There’s a saying in the US, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Over in Munich, the home of BMW, they’d probably prefer: ‘If it ain’t broke, make it even better.’ That’s the impression you get of the all-new 3 Series. It has a strong family resemblance to the previous 3 Series but it’s smoother in profile, with a wider stance and a more assertive ‘face’. The shape is more aerodynamic too, helping to reduce emissions. And although it has grown dimensionally it has cut 55kg compared with its predecessor. Inside, the dash and control faces are clean and classy with some well-thought-out design details making the driver-car interface simpler and more enjoyable.
Performance and handling are always a BMW strong suit. At the time of its UK launch BMW is offering one petrol engine, a 258bhp 330i that scorches from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds while delivering CO2 emissions of 134 g/km. The diesel alternative is a 187bhp 320d, which is available either as a rear-drive model or as the 320d xDrive. With the extra traction of all-wheel drive the 320d xDrive has the better acceleration, reaching 62mph in 6.9 seconds from rest, but the two-wheel drive diesel offers the best CO2 emissions, starting at just 112g/km depending on the wheel/tyre combination chosen.
All models come with BMW Live Cockpit Plus which includes an 8.8” touch display, BMW Navigation, Intelligent Voice Control and Parking Assistant, which includes a rear-view camera and Reverse Assist. Connected package Plus is also standard on the entry level SE, and this includes Apple CarPlay compatibility, Concierge Services, real-time traffic information and BMW Connected Office. Move up the range to the M Sport and you’ll be upgraded to the BMW Live Cockpit Professional with a larger 10.25” touch display screen, BMW Operating System 7.0 and Intelligent Personal Assistant. There’s also a host of packages to choose from, including a Premium Package with electric glass sunroof or a Technology Package with harmon/kardon speakers and enhanced Bluetooth.
As you’d expect of the latest generation BMW, the new 3 Series Saloon has a panoply or advanced safety systems. Active Guard Plus, which is fitted across the range, includes front collision warning with brake intervention, lane departure warning and speed limit assist. Driving Assistant Professional is an option for the M Sport model and includes active cruise control, crossing traffic warning, ‘evasion aid’, lane keeping assistant with active side collision protection and even a wrong-way warning. It’s not quite at the level where you can fold your arms and let the 3 Series saloon get on with it, but it’s a step closer.
Verdict: there’s a very good reason why the BMW 3 Series has been the executive-class leader for so long; it’s very, very good. It will reward the keen driver, relax the distance driver, keep passengers safe and comfortable and do it all with a sense of engineered excellence. The new 3 Series is more comfortable, practical, refined and technologically advanced than its excellent predecessor. As such, it has to be on every shortlist for all those looking for a sporty, efficient and compact four-door saloon.