BMW has a rich history when it comes to solid, driver focused cars, and the new 3 Series is no exception. Strictly speaking the 3 Series shouldn’t be compared to the the C-class, or even the A4, but it does, and for good reason.
This exceptional car has very little strangeness to it, except for the blue strip that runs through most of the cabin. There is nothing wrong with it per se, but it does on occasion come off as cheap, especially when touched.
Another interesting design feature is the gauge cluster. BMW has stuck with the very old fashioned orange back lighting comes to the dials and buttons, but the seamlessly integrated digital displays inside the cluster makes it modern and retro at the same time. It doesn’t take very long to get used to, and for some reason, it works.
A small chime will sound when you leave open the door, don’t buckle up, forget to put the car in park (or drive) or leave the lights on. This all fine and dandy, but in this case, these chimes sounds less like something from a car, and more like an error message from a older version of Microsoft Windows. I know Microsoft have developed some of the software for BMW, but we don’t need to be reminded of it.
The buttons. The sweet little buttons. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it does make you question yourself every now and again. I thought I pushed the button to roll down the windows, but I had to press it again, just to make sure.
Adopting a rather aggressive stance, this 3 series is lower than you would expect, and while the rear wheels looks a bit small on the standard models, the Alloys that comes with the M package does seem to fix the perspective problem.
Heritage is preserved as well. You still get the L-shape hidden in the tail lights, the shark fin antenna completes the roof line as it did in previous models, and the twin kidney grille is now more prominent. It is a really good looking car, with loads of small details that require attention.
Despite it being rather low, there is no lack of cabin space. The height adjustable seats makes sure there is enough headroom, and legroom for the rear seated passengers. I did find getting that perfect driving position required some fiddling, so much fiddling in fact that I had to get out of the car to allow for precise adjustments.
This 320i was fitted with the sport seats. Some may find it a bit snug, but it is quite comfortable. Small detail that could be found outside carries over to the inside. Thin blue threads breaks the black of the leather, while subtle textures on the console takes away any smooth surfaces.
Nothing feels out of reach, or requires effort, but you will need to look twice in some cases if you want to change from radio to media on the infotainment system for example.
One main issue I have is where the warnings and notifications are displayed. If you don’t set your steering position properly, you will not be able to see it clearly.
Road noise is also more than you would expect from something like this, but it still is acceptable. The biggest issue I have is with the sunroof. The wind noise emanating from that thing may drive some people nuts, but, once again, to have the sun shine on your bald patch just makes life so much better!
Mercedes offers comfort, Audi offers technology, and the BMW offers fun. It is built to drive. Steering is precise, throttle response is quick, and when you plant your foot, all hell breaks loose. That is until you change it into Sport +. Gear changes are now even faster and more brutal, the engine revs freely and the speed climbs faster than you would care to know. There is no compromise in this area, in fact, the 8-speed DSG gearbox has to be one of the best I have ever come across. Smooth and precise does not even begin to describe it.
Ride quality can be a bit harsh at times, but it still offers some comfort over bumpy roads. This is mainly due to the M designation, where the suspension is stiffened up.
At speed the car felt a bit light, but it never felt like it was going to let go at any stage, neither did it feel unbalanced, unpredictable or unstable. In fact, it does make you feel like you could try your luck on a track.
This 320i is happy doing legal speeds, but it does keep on reminding you that you are going slow. Its very happy being manhandled, and being driven like a bat out of hell.
This BMW is built for driving. The verdict is still out if I would have the M pack as an added extra, but my mind is made up on the 3 series as a whole. I like driving, and the 3 series offers everything I want, but I am not sure I would enjoy it every day. There are so many good cars in this segment, that despite everything, I will most likely walk away, but in doing so, I know I will regret it one day.