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First Drive

First Drive: BMW 3-Series

BMW 320d SE 4dr manual
The story: The BMW 3-series name has been around since 1975 and the latest version, due to arrive on UK shores early next year, will be the seventh generation. From day one it’s been a desirable premium car with a more involved driving experience than rivals in this sector. The new car builds on that philosophy with added refinement and technology.
Category:Family car
Key rival:Audi A4
On sale:9th March 2019


Formulating a new BMW 3-Series is easy; design a premium saloon that’s great to drive, has efficient (yet powerful) engines and put it all together in a high-quality package while improving the perceived weaker areas of the previous model.

Actually executing that brief is a good deal more difficult, but this is exactly what BMW has done with the seventh-generation car. It’s an impressive driver-focused car and the refinement has been significantly improved. It also comes with some wow-factor new technology.

The new model is longer and wider than before, by 76mm and 16mm respectively, however it looks and feels similar to the outgoing version. This applies both to the looks and to the cabin space. That said, the boot is the same 480 litres as the previous car, and rear-seat head and leg room are still limited for anyone over six feet tall.

The predicted best-seller, the 320d, has a new 2.0-litre diesel engine with 190hp and a CO2 figure of 115g/km with the six-speed manual gearbox or 110g/km with the eight-speed auto. The official fuel figure is 64.2mpg, or 67.3mpg with the auto. Those figures are roughly what the outgoing 163hp 320d ED version managed.

BMW claims the engine is all new, however it does not meet the new RDE2 emissions standards so it’s still hit by the 4% BIK penalty for diesels, which will put the automatic in the 27% tax band next March and 30% from April 2019. It’s a small point, but BMW has also shrunk the fuel tank in the new 3-Series to 40 litres in the SE (down from 57) which means filling up more often. Oddly, the tank in the Sport and M-Sport trims is 59 litres. The 320d now also features a large 18.9-litre AdBlue tank which BMW expects customers to fill every 6000 miles.

The upside of the new diesel engine is that it’s significantly more refined that in the outgoing car’s. This applies both at a motorway cruise and when accelerating.

From behind the wheel, the 320d has a feeling of being connected to the road, thanks to precise yet light steering and a firm ride.

The dashboard is certainly a leap on from the previous car’s in terms of the design and quality, although the new Volvo S/V60 offers a much more enjoyable interior experience while the Audi A4’s quality has the edge.First Drive- February 2019 - BMW 3-Series - image 11

However, the 3-Series is now more laden with tech than ever before, including a voice-activated assistant to run controls such as the ventilation system or the audio set-up, as well as working with connected services. It works well, but those with young children may want to turn it off to stop them controlling things from the back seat.

This ‘Hey, BMW’ system is standard, along with kit such as an 8.8-inch touch screen, digital instrument panel, heated front seats, connected services, parking sensors and one year of Apple CarPlay. Anyone wanting CarPlay after a year can either pay £89 for one year, £255 for three or £295 for life as BMW moves closer to a subscription model.


Tristan young

The all-new BMW 3-Series – 2019

BMW continues to be a standard setter in the UK company car market and the new 3-Series is one of the hottest new cars of 2019. The new car has made improvements in the key areas without losing the driver and badge appeal that put it at the top of the class.

Posted by Company Car Today on Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The verdict

The new BMW 3-Series is, like its predecessors, a first-rate driver-focused premium saloon with greater refinement and technology than ever before.