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