The sixth generation of the BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 series road test

By Tim Saunders  February 15, 2013 | Comments| Print friendly | Subscribe

Have you made a new year’s resolution? Perhaps more importantly, are you sticking to it?

Whether you have or have not, here’s one for you. Confidence.

We live in an increasingly tough world where those who exude this quality seem to survive and prosper. Donald Trump, Richard Branson and Alan Sugar all possess it in spades. Executives must be confident and others must have confidence in their abilities.

So how do you become more confident? These three hugely successful entrepreneurs all know they are good at what they do and can deliver what they say they will. We can all aspire to be like them.

But another sure-fire and perhaps quicker way is to drive a vehicle that has the gravitas and capability - that presents the correct image and in so doing boosts self-confidence.
Get yourself behind the wheel of the BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics, the executive express. So what that Trump, Branson and Sugar would only ever consider the absolute top end 7-series, X5 or X6, we all have to start somewhere and the 320d four-door saloon is as good a place as any.

The test takes place in high winds and the low saloon dashes through them without noticing. Other motorists noticeably slow down as their vehicles buffet. Add to the mix hard driving rain and it’s enough to reduce us all to a crawl. But not in the 320d. You see because it’s so low to the ground with excellent aerodynamics, it cuts through the elements like a sharpened knife. This ensures that the 320 driver can get to their destination safely and stealthily. Not just that but it’s an efficient German, too, returning over 50mpg.

There are niggles, though, not least from my pregnant wife, who finds lowering herself into position awkward. However, when in place, she is comfy but “not as much as in the Volvo S80, which really cossetted”, she recalls. Twenty-three month daughter Harriett is developing her vehicle assessment skills and after doing a spot of pretend driving, she happily doses in her Cosatto car seat. That’s a rare occurrence, believe me. There’s a really uneven country lane near to where I live and usually driving along it at 30mph is enough to make wife Caroline feel ill, especially when pregnant. So it is very surprising to find that although the suspension in the 320d is hard it soaks up the bumps very well indeed.

BMW has done well to squeeze 167bhp from a 1.6-litre diesel engine and it can be responsive, if required. I do expect a BMW to be quieter, though and am surprised to hear the telling rattle from inside the cabin. There can be a judder at standstill, too when the engine is ticking over. Equipped with engine stop/start, I am still to be convinced of the benefits. When I find myself in a painfully slow moving two-mile long queue, the engine cuts in and out at least 10 times. Although I am freewheeling to prevent this from happening, as soon as the Beemer hits 3mph the engine starts up again. It’s not the smoothest of operations either. There are better. And as far the entertainment and navigation system, you need a degree in rocket science to operate it. I like to be able to easily find my favourite radio station without Caroline accidentally phoning BMW but they understood and were very courteous. However, I then stumble upon a switch on the steering wheel that allows you to operate the radio and other functions by voice command as you can see in the video at and it is actually very simple to operate.

The six-speed manual box can be indecisive particularly when selecting third to overtake. It has to be pushed to the far left for reversing, which takes a little getting used to, over other cars. Its cruise control is one of the best I have come across as it keeps exactly to the set speed no matter of whether it’s travelling up or down a hill and it allows for gear changes – few systems allow for this.

But you can’t fault its poise and road holding. It is an excellent driver’s car, with a good amount of power when required. I like the traditional handbrake.
The cabin is typically clinical with bags of black rubber and plastic as you can see from the video at Some polished metal type plastic breaks up the monotony. But then you’re not looking at the dashboard when you’re intently driving. The central armrest and the one on the driver’s door is at the correct height to rest an arm – this isn’t the case in many cars I drive.

After a busy day at the office I return home one night to find that we need food so I dash to the supermarket. Its boot swallows the shopping with ease and there’s a useful net that keeps everything in place. Night-time reveals helpful courtesy lights underneath the door handles so that you can see where they are.

Parkers, the car experts, say: “This is the sixth generation of the BMW 3 Series. The German four-door has been dominating the premium saloon market for some time now and this latest version has all the ingredients to do the same. This car has far more to boast about than ever before. It’s more spacious than its predecessor with a bigger boot, the interior feels classier than ever with a driver-focused cabin and high-end materials, while the handling is better too - which is no mean feat. Not only is the BMW 3 Series high on the list for private buyers though, it’s also a sought-after company car.”

Judging by the lustful glances and the number already on the roads, this model is set to become another hugely successful BMW.

New price range:

£23,180 - £45,430

Engine: 1.6-litre
Economy: 53mpg
0-60mph: 7.4secs
Top speed: 130mph
Power: 167bhp
Road tax: £0

Watch the video:

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Tim Saunders is the former Business and Motoring Editor of the Bournemouth Echo in the UK.

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