The seventh generation BMW 3 Series has arrived and what an insanely potent (and sensible) machine it is. When insiders claimed that it would bring the name back to its roots as a more driver-focused touring car, they weren’t kidding. The G20 3 Series is wider, lower and it comes with a flat underbody. These are appointments normally reserved for performance cars and yet they’ve found a home on this modern four-door sedan.
Has ‘sheer driving pleasure’ been resurrected? Let’s find out.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
0-100kmh: 5.8 seconds
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 190kW and 400Nm (330i model)
Fuel consumption: 6.4L/100km (330i model)
1. You can’t call the 3 Series boring anymore thanks to its sharp new design.
From the front fascia to the rear end to the raised sideline profile, the new 3 Series is a proper departure from conservative design. BMW added more angles and edges to increase the car’s presence. The optioned wheels even have a self-levelling BMW logo as found in Rolls Royces – i.e. the wheel spins but the logo doesn’t.
2. It manages to squeeze impressive power out of a four-cylinder engine both in petrol and diesel formats.
That’s because it’s the most powerful four-cylinder to ever power a 3 Series BMW. And this fact translates perfectly on the road where the car seamlessly weaves through traffic and gets going with ease on the wider open roads.
3. We actually preferred the 320d’s diesel motor for this particular leg of the trip.
Despite the 50kW drop in power compared to the petrol model, the 320d actually felt more responsive and smoother throughout our drive with sport mode activated. Both the diesel and petrol get the same 400Nm rating but the latter does sound nicer at higher RPMs.
4. A four-door sedan shouldn’t drive and feel like this, but it does…
Tight, responsive, impressive feedback and superb ride quality is the only way to explain the 3 Series’ handling characteristics. BMW have the car’s tricky new dual phase suspension to thank for this as it enables the car to eat up questionable road surfaces with little drama. Lean into a corner hard and the car’s suspension stiffens allowing it to feel much lighter nimbler than what it is.
5. Did we mention the chassis is smarter, too?
The car boasts a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, it’s 55kg lighter than the previous model and has improved rigidity in the region of 25% – 50%. These figures all play into the car’s superb handling capability and road feel which we can’t praise enough. You can thank Nurburgring testing for that.
6. Air curtains in the front grille, flat underbody at the bottom.
The aero game is strong in this one. BMW’s signature front kidney grilles now flow into the headlights and come equipped with ‘air curtains’ which channel air into the engine bay when cooling is needed and closes off when it’s not (engine warm up). This ensures engine performance is always at optimum levels no matter how you drive the car.
7. Freakish automatic reversing still takes some getting used to.
We previously trialled this new technology in the new X5 and it now exists in the new 3 Series. Under 36km/h the car is recording and tracking your every move. It remembers where the parking spot was and parks itself as the driver watches on via the centre console.
8. The interior is much more streamlined and cleaner to look at.
In true German (and BMW) design, the interior is sleek, sophisticated and tactical with minimal clutter to distract and a nice ‘aluminium teragon’ finish.
9. Dash plastics were a bit harder on our standard trim diesel model.
In standard trim and without some interior options ticked, the car can feature some harder plastics on the dash. A minor issue but one we noticed.
10. Leather seats with adjustable side bolsters will bring back your inner-boy racer.
The M Sport bucket seat option receives electric-adjustable side bolsters which are very nice place to plant yourself when you need comfort and support.
12. The full digital tacho is brighter than my future.
It took us a while to warm to full digital dashes but BMW’s one is one of the finest we’ve encountered – informative, uncluttered, vibrant and just the right amount of info the driver needs.
13. The HUD was also more vibrant and helpful than expected.
No speeding tickets for us. There’s a HUD in every new 3 Series as standard and it’s bigger than the outgoing model’s.
13. Your in-laws might hate you but they won’t complain about the interior space.
A longer wheel base means there’s more cabin room for them to enjoy as you decide which nursing home to drop them off at. There’s even 480-litres of luggage capacity to save you the removalist fees.
14. We expected more from the 330i M Sport edition but it will do for now until the M3 arrives
The white car looked faster than it went. It wasn’t slow in anyway, it just featured very cool M-Sport options which made it look more aggressive than what it was. Alas, it was just cosmetic.
15. USB-C ports are included which is good for future-proofing.
Too bad we’re still using a dodgy old iPhone 6.
16. It will keep you out of trouble even if you love trouble
Short of being David Hasselhoff’s talking car, the new 3 Series is safer than a tank with brains. Lane departure warning, reversing cameras, parking assistance, front collision warning, speed limit updates and adaptive LED headlights makes this a winner.
17. Fuel economy on the 320d model is laughable…
Laughably good at 4.5L/100km.
18. A wagon version could be on the way…
Shooting brake fans rejoice. BMW reps were tight-lipped about confirming a potential wagon variant, but they said that if it does arrive, it will come between between 6 – 12 months after this base model’s debut.