• BMW 3-series
    The 3-series remains strong in the areas it has always excelled but now it's more rounded than ever
  • Vertical intakes are part of the air curtain system, which smooths airflow around front wheels for improved aerodynamics
  • There's a connection between the grille and headlights for the first time since the E30
  • Alloy wheels are standard on all models
  • The sides have a double swage line. The first runs from the headlight to front door, the second from front wheel to rear light
  • Cabin surfaces are covered in soft-touch plastic. The multi-adjustable seat should provide comfort for most drivers
  • The car’s extra length improves rear passenger comfort. Legroom has expanded by 100mm, headroom by 30mm
  • The 3-series’ boot has also grown to 480 litres. Folding rear seats allow for bigger, more awkward shapes
  • The Three has an oil temperature gauge, not the industry standard water one, so you know when it’s safe to extend the revs
  • Typical size for the class; touring economy delivers 700-mile cruise potential in the 320d
  • Six-speed manual unit gets dry-sump lubrication and delivers light, smooth, well defined shift quality
  • The 320d is so flexible, it makes one wonder why buyers would need anything else – unless ultimate power is your thing
  • Electromechanical system has rack-mounted motor; optional variable gearing quickens steering ratio as you add lock
  • BMW calls them 'double-joint spring struts'. They offer displaced wheel camber and anti-dive compensation
  • Outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder

You’d not be wrong to call it like a BMW, only more so. As ever, BMW has avoided the temptation to go for a luxury feel in either classical vogue like a Mercedes or of a more modern bent, like an Audi.

Instead, the interior design concentrates on proliferating the sense BMW would like you to have that all its cars are strong of limb, clean cut and functional to the last. So what we have here is a pared-back, simple approach to cabin design, long on ergonomic efficiency and short on gimmicks and trivial surprise and delight features.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The red stripe emblazoned across the dashboard of our Sport-spec test car is likely to be a polariser

The driving position is impeccable and offers a vast range of seat and wheel adjustments. The central display now offers a 6.5in colour screen on which all functions operated by the now world-class iDrive control system are displayed.

Even first-time users will find the system easy to operate, while those familiar with iDrive's ways will find it so intuitive that it can be used almost without conscious effort or thought as to which button to press or direction in which to push the controller wheel.

All the extra space between the wheels has been dedicated to providing those in the back with some much-needed extra room. The front seat package has therefore changed hardly at all, while long journeys in the back are now if not exactly to be savoured, then certainly no longer to dreaded by anyone up to and including averaged-size adults.

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