BMW 3-Series Saloon 320d road test report


Recently facelifted, the 3-series is one of the best all-round cars on sale. Not only does it offer refinement and comfort by the bucketload, but it’s also blessed with the ability to morph into a pin-sharp sports saloon when you point it away from the motorway and in the direction of some twisty bits.

Road Test Reports Says4.5 star rating
A front-facing image of the BMW 3-Series Saloon

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Performance Performance - 5 stars

It could never be said that the 3-series is short on engine options, none of which are lacking power – even the entry-level 318i gets 143bhp, while the fire-breathing 4.0-litre M3 tops out at 420bhp. But the 320d has, without a doubt, the best mix of useable performance and frugal economy for the money. With 177bhp, it’s pokey enough, but it’s the 258lb ft of torque that impresses the most, as it offers endless reserves of grunt. Gutsy turbodiesel it may be, but the 320d is far more rev-happy than most oil-burners and, thanks to its smooth, quiet engine, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s a petrol lump under the bonnet – particularly with a 0-62 time of 7.9 seconds and top speed of 143mph.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 5 stars

Nothing in the same price range or sector can hope to mach the 320d’s blissful, tack-sharp road manners. BMW has always crafted cars with the driver in mind and this is no exception. All the fundamental controls are weightier than most rivals, so there’s a real sense of involvement. The rear-wheel-drive platform means that there’s more opportunity to explore the limits of grip, too. Plump for the optional M-Sport package and you’ll reap the benefits of firmer suspension and wider tyres – but steer clear of this if comfort is more important, as it can upskittle the car on rougher surfaces.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Once again, the 320d trounces rivals, this time with its rock-solid build quality. Thick bars of aluminium across the dash, small chunky steering wheel and plush, sculpted plastics are leagues above anything else in the family saloon sector. It’s not the most inspiring of places to sit, but comfort and focus on the driver are paramount. Reliability has never been an issue for the German brand either, so buy wisely and there’s no reason why you should experience any problems.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

If you’re inside the car then it doesn’t get much safer. Adult occupants get a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and four-stars for child occupants, so there’s little to worry about in the cabin. The pedestrian rating isn’t quite as impressive though, as the 320d scores just one star for pedestrian impacts, which is pretty woeful. BMW will no doubt be softening up the front ends of its cars, as 2009 sees new Euro NCAP regulations come into force, which mean manufacturers have to pay more attention to pedestrian impacts if they want a decent score. Expect the usual array of central locking, alarm and immobiliser as well as plenty of airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

Up front, the Beemer is a sublime place to sit and it certainly isn’t short on space or comfort. Rear passengers might find it more cramped than many rivals – most notably cheaper, but more passenger-friendly family saloons such as the Ford Mondeo. That said, the boot is large enough to accommodate most family clobber – 460 litres is impressive for a car the size of the 320d. The only drawback is the fact that it’s hampered by a slightly slim loading area.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

The blue and white propellor on the bonnet coupled with generous spec means that you’re in for better residuals than most. If you have a mid-sized family and don’t crave the space of larger saloons or people carriers, then the 320d can’t be beaten. It’s a joy to drive, superbly economical and almost as practical as the best of the other saloons. Emissions of 128g/km of CO2 are impressively low and ensure that, should any tax hikes come into force, you won’t get stung, but fuel economy is where the BMW really shines. A 320d with a manual gearbox will average 58.9mpg and touch 68.9 during a relaxed cruise. A near perfect blend of performance and practicality.

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