A slicker sticker

Now there’s a 3 Se­ries that costs Ja­panese money

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE ED­I­TOR paul.pot­tinger@cars­guide.com.au

THE cheap­est BMW3 Se­ries this cen­tury is in show­rooms next month.

Priced from just un­der $51,000, the 316 i is the lat­est salvo in the pres­tige pric­ing war. Last week Mercedes-Benz an­nounced its new CLA four- door coupe will have a sim­i­lar sticker price.

The least ex­pen­sive 3 Se­ries since the ’ 90s also has the small­est ca­pac­ity en­gine, run­ning the 1.6-litre turbo petrol four from the smaller 118 i and the Mini Cooper. It’s good for 5.9L/100km through a stan­dard eight-speed au­to­matic and a 0-100km/h stroll time of 9.2 sec­onds.

BMW says it is vis­ually all but in­dis­tin­guish­able from the rest of the range save for 16-inch al­loys and man-made up­hol­stery. The stan­dard kit runs to rear park as­sis­tance, Blue­tooth and 6.5-inch mul­ti­me­dia screen. There is no satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, nor will the en­trant take M-Sports sus­pen­sion.

The 2 Se­ries range of com­pact coupes is not here un­til next year. How­ever, BMW spokesman Scott Croaker de­nies the cut-price 3 Se­ries is a hold­ing ac­tion against the CLA.

‘‘ It’s a bit early for any im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion or price fight,’’ he says.

‘‘ But what’s hap­pen­ing in the com­pet­i­tive field at this price point is ob­vi­ously very im­por­tant and this is a good op­por­tu­nity to take fo­cus from some of the com­pe­ti­tion.’’

Pres­tige cars con­tinue to cost less than ever. Due in time for Christ­mas, the CLA is the least ex­pen­sive Mercedes of its type ever sold here. Last month Mercedes re­leased the A-Class hatch at $36,000, or less than a ba­sic Com­modore.

The un­prece­dented plunge into af­ford­abil­ity by pres­tige brands puts pres­sure on the Ja­panese and VW— the new Golf is re­leased next month.

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