20 September 2012 by
Fuel economy combined: 68.9mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 10/10
The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics delivers fuel economy of 68.9mpg, together with emissions of just 109g/km CO2 – and a 15% company car tax BIK rate.
• All the many good points of the new BMW 3 Series
• Agile chassis and r ear-wheel drive handling
• Excellent economy for a premium family car – including in real-life use
• Very few areas of weakness
The new BMW 3 Series was launched at the beginning of 2012. The last generation model was seen as the class benchmark, yet BMW still found ways to improve on the old car. The result was a new 3 Series with very rounded abilities, but only now has the 320d EfficientDynamics model appeared – the version with the highest fuel economy, lowest emissions, and attractive Benefit in Kind rate for company car drivers.
The aim of the BMW 3 Series has always been to offer a car with a premium luxury feel and sporty rear-wheel drive handling. Since 2008, when EfficientDynamics technology was rolled out across BMW’s range, it has also combined class-leading economy. EfficientDynamics technology in this model includes Auto Start-Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration, Drive Performance Control (ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport modes), Electric Power Steering (EPS), Lightweight Engineering, Optimum Shift Indicator and Reduced Rolling Resistance Tyres.
The design of the new 3 Series has subtly evolved, and a new recognisable feature is the headlights which now merge with the BMW kidney grille. The only main way to recognise the EfficientDynamics model from the standard 320d is by the 16-inch ‘Streamline-style’ wheels; other models have at least 17-inch wheels. The car still looks good, but some people may prefer the appearance of a 3 Series with large alloys and low profile tyres.
Inside, the dashboard has gained some new curves and a large multimedia screen. There’s no standard Head-up Display, but you do get a satnav display between the speedo and rev counter. The iDrive controller works extremely well once you’ve become familiar with it. We did find one area that can be improved – the adjustment for the driver’s seat. It’s slightly fiddly to get the correct adjustment with the levers – electric seat adjustment is much easier.
The new BMW 320d builds on the driving experience of the previous generation model. It has an agile and supple rear-wheel drive chassis, with 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, mated to a powerful (163hp) and torquey (380Nm) two-litre turbodiesel engine. Because the front wheels aren’t doing the driving, the steering is more direct and responsive than that of front-wheel drive rivals. An important difference with the latest model is an improved ride.
The key question is, does the driving experience of the 320d suffer when it loses 11g/km CO2 in the 320d EfficientDynamics? Thankfully the answer is no – this model can still be a rewarding driver’s car. This is helped by the ability to change the car’s drive settings, between Eco Pro mode, which maximises fuel economy (by reducing the throttle response), Comfort, and Sport – which improves the throttle reaction. Although there’s no Sport+ setting, you can still select a switch to dial down the intervention of the stability control system, and combining this with the Sport setting means that you can still enjoy traditional rear-wheel drive handling characteristics.
Of course it’s still just as effective when eating up the miles on the nation’s motorways, when it provides a comfortable and refined means of transport. And for city driving, the Auto Start-Stop system will cut the engine and provide you with peace and quiet when you’re stationary in traffic. Complaints? Very few, but if we were to be picky, the engine can be a bit noisy and the manual ‘boxes in BMWs always seem to be somewhat of a struggle to get into reverse gear.
The 320d EfficientDynamics has an official combined economy figure of 68.9mpg and emissions of just 109g/km CO2. This compares to 120g/km for the standard 320d (or 118g/km with automatic transmission). One issue is that this shows no improvement over the figures of the previous generation model. This may be seen as disappointing, especially as the new model is lighter and more aerodynamic. However, although the official figures are unchanged compared to the old car, in real-life driving we found the new 320d EfficientDynamics to be more economical. Not only that, we found it to be one of the best cars we’ve tested all year in terms of real life mpg versus official mpg. A fair proportion of our test route was on motorways, which is likely to reflect real life use of the car, and we averaged 61.4mpg.
Very few cars that we test average over 60mpg in real life use, and downsized petrol engines usually end up being furthest away from their official figures. Two-litre diesels usually end up being closest to their official figures, and our experience with the 320d EfficientDynamics supports that view.
For the first time you can also specify the 320d EfficientDynamics with automatic transmission in addition to the six-speed manual. Urban fuel economy improves to 56.5mpg but extra-urban economy drops slightly to 78.5mpg; the combined figure remains unchanged at 68.9mpg.
The basic price for the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics is £28,080, however our test car had a number of options, including BMW Professional Multimedia package (£1,995), leather upholstery (£1,265), visibility package ( £925), interior comfort package (£675) and metallic paintwork (£610). In total all the options came to £7,695, taking the total price of the car to £35,775.
There’s a wide range of models in the 3 Series line-up. The petrol line-up features the 316i, 320i (including an EfficientDynamics version), 328i, 335i and there’s also the ActiveHybrid3. The diesel range features the 316d, 318d, 320d and 330d.
Trim levels are ES, SE, Sport, M Sport, Modern and Luxury. Prices start at £22,850 and rise to £43,225.
If you want more practicality, the 3 Series Touring is coming very soon.
The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics offers luxury, comfort, performance, an engaging driving experience, and high levels of economy – both in terms of its official figures and in real-life mpg. It also looks good, inside and out, and has an aspirational brand that people want to see parked on their drive. For combining all these qualities it’s difficult to award the 320d EfficientDynamics with anything less than a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10.
Car Facts and Figures
Fuel economy extra urban: 78.5mpg
Fuel economy urban: 55.4mpg
Real-life economy: 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 109 g/km
Green rating: VED band B – first year £0
Weight: 1490 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 15%
Insurance group: 31
Power: 163 bhp
Max speed: 143 mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
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