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How good is the new BMW 3 Series Saloon?

If you’re looking to lease a mid-sized saloon car, it’s no doubt that you’ll have come across the BMW 3 Series during your search. Previous 3 Series models had a reputation for being one of the best saloon cars on the market; for driver enjoyment, comfort and practicality. But can the newest generation 3 Series match up? Let’s take a look and see…

Which car did we drive?

We tested out the 320d xDrive M Sport with optional M Sport Plus Package, Comfort Package and Technology Package. Here are all of the details you need to know:

Colour: Black Sapphire Metallic
Interior: Black with Blue stitching Vernasca Leather
Transmission: Automatic
Model Line: xDrive M Sport
Wheels: 19" Bicolour Jet Black Double-spoke style 791 M light alloy wheels with run-flat tyres
Engine: 2.0 litre Diesel
0-60: 6.9 seconds
Power: 190 bhp
Emissions: 136-27g/km
Price: OTR from £30,915 Price of model driven: £44,970.

The Design

The iconic kidney grille, low profile and wide stance give the 3 Series an impressively aggressive appearance. Something that you’d undoubtedly take note of if it pulled up behind or alongside you at a set of traffic lights. M Sport models stand out even further with ‘M’ light alloy wheels and aerodynamic bodystyling.

This car had black metallic paint with the black leather upholstery and blue contrast stitching available with the M Sport Plus package. In addition to the standard kit on an M Sport model, the M Sport Plus Package also gets you 19” Bicolour jet black double-spoke alloys, the high-gloss shadow line exterior trim and a sports spoiler, which looks good and also produces down-force to create greater stability when driving.

The Drive

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to engine variants, and the 3 Series Saloon can come as a petrol plug-in hybrid, purely petrol or as a diesel. We drove the 320d xDrive M Sport Saloon, so ours was a 2.0 litre diesel engine that produced 190bhp and went from 0-62 in 6.9 seconds. It was also All-wheel drive and produced a fairly respectable 117 g/km of CO2.

Whilst this one doesn’t pack the punch of the 330d or the slightly ludicrous petrol M340i, this diesel accelerated really well, and brought a massive smile to my face in Sport mode on winding country lanes on a drive to Cornwall. The sleek aerodynamic design keeps the car rooted to the road, and the steering is weighted yet incredibly responsive.

The M Sport Plus Package gets you the addition of the highly sought after M Sport Braking system, and in turn some really good looking blue brake callipers. In terms of economy, the diesel 3 Series’ are always pretty respectable. On a 160 mile round trip to Cornwall we averaged 47.9 mpg, which really isn’t bad considering we tested out Sport Mode once or twice…

Technology & Connectivity

This model had a 12 inch digital driver’s display as well as a 10 inch central touchscreen with BMW Live Cockpit Professional. It’s worth noting once more that whilst this car comes with Apple CarPlay capabilities, this car will not allow Android Auto. Sorry to all you non-Apple users. The driver display is controlled by the steering wheel, whilst the central screen (either 8” or 10”, model depending) is operated by voice, touchscreen or by the highly intuitive rotary controller – my preference whilst on the move to avoid unnecessary distractions.

This 3 Series also came with the BMW personal assistant – which is essentially the same concept as the Mercedes MBUX system seen in the new A-Class, GLC or E-Class, and uses voice commands to control the system and allows the car to get to know your preferences over time.

Our car was also fitted with the optional Technology Package, which got us the following:

  • Head-up display – 3D graphics displayed on the window directly in front of the driver to minimise distraction on the road. It’ll show navigation prompts, speed and even media to prevent the driver from having to divert attention back to the touchscreen too often.
  • Wifi hotspot preparation
  • Harmon Kardon Surround Sound
  • Wireless charging
  • BMW Gesture control – which allows the driver or front passenger to change the radio sation, turn up the volume and answer or reject a call with a gesture (only available on M Sport models).

Comfort and Space

Slightly larger than the previous generation 3 Series, the 2020 model doesn’t disappoint when it comes to space, comfort and practicality. Boot space is 480 litres and our car was fitted with the optional Comfort Package, which allows for extended storage, extra USB ports, Keyless entry, an electronic tailgate and a heated steering wheel. None of which are necessities, but do make the overall experience and lot more… well, comfortable.

The opulent feel is added to with the ambient lighting, and soft leather upholstery that featured in this model. 4 adults wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a long journey in this car, and I recon even 5 would manage for a considerable amount of time. Take a look at our time spent in the Volvo S60 to see what space was like there.

Safety and Security

All models get Active Guard Plus, which comprises of front collision warning and brake intervention, lane departure warning and a speed limiter.

The lane keeping assist is HIGHLY sensitive. It quite literally throws the car back into the lane if you don’t indicate (Perhaps to quell those ‘BMW Driver’ stereotypes). So, indicate or turn it off. We were unprepared for the force of it, so make sure you’re not. It also didn’t particularly like going through areas of temporary road works with narrow lanes. The steering felt heavier and we were constantly aware that if we were to veer, the Lane Keep might throw us back towards another close vehicle.

Model Lines: What you'll get

SE

  • 17” alloys
  • Adaptive led headlights
  • Tri-zone automatic air con
  • Ambient lighting
  • 8.8 inch touchscreen
  • Cruise control Matte black exterior trim
  • Parking assistance and reversing camera
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Automatic headlight activation

Sport

  • Upgraded 18”alloy wheels
  • High gloss back exterior features
  • Sports seats for the driver and front passenger
  • Larger fuel tank
  • Heated front seats
  • Aluminium door sill finishers

M Sport

  • ‘M’ aerodynamic body kit
  • Upgraded ‘M’ alloys
  • Sports steering wheel
  • Leather upholstery
  • 10.25 inch screen with BMW Live Cockpit Professional
  • Anthracite headlining
  • M Sport braking system

M Sport Plus

  • 19” alloys
  • Variable sport steering
  • ‘M’ seat belts
  • Sun protection glass
  • Adaptive ‘M’ Suspension.

‘M’

  • 19" M light alloy Double-spoke M wheels
  • Bicolour Cerium Grey with mixed and run-flat tyres
  • Twin turbo six-cylinder in-line petrol engine
  • Cerium grey finish, dual square exhaust tailpipes
  • BMW advanced loudspeaker system
  • M rear spoiler
  • M seat belts
  • M Sport braking system
  • Sports automatic transmission.

Final Verdict

The good points are always going to outweigh the bad with the 3 Series. And even the bad… aren’t really that bad. For example, whilst the Gesture Control is an exciting piece of tech, if the driver or passengers are animated talkers, then this feature might be a bit problematic. On a two-hour trip down to Cornwall, myself and Marketing Manager, Sarah, must have accidentally changed the radio station or blasted up the volume unintentionally at least a dozen times whilst we chatted. The Heads up display was also amazing- although in bright sunlight it becomes defunct – not to worry though, just go back to the digital drivers display to get any of the information you want.

In all honesty, that, and those two things as well as the overzealous lane keeping assistant were the only real quarms I had with the car... And I wasn't the only one impressed. A direct quote from Sarah was "I know what I want my next car to be". Now Sarah is famously the least…enamored, shall we say - with luxury cars, so for her to rave (and look up lease deals) following her drive is a pretty big deal.

I would 100% recommend the BMW 3 Series. The only difficulty I’d have would be choosing which model line to go for.

Which cars compete with the BMW 3 Series? Read our list of the top compact Saloon cars on the market here.

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Posted on 9th March 2020 at 4:45 PM

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