While the 3 Series may be the nucleus of the BMW range, so too is the four-door saloon the central core of the 3 Series, from which all the other models like the Touring extend like spokes on a wheel.

In design terms, the F30 3 Series is a better looking and more distinctive shape than its ultra-conservative E90 predecessor. It’s a large car, longer overall than a 5 Series of 30 years ago and with a longer wheelbase than a 5 Series of 20 years ago.

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Impressively smooth ZF auto gearbox is well matched to the 3.0-litre motor

Overall length has grown by 93mm compared to the E90, with over half of that being between the wheels. Yet proportionally the track has swollen even more, to give the car an unprecedented footprint. However, by using higher-strength steels, BMW has been able to reduce the amount of metal used while improving safety, increasing rigidity by 10 per cent and dropping weight by a total of 40kg.

The changes in proportion don’t make the 3 Series appear as enlarged as it is actually is. Instead, it seems lower, sleeker and more sporting. This effect is enhanced by the front grille, which is lower and wider than ever, and narrowed headlamps giving a more gimlet-eyed appearance. There’s a double swage line at the side and strong horizontal creases at the back, all tasked with tricking the eye into disguising the car’s physical bulk.

The facelift overhaul to the 3 Series’ suspension has been made possible by a change to the way the car’s various combination of struts and links mount to the body.

Anchored at three points previously, the car’s suspension is now secured at five separate points per corner, allowing for better rigidity and robustness from the suspension assemblies themselves and more effective support of the car’s weight.

The more solid mountings have in turn allowed BMW to increase the car’s suspension spring and damper rates without adversely affecting its refinement levels.

So stiffer springs and new twin-tube dampers appear on the car as standard, with adaptive dampers continuing as an option that come in tandem with a 10mm drop in ride height.

As for the range itself, even if you’re not after one of the many different body types and restrict your trawl to the saloon only, you’re going to need to set aside a lot of time with BMW’s configurator, paper and pen to work out which is best for you. First up is engine choice with a wealth of four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel options to peruse.

The petrol range is made up of 2.0-litre units powering 316i, 318i, 320i and 330i, while a straight six is found under the bonnet of the 340i. Heading up the diesel range are different tunes of the same 2.0-litre powerplant which you will find in the 316d, 318d, 320d and 325d, while the 330d and 335d come with BMW's six-cylinder oilburners. As you will find with the saloon, the Touring is also available with xDrive which has the capacity to drive all-four wheels, however naturally defaults to rear-wheel-drive in most instances and can be chosen with either the 320i, 320d or 335d versions.

ZF’s emissions-saving eight-speed automatic gearbox comes as standard our 330d, as does Servotronic variable-assistance power steering (choose a less powerful engine and you have to pay extra for both). But it wouldn’t be like BMW to give everything away for free. The Adaptive M Sport suspension of our test car, which allows you to tailor the damping control to suit your mood, is an extra, as is the car’s non-speed-dependent variable-ratio steering.

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