The BMW 3 Series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder
What is it?
This is the BMW 318d SE auto. The launch of the facelifted BMW 3-series marks the first time that the 141bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is available with an automatic gearbox.
This SE edition does not have iDrive, so the facelift changes are restricted to the outside of the car, with minor modifications to the rear lights, bonnet and bootlid.
What’s it like?
This superb diesel engine works particularly well in the lower-tuned set-up found in the BMW 318d SE auto. It’s near silent at idle and has one of the smoothest torque curves of any car on the market.
Even with such a good motor, there’s a lot that can go wrong when you bolt on an automatic gearbox. All too often with diesel autos, the ’box will change down as you squeeze the right pedal and leave you at exactly the same speed, between gears, with the engine near the red line.
In the case of the 318d SE auto, however, there’s no need to worry. This pairing of six-speed torque converter gearbox and diesel engine is as good as it gets. In more than 150 miles of mixed urban and motorway driving, not once did the 318d feel as though the car was in the wrong gear – not on a high-speed bend, not when changing lanes or descending a steep hill.
Similarly, despite being at the bottom end of the 3-series engine range, at no time did the car feel underpowered. It’s not quick, obviously, but the natural 3-series chassis balance makes up for any power shortfall.
Should I buy one?
The BMW 318d is certainly a tempting choice, but the 318d SE auto isn’t quite a perfect motoring experience.
The base-spec sound system functions well, but has no bluetooth connectivity – it should be standard nowadays. The run-flats destroy the ride quality in town and the handling on poorly surfaced high-speed bends.
These issues aside, however, the 318d auto remains a fine, efficient sports saloon, uncompromised by the addition of the auto 'box.