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Having been on the market for almost four years, the BMW 3 Series is a common sight on our roads. And most are silver, the colour of Driven’s first long-term test car, the BMW 320d Sport Edition.
The fact that so many are on our roads suggests the 3 Series continues to set the benchmark by which upmarket medium-sized sedans are judged.
Three months with the 320d Sport Edition, driving in all weather, on all types of roads, has given us a chance to test this viewpoint.
There are quibbles with the model, but then no model is perfect in every way. Overall, the judgment has to be positive, and in this series wrap-up we aim to explain why.
The current shape of the 3 Series dates back three years, and during that time styling tweaks have improved its appearance. It now looks longer and sleeker than the original model, while retaining a somewhat understated and stylish look.
I would argue the E46 model of the 1990s, of which there are still thousands on our roads, was a greater styling triumph, and was streets ahead of its contemporary competitors.
The other quibble involves the A pillar which, in combination with the right-hand rear vision mirror, sometimes creates a blind spot when turning right. Newer models such as the current Volkswagen Golf have virtually eliminated the problem in their latest models.
Some passengers in the BMW during the trial also commented on the firmness of the seats and the ride. The seats are extremely comfortable, and virtually wrap around the passenger.
The bottom of the seats and the ride are firm, but then this is the Sport edition of the car. It sits 10mm lower than other models in the 3 Series range, and the suspension and other settings can be adjusted to sharpen the driving experience.
In Comfort mode the car cruises with little road noise, and no fuss. There is plenty of power in reserve for passing quickly and safely.
Auckland | Mount Wellington
$168.19 p/w $672.77 p/m
The car handles superbly on tight, windy roads, whether it is set in Comfort or Sport mode. However, it is more fun to tackle sharp corners in Sport and Sport Plus mode.
As the model has aged, so has BMW added value by offering features such as heads-up display and a rear-view camera, as well as flappy-paddle gear shifts on the steering wheel.
While some additional features can hardly be described as essential kit in a new car, they improve the driving experience.
They also become almost second-nature to use, especially the rear view camera and the heads-up display on the windscreen.
Automatic windscreen wipers and lights have been around for years but BMW has advanced the lighting technology with a high-beam that automatically averts its beam when it detects an on-coming vehicle.
Instead of having to drive with the front lights on low beam, they spread the beam to provide excellent vision without annoying other road users.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox, which can be used manually either by moving the joy-stick or the steering wheel paddles, helps ensure a smooth and imperceptible progression to the speed limit.
With the car came a Vodafone 4G smart phone, to highlight the connectivity of the car.
Each car has its own website and address so the driver can access the electronic handbook and other features by downloading the BMW connected drive app. There’s also a concierge service drivers can call for information such as local restaurants and other services.
And the car has an emergency button in the ceiling if calamity strikes and there is an accident. This alerts BMW in the Philippines that the car is in trouble and identifies where it is so they can contact emergency services.
This is the sixth generation of the 3 Series and, despite its age, is the German vehicle manufacturer’s best-selling model.
Reader feedback to our regular long-term test reports suggests there are many happy 3 Series owners, particularly of the diesel model.
One reader reported better fuel economy than the 5.4 litres per 100km average that we achieved over the three months.
But economy became less of an issue for us once we became familiar with the sports mode in the car, and you would wonder why buyers would fret over saving a few cents in fuel while driving the Sports model.
Despite its age the 3 Series remains a well-equipped great all-rounder.