Fuel economy combined: 44.8 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 10/10
The new BMW 3 Series Saloon is here; the 320d will be the fleet favourite, and our obvious choice, but the big news is the petrol 328i , which combines 245 hp with 44.8 mpg and 147 g/km CO
All new 3 Series models are available with a standard six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed automatic, and the auto offers levels of economy that are better, or the same, than the manual, due to it providing a wider spread of ratios than the previous six-speed auto unit.
In the case of the 328i, the auto returns 44.8 mpg versus the manual’s 44.1 mpg, and has lower emissions of 147 g/km CO 2 compared to 149 g/km.
The new 320d is a similar story; the automatic manages 62.8 mpg and 118 g/km CO 2 emissions, compared to 61.4 mpg and 120 g/km for the manual.
The 320d EfficientDynamics will again form part of the new 3 Series line-up, and it’s now available, for the first time, with the automatic ‘box; both transmission variants return 68.9 mpg with emissions of just 109 g/km CO 2 .
The fourth and final engine available at launch will be the petrol 3.0-litre six-cylinder TwinPower Turbo unit in the 335i.
There are no dramatic economy improvements with the new diesel models, but the 4-cylinder 328i replaces the six-cylinder 3.0-litre engines in the previous 325i and 330i. With a 0-62 mph time of 5.9 seconds in manual form, or 6.1 in automatic, it’s quicker than both, and more economical (the outgoing 325i could only manage 39.2 mpg).
All engines in the new 3 Series Saloon feature BMW TwinPower Turbos and EfficientDynamics technologies, including auto stop-start fitted to all manual and automatic versions, along with brake energy regeneration, on-demand control of engine ancillary components, and tyres with lower rolling resistance.
Despite the new car being slightly larger, weight has been reduced by up to 50kg compared with the previous model. The drag coefficient (Cd) is also down to as low as 0.26 thanks to optimised aerodynamics, including a streamlined underside, covers which create a diffuser effect at the rear, and aero curtain channels in the front bumper that reduce the air turbulence created in the arches by the front wheels (responsible for a 1 g/km CO 2 emissions reduction).
Light-alloy wheels, at least 17 inches in size and fitted with run-flat tyres linked to a puncture warning system, are now fitted to every version apart from the 320d EfficientDynamics, which has 16-inch aerodynamic alloys and non-run-flat tyres. The rolling resistance of the tyres has been reduced by 15 per cent compared with those on the previous model, with no loss in their performance.
Whichever model you go for, there are changes throughout the new 3 Series range. Although it may not look radically different at first, the entire car is all-new; the most obvious visual change is the way the front headlights now extend inwards right up to the grille. The body design looks lower, wider and generally more sporty, and it’s physically lower at the front of the bonnet. At the rear, the styling – including the flared arches – makes the car look wider, even though it’s actually the same width as the outgoing 3 Series. The car looks good in photos but looks even better in the metal, when it appears perfectly sculptured, building on many of the design cues, such as the rear light clusters, that appear in the 5 Series.
The car is slightly longer (by 93mm), and the wheelbase is 50mm longer; the main benefit of this being more room for passengers in the rear, and even the rear doors now open wider. The boot is 20 litres larger, at 480 litres.
The interior is also new, with a dashboard that is more angled towards the driver, and the top of the dash features curves and the meeting of different surfaces, providing a welcome move away from the normally very linear BMW dashboard design. The interior also feels higher quality then the previous-generation model. Depending on the trim level, the dash can come with features such as a coloured stripe (in Sport trim) or textured wood (in Modern trim).
As well as all versions of the new 3 Series Saloon now having iDrive as standard, Drive Performance Control is also included, featuring ECO PRO (which maximises economy), Comfort and Sport modes. Sport+, which disengages an element of traction control, is included only on Sport models or with selected optional equipment.
We tested the 320d and the 328i on long, twisting mountainous routes in Spain. Both cars have controls that feel perfectly weighted, from the steering to the accelerator to the brake pedal. And both cars are also comfortable, quiet and refined under most driving conditions. But the big news about the new 3 Series is how it combines an excellent ride – no matter which of the Drive Performance Control settings are chosen – with genuinely agile handling. ‘Agile handling’ is a term that the BMW marketing department loves to use, but the rear-wheel drive chassis, with 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution, really does have a fluidity that no other car in this class can match. And in the case of the 328i, generous power delivery is added to the mix.
The 320d performs impressively on motorways and dual carriageways. Only when pushed to its limit on the relentlessly winding and undulating mountain roads did the engine start to make sounds of protest. So for progressive driving through the mountains, the 328i, with its 245 hp and 350 Nm of torque, would be our engine of choice. The four-cylinder unit may ultimately not be as relaxed as a six-cylinder BMW powerplant, but the 328i effectively combines a refined, practical saloon car and a sports car into one.
The 328i costs £29,060 – this is £2875 less than the equivalent outgoing model, yet it has more power and better economy. The 320d costs £28,080 (the 320d EfficientDynamics is the same price), which is only a very small premium (£180) over the outgoing model. However to get the slightly improved economy, in any model, you’ll need to specify the auto transmission, which is an extra £1660. You’d have to cover a lot of miles to recoup this extra investment through fuel savings.
The 335i is also now available; at £35,525, this has quite a hefty price premium over the 328i.
Within a month after launch of the above models, three new engines will be added. There will be the 316d and 318d diesels, powered by 116 hp and 143 hp variants of the 2.0-litre diesel engine, plus the 320i, featuring a 184hp version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. By this stage, there will be eight versions of the new 3 Series Saloon with CO 2
emissions at or below 120 g/km.
Also new for this generation of 3 Series, and influenced in part by the recently-launched 1 Series, are six trim levels: ES, SE, Sport, Modern and Luxury, and M Sport will follow.
All models have more standard equipment than the outgoing 3 Series, including 17-inch light alloy wheels, automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth, BMW Professional radio with 6.5-inch colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, USB, a multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening.
SE trim is available with all engines except the 335i, and includes different alloy wheels, rear Park Distance Control, two-zone air conditioning and a rain sensor with automatic light activation, for an extra £850. Sport and Modern versions are £1,000 more than SE, while Luxury is £2,500 more than SE.
‘Sport’ model features include a high-gloss black interior with a red line of trim. ‘Modern’ models aim to provide a more natural appearance. ‘Luxury’ models offer high quality materials and high levels of equipment. ‘M Sport’ models will have lowered and stiffened sports suspension, a body kit, and 18-inch M light alloy wheels.
As you would expect with BMW, there’s a huge options list including items such as a full-colour head-up display which shows current speed limits, the car’s speed and satnav directions.
Yet to come, towards the end of 2012, is the ActiveHybrid 3. Based on the 335i, this will be a performance rather than an economy-focused hybrid; returning 44 mpg, there will be no economy advantage over the 328i, and a large price premium is likely.
Other engine options are also on the way, such as a new 330d, which promises to have even more impressive performance and economy statistics than the current unit.
A four-wheel drive version will also follow, again in 2012. BMW’s xDrive system has been available on the 3 Series in Europe for a number of years, but it has previously never been made to work with right-hand drive cars.
Touring, Coupe and Convertible versions will also be coming.
The new BMW 3 Series does a pretty good job at being the only car you would ever need. It’s a sensible saloon with a decent boot. The new model looks lower, more curvy and more sporty. It has superb rear-wheel drive handling, and it also has a comfortable ride. It has the agility of a sports car, and with the 328i engine, it has the engine of a sports car. With the new trim options, there should be a specification that suits most people.
Are there any serious downsides? Amazingly, not really. The main issue with the 328i is that it’s not the most economical of cars; but if you want the promise of 60 mpg+, then you’ve got the 320d. You’ll be perfectly happy with the 320d for the vast majority of driving. It’s only when you want to really press on along challenging roads when the 320d becomes a little strained, both in terms of ultimate performance, and its vocal qualities.
For combining all of the above attributes with virtually no significant faults, the BMW 328i gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10. Such an award may sound surprising for a car that only returns 44.8 mpg, but although it may not be the most economical of cars, when you take the entire package into account, it’s a class-leader.
So BMW has done it again. The new 3 Series had to ensure it was ahead of the competition as an overall package, as well as in the area of efficiency. It has succeeded. It easily retains the title of the best driver’s car in this sector.
Fuel economy extra urban: 54.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 34.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 147 g/km
Green rating: VED band F – First year £130
Weight: 1495 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 13%
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 245 hp
Max speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 6.1 seconds
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