From £28,35010
Price, fuel economy, range and depreciation

Next to the Audi A4 40 TDI S line S tronic (£36,945) or Jaguar XE D180 RWD R-Dynamic SE (£37,615), the £36,515 sticker price for a manual-equipped 320d M Sport seems very competitive. Both rivals might offer similarly generous levels of equipment as standard, but the Audi’s relative age and front-driven configuration serve to dampen its appeal next to the BMW, as do the Jaguar’s performance and fuel economy deficits.

And it’s economy that might just be the most attractive real-world quality of 3 Series ownership. Set to Eco Pro mode, the manner in which the 320d reservedly sips away at its fuel defied belief among our testers.

Freshness of the 320d, and popularity of the C-Class, delivers a sizeable relative lead in residual values for the BMW

At a sustained 70mph cruise, the trip computer returned an average figure of 63.3mpg. Accounting for the BMW’s 59-litre fuel tank (you only get a 39-litre tank with SE trim cars), this amounted to a potential touring range of 821 miles.

The good news continues when you get to depreciation, too, as the BMW is forecast to outperform those rival products from Audi and Jaguar. After three years/36,000 miles, the 320d M Sport is expected to retain 44% of its original value, versus 41% for the Audi and 37% for the Jaguar.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - BMW 3 Series