BMW 320d Luxury

BMW 320d, front
BMW 320d, side
BMW 320d, rear
BMW 320d, upright
BMW 3 Series, Luxury trim, interior
BMW 3-Series, side

IF God had designed a compact executive saloon one could possibly conclude he might have come up with the BMW 3 Series.

While such a statement might sound a little like one of those advertising campaign slogans designed to elicit complaints - and therefore oodles of additional publicity - it does go some way towards summing up the fact that this is the car that in its segment is the one all others seek to match.

The 3 Series has been the pace-setter since 1975, largely due to its exceptional driving dynamics and its success has been such that it is in many ways the bedrock on which BMWs continued good fortune is based.

Consequently the arrival of an all-new 3-Series is a significant milestone in the automotive world and though not marked by any major fanfares you can be sure many are watching with great interest.

My first thoughts were that this latest 3-Series doesn't look all that different to the last one - a good example of evolution rather than revolution.

More by accident than design I ended up being parked right next to one of its predecessors in a supermarket car park and to a certain degree it was a case of spot the difference.

Close inspection reveals a sharper and tightened profile, more aggressive even as if declaring its intent.

There are big changes on the interior too where BMW have dispensed with the modern slightly asymmetrical console which might not have been to all tastes and adopted a more traditional though very classy interior.

The once tricky to operate i-Drive system - which almost everyone aped - now works wonderfully and is easy and intuitive to operate.

One of the biggest changes of the latest generation model is an extended wheelbase which means rear seat passengers have a whopping additional 100mm of legroom, which makes a real difference. They also get more headroom too.

And what of those trademark driving dynamics? Suffice to say the 3-Series maintains its awesome reputation in this regard, as good as one would expect and with an added edge that is perhaps hard to quantify over its predecessor.

The knock-on effect of this is that virtually any journey becomes a real joy, particularly when one gets the chance to get off the main drag and explore some uncongested B roads where the 3-Series really comes into its own.

Ride quality is in no way compromised either, despite that sporty feel.

The 320d might be one of the mass sellers that sits near the lower end of the range but it still has a great sporting character and that indefinable quality that ensures this is a car people will continue to aspire to.

Engine developments mean it is around four per cent more fuel efficient than before and theoretically capable of more than 60 miles to the gallon. In the real world I was averaging high forties, slightly more on long journeys.

My only slight gripe would be that this diesel engine probably isn't one of the quietest around. It certainly doesn't have that ‘is it - isn't it' character that makes you continually wonder whether it's diesel or petrol.

But overall it really is hard to fault this new model of an all-conquering car that really shows no sign whatsoever of relinquishing its much coveted top spot.

FAST FACTS

BMW 320d Luxury

Price: £30,580

Mechanical: 184bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 7.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 61

Insurance Group: 32

C02 emissions: 120g/km

Bik rating: 17%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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