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I recall as a young boy how I was drawn to cars. They were, and still are, a tactile experience. As that young kid, it was the second-generation 3 Series (E30) that had a profound effect on my love for cars. This model was launched in 1982 and continued until 1994. That was slap bang during my adolescence. It represented a premium sedan that offered a dynamic driving experience all while offering cutting edge technology to its driver and passengers.
25 years and five generations later, we welcome BMW’s latest seventh-generation (G20). Although almost three decades have passed, essentially nothing has changed. BMW are still offering a premium sedan with world-class driving dynamics and a host of cutting-edge tech. For me, this is what real cars are all about: less fantasy of a hard-to-attain supercar or the marketing hype of an edgy niche vehicle. The 3 Series is a staple. A mark of where we are in the motoring world.
The new 3 Series isn’t as compact as it once was. With each new generation, the car has increased inside to cater for the needs of its customers. Astonishingly BMW has sold 15 million 3 Series over the past 44 years. That’s incredible. It is now a mid-sized sedan that is over 7cm longer than its predecessor. It is wider and taller too. From an accommodation perspective, this new 3 Series could never be labeled cramped. It is very spacious. The downside: externally, its larger proportion can potentially disharmonize its sports athletic look. Just as well that the design team worked their magic on the car’s design styling. The front now features large kidney grilles that automatically open for airflow when the engine requires cooling and closes to aid outstanding aerodynamics. There are also a variety of bumper designs, depending on the model selected, all of which add a dynamic flow to the 3 Series’ design. The rear now features three-dimensional L-shaped rear lights that add drama to the rump of the vehicle, which is beautifully completed with rear twin exhaust tailpipes. The side profile is less sexy due to the bigger surface areas that contribute to the car’s larger proportions.
The interior is outstanding and now class-leading, in my opinion. The fit and finish of the premium materials is a feast for the eyes. Designed for Millennial and perhaps even Generation Z, the cabin is littered with an array of technology that requires a virtual assistant to guide you through. BMW acknowledges this, so have integrated a “Siri” within the car’s operating system. At first within its class, you get to name your assistant personally. What would you call yours? Mercedes! Not.
Some of the unique technological features is an acoustic windshield (available as an option on the side windows), gesture control, autonomous warning and braking for passengers and on-coming cars, optional larger head-up display, optional full-LED instrument display and the list goes on and on…
BMW remains the leader in the infotainment system department. The new screen is large and beautifully integrated into the dash. The system is offered with AppleCar Play and Android Auto. I enjoyed the wireless cellphone charging port with wirelessly running functions off my iPhone X.
On the road, the new 3 Series is 50% more rigid than before. The car also features new shock absorber technology while still retaining BMW’s legendary 50/50 weight distribution. Oh, and despite size increase, the new car is about 50kg lighter. As you can imagine, BMW have only improved on an already excellent drive from their previous model.
I was fortunate enough to review a 330i that is fitted with an M Sport kit. Aesthetically, the car looks purposeful and menacing at the same time. Designed with a 10mm lowered suspension set up that is geared towards driving dynamics, the M Sport suspension is optimized on smooth road surfaces. Our poor-quality roads and the firm suspension mated to the enhanced kit makes for a harder ride. I’d suggest the standard suspension for our roads as a result – it’s a better match.
Locally, we have two derivatives with more models arriving in the future. They are the 330i (190kW/400Nm) 5.8 seconds to 100km/h and 320d (140kW/400Nm) 7.1 seconds to 100km/h. Both are fitted with 2.0-l turbocharged motors.
Considering past sales - the 320i, which will arrive later and the 320d - were both traditionally the bestsellers in the 3 Series line up. The 320i offers better value and ample performance while the 320d is pricier to purchase but offers good economy in the long run. In the past, the 330i sold fewer units by comparison. Considering that it is very closely priced with the 320d while offering rapid performance and high engine refinement, I’d strongly suggest it as an option. The M340i xDrive and 330d will also arrive later and bring with it blistering performance from their respective 3.0-l turbocharged motor models.
I’m going to be asked this question: is the new 3 Series better than its rivals, the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class and what about when it is compared to the Alfa Giulia, Jaguar XE and Lexus IS? One word – yes!
I’ve mentioned them in my conclusion.
320i - R615 138
320d - R649 253
320d Sport Line - R672 853
320d Sport Line Launch Edition - R664 253
320d M Sport - R694 653
330i - R652 416
330i Sport Line - R676 016
330i Sport Line Launch Edition - R667 416
330i M Sport - R699 816
330d - R736 026
M340i xDrive - R977 915
Service and warranty
All BMW’s are sold with a 5-year / 100 000km service and maintenance plan.
320i - R615 138
M340i xDrive - R977 915
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