BMW is keen to rejuvenate sales of its entry saloon, the 3 series. With buyer interest coming back to petrol motors, the German carmaker doesn’t want to be caught napping with a heavy diesel range and no petrol options. The new 320i with a 2-litre petrol engine is a step in this direction. So is it a better alternative than the popular 320d diesel? Let’s find out.
The styling is typically Beemer. The kidney grille design, the shapely double barrel head lamps as well as the chunky sculpted bumper can’t be mistaken for anything else than a BMW. The side profile with its hulked up wheel arches and chunky tyres gives it a nicely balanced look. The rear section with its large rectangular lamps reminds you of the bigger 5 series. In fact someone who isn’t well versed with the BMW range will actually mistake it for a five. Overall, it’s a design that looks elegant and desirable.
The interiors of the 3 series don’t have the same opulent feel of the Mercedes C class. Neither do they offer the same tech-laden feel of the Audi A4’s cabin. That said, the cabin is a solidly put together place. The plastics and overall leather used are of premium quality and there’s nothing that feels out of place inside the 320i.
The analogue dials are crystal clear to read and the large screen in the middle of the centre console has good legibility too. Special mention must be made of the iDrive system which controls the cars infotainment and various functions. It is easy to operate and more intuitive that the one’s on all its rivals.
The rear seats offer good space and support is generous too. BMW has scooped out the rear portion of the roof, so taller occupants get extra head room. There is a huge transmission tunnel running in the middle of the car, which limits leg room for the central rear passenger. But this issue of a huge hump in the floor panel at the back is present in all its rivals.
The boot at around 495-litre boot is well shaped to accommodate large items and doesn’t have any intrusion from the suspension.
Engine, performance and gearbox
A 2-litre petrol engine with 184bhp pf power and 270Nm of torque powers the 320i. All this power is transmitted to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic gearbox. BMW claims a 0-100kph time of under 8 seconds. The engine is a super refined and creamy unit. Refinement levels are so good that you wouldn’t be able to notice if it’s on at a signal.
Power delivery is linear and very smooth. In fact you have to be careful while using your right leg since this car manages to catch speeds rapidly. Acceleration is brisk to say the least.
The automatic gearbox also plays a key role in enhancing the driving feel. It’s a quick shifting gearbox.
Ride and handling
BMW engineers have got the balance between agility and comfort spot on. The 320i has a cossetting ride, which offers a cushioned ride but not at the expense of agility. The steering wheel is crisp and well weighed but it isn’t very heavy in the city either. Great for someone who drives himself.
While it may not be as opulent as a Mercedes C class the new 320i is the best driver’s car in its segment and comes across as one which offers good comfort and practicality too. It is a sensible buy in this segment.