­ery par­tic­u­lar than the pre­vi­ous 320i, the new­bie is also big­ger— it’s about the size of a 5 Se­ries from a decade ago. Grow­ing up and out hasn’t hurt aes­thet­i­cally. This is the best-look­ing 3 Se­ries four­door to date.

The cus­tom­ary ac­cents are pro­nounced— dou­ble kid­ney grille, short­ish front over­hang, Hofmeis­ter kink in the rear side win­dows— but with a lower, more in­tent stance.

Within, the South Africanassem­bled 3 Se­ries is not quite as im­mac­u­late as the Audi A4 or as op­u­lent as the C-class, but in this driver-ori­ented cock­pit it is im­pos­si­ble not to get com­fort­able— the per­fect driv­ing po­si­tion is a few han­dle cranks and wheel ad­just­ment away. The seats are a study in how to com­bine com­fort for cruis­ing and sup­port for pushon driv­ing.

They hy­draulic hand­brake is a wel­come old-tech note.


Five stars and ev­ery acro­nym known to hu­man­ity. Then there are the neu­tral bal­ance and rear-drive dy­nam­ics that flat­ter the ham-fisted.

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