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2 Jun, 2019 11:00am Sean Carson
First report: how is our new BMW 320d junior executive saloon measuring up?
I’m lucky. I’m one of the few journalists who have already spent a lot of time with the new BMW 3 Series – and only a handful of months after the car officially went on sale. Things started back with a development drive of a prototype ‘G20’ 3 Series last July, where the car was shaping up for success.
The launch followed in November 2018, when an official full five-star verdict was handed down. Then the 3 Series rose to the top of its class with group-test victory against two of its toughest rivals – the updated Mercedes C-Class and the Jaguar XE – at the beginning of this year.
But now the actual trial begins, because over the next six months I’ll be really delving into how this new junior executive saloon measures up. ‘So far, so good’ is the report after just over 1,000 miles of driving.
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I haven’t had the car for long but I’ve already been to the Lake District and back in it, and it excelled on the long journey from my home in Buckinghamshire. It was quiet and refined, the engine torquey and the gearbox smooth, while the new damper set-up delivered a very comfortable ride.
Also, the latest infotainment and on-board technology meant I whiled away the hours listening to my tunes, with the voice-activated BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant on hand to aid me if I needed to find a fuel or refreshment stop. I even used the voice system to send a text message to my colleague Sam Naylor, who was impressed with its accuracy. He told me that while there were a few errors, where the car heard a different word to the one I spoke, following what I was talking about was easy. Many of these voice systems can be a bit hit-and-miss, so it’s good to know that I can reply to messages easily while on the move, and won’t have to stop to type a text.
On that point, a little more on the spec. We’ve gone for the £38,205 320d M Sport with the Sport automatic transmission, because it’s the best seller. A light smattering of options takes the test car’s total price to £45,405, but we could probably do without the £1,800 Technology Package that brings a head-up display, gesture control and WiFi hotspot, although the wireless smartphone charging is very useful. We’d also question the £990 Comfort Package that features a heated steering wheel, powered boot lid, keyless entry and extra storage.
This highlights to me already that what I love about the 3 Series is the core of the car, not the fripperies and extras around the edge – and at the heart of the new baby BMW saloon is the driving experience, just as it always should be. I’ll cover this in more detail in further reports, because it’s this area that’s fuelled development of the new car. However, its new platform, engine and a lot of other chassis technology mean the 3 Series is once again back at the top of the class for driving dynamics.
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However, in 2019 executive saloons have to do so much more than merely drive well. Technology is a massive factor, and so are efficiency and space. On those counts BMW has developed a new infotainment system, while the car’s aerodynamics and engine have been honed to cut through the air more efficiently and sip fuel at a slower rate.
The cabin is noticeably roomier and more accommodating than in its predecessor, too. The luggage area stays the same at 480 litres, which, so far, seems plenty for my needs. After all, even the old F30 3 Series had a bigger boot than its XE and Audi A4 competitors.
We’ve got off to a great start with the 3 Series, and it’s already measuring up well. There are a few question marks in my mind, though; I’m still not sold on the looks, although I realise that’s subjective, while there are elements to the car’s dynamic repertoire that I’d like to explore further before I pass full judgement.
* Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
5 We followed the journey of the BMW 3 Series as it made its way to production, and now it’s here we’re even more sure that it’s the best car in its class. The next challenge is to prove itself over a longer period.
- Model: BMW 320d M Sport Sport auto
- On fleet since: April 2019
- Price new: £38,205
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 187bhp
- CO2/tax: 113g/km/£140
- Options: Technology Package (£1,800), Premium Package (£1,700), Comfort Package (£990), Driving Assistant Professional (£1,250), Parking Assistant Plus (£500), instrument panel in Sensatec (£500)
- Insurance*: Group: 36/Quote: £639
- Mileage: 1,601
- Economy: 51.2mpg
- Any problems?: None so far