Sport models have a far better ride than old M Sport variants
More than 50mpg is a real possibility in the 320d
BMW 320d has a 7.5sec 0-62mph time and a 146mph top speed
'Angel Eye' headlamps are standard-fit
2.0-litre TwinPower diesel offers 181bhp
BMW 3-series has a well-built cabin, but could be too 'disco' for some
The BMW 3-series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder
First DriveNew plug-in hybrid 3-series is claimed to return up to 131mpg with CO2 emissions of 50g/km
First DrivePractical 3-series estate loses some of the saloon’s edge, but engine and transmission impress with controlled pace and economy
What is it?
Step straight from an outgoing BMW 320d M Sport into this new-generation 320d Sport, and it’s easy to see that BMW has tackled the three weakest areas of the old model with some success.
What’s it like?
First, the ride. True, the test car came optionally kitted with the adaptive M Sport suspension that does a fine job of smothering bumps, but equally it rides on 50-section run-flat tyres, and even in the firmer Sport and Sport Plus modes it delivers a fluency of motion that you simply won’t experience in the old M Sport 320d. The gearchange has improved too, from being springily obstructive to smooth-moving and compliant when warm.
More subtle – though not when it fails you for the umpteenth time – is a sat nav that picks more intelligent routes and manages to serve instructions before you get there rather than just as you’re driving by it. Day-to-day, that makes a difference.
BMW’s 2.0 181bhp TwinPower diesel serves up the same impressive blend of sporting performance and heart-warming economy, mileage in the high 40s a certainty with 50mpg-plus a real possibility, especially when you engage the Eco-pro mode and follow its advice. If all this sounds a bit worthy, well, keen drivers will almost instantly notice the sharper steering, this 3 Series changing direction with the agility of a cat on the run but without any of the nervous darting. It rounds corners with such ease that it makes the outgoing model feel slightly slow-witted, though it’s hardly that.
All of which makes the 320d feel a more polished machine than the last, good though that was.
Should I buy one?
Usefully, it’s also a little roomier too. Still, it’s not all perfect. The light, background grumblings of the diesel are beginning to sound slightly uncouth compared to VW’s latest 2.0 TDI, the driver’s seat is only slightly less fiddly to adjust than before - and still denies you standard-fit lumbar adjustment - and some may consider the Sport’s cabin décor a bit disco. But that’s largely it, this latest 320d proving to be a mightily accomplished car.
BMW 320d Sport saloon
Price: £29,080; Top speed: 146mph; 0-62mph: 7.5sec; Economy: 61.4mpg; Co2: 120g/km; Kerbweight: 1495kg; Engine: 4-cyls in-line, 1995cc; Power: 181bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual.