BMW 3 Series saloon (2006 – ) first UK drive
Friday 16 April 2010
The BMW 3 Series is one of the great successes of the motoring industry.
It is the best-selling car in its market and accounts for more searches on Auto Trader than any other car.
The current 3 Series first launched in 2006 and has a few more years in it before it is due a complete overhaul for what will be the sixth generation of a car launched 35 years ago.
For now, BMW has given the 3 Series a mid-life refresh consisting of subtle styling changes, slightly revised options and the incorporation of new BMW EfficientDynamics engines across the range of saloons, coupes, convertibles and touring (estate) cars.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the newly-launched BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Saloon.
The standard BMW 320d is BMW’s biggest-selling 3 Series and buyers can now choose a version which benefits from impressive economy figures coupled with the kind of performance which motorists have come to expect from this iconic car.
• CO2 emissions of 109g/km CO2 (VED band B means £0 in the first year of ownership and £20 per year thereafter as well as just 13 per cent BIK)
• 0-62mph in 8 seconds
• 142mph top speed
The reduced CO2 emissions and increased fuel returns make this the most fuel efficient and greenest 3 Series ever.
The improved economy of the 320d Efficient Dynamics saloon is owed to the incorporation of the full spectrum of BMW Efficient Dynamics technologies already featured within the 3 series range (including different gear ratios and low rolling resistance tyres) alongside lowered suspension and special 16-inch alloys which improve the car’s aerodynamic qualities.
It’s hard to disagree with BMW’s claim that this sets a new benchmark for a market which pitches the BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics Saloon against rivals from Audi and Mercedes. It’s cheap to run with minimal compromise to the high performance capability expectation, a package that’s already attracted plenty of orders from private motorists and company fleet buyers alike.
BMW 3 Series gallery:
Fun to drive
On twisting A and B roads we found it still lives up to the 3 Series reputation of supplying bags of driving pleasure and comfort through the quality of its chassis, steering and ride.
(In fact, that goes for the 3 Series as a whole, you need only spend a few minutes behind the wheel of the 2010 BMW 3 Series to remind yourself exactly why it is such a sought-after car.)
The 320d EfficientDynamics saloon doesn’t feel like a 109g/km 68mpg car.
It feels like a 163bhp, 280lb/ft of torque, 0-62mph in eight seconds car with a top speed of 142mph car.
Its winning card is it is actually both.
The same new four cylinder engine powers the identically-priced (£27,245 on the road) standard 320d saloon. However, a different configuration means that while performance and economy are improved against its predecessor, the focus is more on performance than on the EfficientDynamics model.
• Power: 184bhp up from 177hp
• Pulling power: 280lb/ft up from 350Nm
• Acceleration: 7.5 seconds down from 7.9 seconds
• Combined fuel consumption: 60.1mpg up from 58.9mpg
• CO2 emissions: 125g/km down from 128g/km
The 2010 BMW 3 Series Coupe and Convertible models have been developed to offer improved economy and power through their line-up of four petrol and four diesel models (three for the convertible)
They have also undergone subtle styling updates which include revised front and rear lights, revised front grille, air intakes and new rear bumper as well as a specification level which now includes Dakota leather upholstery as standard.
If it isn’t broke…
In BMW’s words, to a certain extent, there has been a policy of if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.
We also drove the range-topping BMW 335i Convertible and BMW 335i Coupe, which now feature developments, BMW says has produced economy benefits with no loss of power or performance.
The coupe covers 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds (the convertible does it in 6.5 seconds) and the suspension on both are set up to provide even more driving enjoyment.
However both have also dropped a VED band for a reduced car tax bill.
As with the saloon we were impressed all over again by how much fun these two models are to drive while still delivering a comfortable ride.
But the big news from the 2010 refresh is the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics saloon, a car which will open the idea of a frugal, environmentally-friendly to a whole new market – 3 Series buyers.
Models tested: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Saloon, BMW 335i M Sport Coupe, BMW 335SE Convertible
On the road price: £27,245, £38,215, £40,720
Date tested: April 2010
Road tester: Adrian Higgins