Better to drive than economy rivals from Audi and Mercedes
Chassis is plenty good enough to carry speed through corners
We averaged just over 50mph on 100-mile test route
Chassis provides a good ride
Steering is precise, and gives reasonable feedback
Official BMW figure is 62.8mpg
The BMW 3 Series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder
What is it?
BMW’s most frugal saloon in its 3-series range, the 316d.
Ground-breaking economy is why BMW has added this car to its range, with the downstream benefits of a £35 tax disc and low company car tax. But does it deliver?
What’s it like?
The new 316d has all the attributes that make the 3-series the most convincing model in the BMW range. The steering is precise with reasonable feedback, even on small wheels.
The chassis provides a good ride, with less tendency to understeer than its smaller 1-series sibling, and the interior is one of the most relaxing, easy-on-the-eye places to be on the planet, particularly if it has the optional brushed aluminium trim (£210) fitted to the model we tested.
BMW quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg. Over around 100 miles of mixed town and country driving I averaged just over 50mpg on the motorway and about 38mpg in town, which is close enough to make their figures plausible, even if achieving them would be impracticable in everyday driving.
In any case, this is impressive economy for a small saloon that has enough pace to move through normal A-road and motorway traffic, is comfortable cruising above 60mph in top gear (about 38mph per 1000rpm) and has a good enough chassis to carry plenty of speed through corners, the best way to achieve economy without stretching your journey times.
And it would certainly push this, the most economical 3-series, ahead of its rivals from Audi and Mercedes.
What it doesn't do, though, is place the 316d leagues ahead of other cars on sale with at least the same amount of space. A 2.0-litre diesel S-Max will quite happily achieve 37mpg in heavy urban conditions without the benefits of stop-start, and our long-term Skoda Superb - a much larger car than a 3-series - had to be driven hard on the motorway to do less than 48mpg.
Should I buy one?
On the other hand, if you're happy in a front-drive car then a well specced diesel Focus or Golf would offer the same levels of driver satisfaction and comfort for less cash.