What is it?
Our first introduction to the renewed 3 Series suggested the unthinkable: BMW’s bestseller might just have lost its mojo. The range-topping six-cylinder 340i we pitched against Jaguar’s XE in southern Germany was brutally fast, but perhaps not quite the driver’s car we’d been hoping Munich would deliver.
Happily a more recent taste of the car – this time a 320d M Sport on more familiar UK roads and without the unwelcome variable sport steering option ticked – was far more encouraging, and showed the 3 Series to be, in many if not every respect, much improved.
And you’d jolly well hope so, because while it looks barely any different from outside there have been some pretty significant changes. The suspension is now anchored to the body at more points to make it more rigid, the anti-roll bars have been thickened and stiffened, and the whole car has been dropped by 10mm. That’s on top of improvements to the interior and a welcome boost in standard equipment.
But now we’re back on foreign soil, this time in northern Spain, for our first try of the new entry-level 318i – interesting if only because it’s the first time a manufacturer has had the bottle to slot anything less than a four-cylinder engine into an executive saloon.
You’ll be familiar with the new 318i’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo motor from our reviews of the Mini Cooper and the 2 Series Active Tourer, where it’s proved rather impressive. But satisfying the performance and refinement demands of executive saloon buyers is quite another matter, and that’s the challenge here.