Contemplating the BMW 330d’s place in the motoring world as we move into a brand-new decade is a fascinating undertaking.
Just over 20 years have now elapsed since the first 30d-badged BMW 3 Series rolled off the production line in Munich, Leipzig and Regensburg, kick-starting a phenomenon in the process. Those particular E46- generation models were by no means the first Threes to use oil-burning six-cylinder engines, but their arrival marked the birth of what could be one of the most multi-talented vehicle genres to date: the performance diesel compact executive car.
A sub-8.0sec 0-62mph time was a headline-grabbing statistic at the time. But of even greater significance was the 330d’s ability to merge that performance so coherently with competitive long-range economy, upmarket quality and BMW’s dynamic driver appeal. For the next two decades, successive iterations continued to build on and improve these highly appealing themes.
Fast forward to early 2020 and the automotive landscape has changed out of sight. Electrification is on the rise, mainstream cars are downsizing and shedding cylinders, and increasingly strict, environmentally driven means of taxation coupled with general consumer uncertainty have eroded the appeal of diesel cars – with the grander, pricier and more performance-oriented models suffering worse than most.
Simultaneously, the smaller capacity variants that might once have been considered the ‘lesser’ offering in the line-up are reaching new heights of competency and appeal, with greater performance, refinement and economy than ever. BMW’s own 320d is a case in point, having won our five-star recommendation last year.