The new BMW 3 Series Saloon has taken the limelight from its predecessor
As the latest in a long line of class-leading saloons, there were high expectations for the new 3 Series
When it comes to car launches, the 3 Series is probably one of the more anticipated models. As one of BMW’s best sellers, to both private and business customers, you can almost guarantee it’ll sell.
That being said, it doesn’t mean those buyers will be happy with anything. Since it was introduced in 1975, BMW have sold more than 15 million of them worldwide, and it’s expected that this latest version will carry that trend.
With an upgraded interior, new engines and sharper drive, the 3’s doing well on paper. It goes without saying, however, that we’re more concerned with its on-the-road ability.
Quite the upgrade
With solid competition from the Audi A4 and Alfa Romeo Giulia, BMW has overhauled the 3 Series in the hope of putting it on a level playing field.
Starting from the bottom, a new and lighter chassis pairs with a wider track to lower the cars centre of gravity and up the dynamism.
The new model’s A-pillars are also filled with foam and sit aside a windscreen made from acoustic glass. All the changes are geared at a quieter and more comfortable drive.
Numbers you expect from the 3 Series
We tested the 320d engine, one of the manufacturer’s more popular units, with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The auto can also be coupled with the xDrive all-wheel drive setup, but our model was rear-wheel driven – the 320d’s standard drivetrain.
The power output is more than most drivers will need, with 187bhp and 400Nm of torque. Under the new WLTP test, combined fuel economy’s been calculated between 52 and 53 mpg.
Although you mightn’t hit those figures yourself, it suggests a decent score for a car that’s not lacking on power – with the automatic gearbox, the 320d has a 0-62 time of less than seven seconds and a top speed of 149mph.
More performance if you want it
For those after even more, the 330i M Sport is the model of choice. It’s the most powerful option at launch, with a 2.0-litre petrol turbo with a more-than-healthy 254bhp.
It’ll also go from standstill to 62mph within six seconds and is fitted with the M Sport suspension as standard, offering a lowered ride height for a more dynamic ride. Adaptive suspension is also an option.
Although there a number of more
powerful models to come – not least when the new BMW M3 rolls up in the next
year or so – the 320d is by no means a shoddy alternative.
What’s the 320d like on the road?
The 3 Series has always sat at the higher end of its class in terms of its ability on the road, even in the more practical guise of the 320d.
If it’s a question of the new model living up to that name, in short, it does. But not in the way its predecessors have. The steering feels more precise than on the outgoing model, and it corners effortlessly.
There’s also an impressive lack of body movement and at higher speeds in particular it, rides quite smoothly. It’s a nice motor to sit in, too – road noise is kept to a minimum at most speeds.
Our tester was fitted with optional acoustic side windows, but the standard acoustic front screen also had a part to play in noise levels.
Obviously, it looks cracking
There’s little doubt this is a 3 Series, with the signature kidney grille and flared wheel arches, but one that has more in common with the larger 5 Series.
The front air intakes and headlights are more imposing, but only to a degree and without taking anything away from the car’s good looks.
You can add any number of M Performance extras, from bigger alloy wheels to more prominent body kits, but it’ll still look pretty impressive without. And it’s just as appealing on the inside, with the use of premium materials and upgraded digital dials standing out.
Choose your spec
With the number of current-gen 3 Series knocking about in the fleet market, business users will be expecting a jump in design and standard equipment before they opt for the new model.
The 3’s base spec – SE – comes with 17-inch rims and adaptive LED headlights as standard. Those alone are solid extras to get for no additional dosh, but it also has heated front seats and a reversing camera.
Jumping to the M Sport spec gets you 18-inch, twin-spoke alloys, and an electric sunroof.
The LaserLight LED headlights are also an option on all models. You need to add the Visibility package and High-beam Assistant to get them – a £1,500 premium – but they’ll give excellent visibility at night.
With the likes of Audi, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz competing in the same class, and doing it well, there’s a lot riding on the new 3 Series.
And we’re in little doubt that it’s delivered. The new model is just as complete a package as the one that came before it – with excellent build quality and an impressive drive – but it also seems fresher with an improved interior and a ridiculous list of standard features across all trims.
You can expect the new BMW 3 Series will be just as popular as the model it replaces.
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