What is it?
That sharply-cut nose is already a familiar sight on the UK’s roads, despite the new 3-Series only actually being launched around a year ago. This F30 range is already expanding too, with new engines, trims and even the first four-wheel drive version, dubbed xDrive: there is also now a range-topping hybrid model with 306bhp and 47.9mpg.
Speak to BMW and this is where it believes it’s made the biggest advances – which is saying something given that the previous 3-Series was regularly hailed as the best car in its class to point down a piece of tricky tarmac.
This one isn’t necessarily more tactile than the last, but it’s certainly smoother and more supple. The last one occasionally crashed and banged, this one – still rear-wheel drive of course – is lighter on its feet and perhaps even better balanced. The steering is nicely weighted and the front end is so accurate and responsive that you know exactly where you are with it at all times. It’s smooth, enjoyable and exhibits deftness in all it does. What’s more BMW seems to have nailed the relationship between supple suspension and run-flat tyres. This 3-Series is more cohesive than it’s ever been before.
On the inside
Let’s start by looking at the outside, which is now 93mm longer than before. That’s a big gain, but it only translates into an extra 15mm of extra knee clearance for those in the back. Disappointing though that sounds, it’s enough to make a difference, the rear cabin now airier and more able to contain six-footers. The boot volume’s up 20 litres to 480 litres, too.
But it’s the driving environment that’s most modified. The materials have been carved into more interesting shapes on the dash and console and there’s more optional equipment than you can shake your wallet at, including a full colour head-up display and a rather excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox. If you can afford it, the latter is well worth it
The new 3-Series will be a fine car to own, especially if you go for the £28,410 EfficientDynamics which combines 161bhp and 280lb ft with 109g/km and 68.9mpg. Not that the other models are fuel hungry, the 320d still promising over 60mpg on the combined cycle. Just bear in mind that in practice 50mpg is what you should expect.
Considering the advances made in terms of drivability, design and overall feelgood factor, prices starting at £23k surely make it a bargain. The 3-Series has it all — and as the range continues to expand further, the competition will have to work its socks off to get anywhere near.