Sporty German sedans combine class, cred and willing performance. Craig Duff adjudicates
Misses out on the latest technology, from adaptive cruise control to autonomous emergency braking, but otherwise well equipped. The warranty is three years/100,000km and servicing costs run to a budget-boosting $1240 for five years/80,000km. That’s cheaper than many capped price deals from mainstream brands.
There was nothing wrong with the looks so the midlife revisions are relatively minor. Front bumper air vents are reprofiled and LEDs illuminate the front and rear. Head-up display (an option on the Benz) is always welcome. The dash has more chrome bling and a sliding cover for the cupholders replaces the inelegant liftout lid that marred the previous interior. Soft-touch plastics enhance more surfaces and leather upholstery is standard.
An eight-speed auto is standard across the 3 Series range, matched to BMW’s modular design engines where each cylinder is 500cc. The 330i shares its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with the 320i but it is wicked up to deliver 185kW/350Nm. Claimed fuel use is a modest 5.8L/100km yet the sporty sedan can hit 100km/h from rest in a more than respectable 5.8 seconds.
The physical safety of the 3 Series can’t be argued. ANCAP tested the 320d in 2012 and it scored 36.76/37. The 330i steps that up with blind-spot monitoring, lane departure alert and light emergency braking to minimise impacts at up to 60km/h, backed by six airbags. The 3 Series will also steer itself into a parallel or right-angled parking spot.
Adaptive dampers are the default setting and underbody changes have helped restore the balance between comfort and cornering. It still isn’t as convincing over low-speed lumps and bumps as its rival but it is great through the corners. The engine is a willing collaborator in everything from cruising the ’burbs to cranking it on the back roads. The eight-speed auto is also a touch smoother on the early upshifts than the Mercedes seven-speeder.