The new BMW 3 Series!
The new BMW 3 Series!

Caroline drives the new BMW 3 Series!

The BMW 3 Series is an icon that doesn’t need much to sell itself. It’s long been hailed as the sportiest compact executive saloon in its class, exalted for its playful rear wheel driving dynamics and high-end build and refinement.

Now the BMW 3 Series is in its 7th generation and it’s a gentle evolution of a familiar and popular car. You don’t mess with an icon like the 3 Series.

BMW 3 Series Video Review

What’s new for the BMW 3 Series?

The new 3 Series was five years in development and BMW says that the focus for this new generation has been sportiness, innovation and design. Proportions have been revised, there’s a wider track and a longer wheelbase. These all impact on the visual appeal of the car and a new design language focuses on clean, precise lines. The design is comfortingly familiar yet modernised in line with the latest BMW ‘look’.

The BMW 3 Series is on sale in Ireland priced from €44,115. The new 3 Series is available in three trim levels: SE, Sport and M Sport.

Trim elements differ depending on specification and the 3 Series is in its sportiest incarnation in M Sport trim. The car sits 10 mm lower and there are large air intakes at the front as well as a redesigned front bumper, side skirts and rear apron. The kidney grille is finished in high gloss black. The stunning new Portimao Blue metallic is also a unique colour option for the M Sport model.

The interior of the BMW 3 Series
The interior of the BMW 3 Series

The interior of the 3 Series

Inside the 3 Series gets a smart new interior very fitting of a junior executive car. There is a fine mix of materials and the quality is excellent throughout. The M Sport model adds sports seats to the specification, as well as an ‘M’ leather steering wheel, anthracite-coloured headliner, and full leather interior with heated front seats.

Cabin comfort for passengers has been improved with more shoulder room in the front and extra legroom in the back. Getting in and out of the car is easier for the rear passengers because the door aperture height has been increased. The boot has a capacity of 480 litres, while new partitioning into a primary luggage compartment and separate storage compartments has created an additional 36 litres of space.

There’s also a welcome addition of new technology features including a new digital instrument cluster as standard. The M Sport model gets the impressive 10.3-inch central instrument cluster and BMW’s brand new Operating System 7.0 with the Intelligent Personal Assistant.

The entry level SE model has 17″ alloys, LED headlights, BMW Light Carpet, interior ambient lighting, reversing camera, electric folding rear view mirrors, three-zone air conditioning and enhanced acoustic glazing.  There’s also a leather sport steering wheel and BMW Live Cockpit plus, with 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.

The 3 Series range starts from €44,115 in Ireland
The 3 Series range starts from €44,115 in Ireland

What are my options?

Engine options for the new 3 Series include the 318d and 320d (diesels available from €44,115) and the 320i and 330i (petrols available from €44,155). A new 330e plug-in hybrid is also available from €51,475. A six-speed manual gearbox is also available on some models, as is the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

My test car was a classic 320d M Sport, four-cylinder diesel engine with 190hp and an 8 speed automatic gearbox with a list price of €52,410. The 2.0-litre diesel engine has been upgraded and it now includes multi-stage turbocharging to improve efficiency across all engine speeds. On the road, the new 320d is a gem and one of the best diesel saloons on the market. It’s smooth and refined with plenty of power and torque. Acceleration is brisk with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint achieved in just 6.8 seconds with the automatic gearbox.

BMW has also made significant improvements to aerodynamics reducing the drag coefficient of the BMW 320d for example from 0.26 to 0.23 with measures such as an almost completely sealed underbody, aerodynamically optimised wheels, the use of Air Curtains at the front and the latest generation of active air flap control, which extends across the BMW kidney grille and lower air intake. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.7l/100km and motor tax for this model is €200 per year.

Rear legroom in the new 3 Series
Rear legroom in the new 3 Series

On the road in the new BMW 320d

This all knits very well with the 3 Series’ natural dynamic appeal. BMW set out to improve the handling of the 3 Series even more in this new generation of the car by increasing the track front and rear and making the whole car stiffer and more rigid while also shedding 55kg of body weight. This translates to a tactile feeling on the road that is unmatched by rivals for driver appeal. The steering is meaty and ultra precise while the whole car stays perfectly balanced and aligned through tight cornering.

Despite sporty enhancements for the M Sport model (19” alloys option on test car and sports suspension), by and large the ride is fine, though some way off the slinky ride of an Audi A4. For M Sport models, buyers can specify the Adaptive M suspension that alters damping characteristics between more comfortable and sporty driving modes.

The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans. It still sets the benchmark for handling in its class, defining what’s possible from the compact executive sports saloon. The interior gets a welcome addition of new technology features that keep it competitive among rivals. The 320d is a fine example of a diesel saloon with class leading refinement and splendid power. Welcome back 3 Series!

The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans.
The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 320d M Sport Saloon Automatic
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
190 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
6.8 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.4-4.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
112 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year