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Awards 2012 - Green Model of the Year: BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics

Date: 24 January 2012

Last year's Green Model of the Year class winner has maintained its hold on this prize once again. The BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics remains the finest economy-minded car available to fleet users and not only because of its low running costs.

With a headline figure of 109g/km, the outgoing 320d ED is the cleanest model in its class, despite the appearance of updated rivals such as the new Audi A4, which musters 112g/km in its cleanest form.

Fuel economy of 68.9mpg is not to be sniffed at, nor is the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine's 163hp. But the real highlight of the BMW is its no-compromise nature. Drive the Efficient Dynamics version and a standard 320d back-to-back and you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference between them. It's great to drive, comfortable and, even though the Efficient Dynamics model is slightly less powerful than the standard car, it's more than up to the job in the performance stakes.

The car's subtlety does it no harm either. Unlike many eco specials, which tend to scream their credentials from the hilltops, the 320d ED looks all but identical to the standard 3-series. The suspension is 15mm lower to improve the aerodynamics, and the drivetrain has been modified to cut down on vibrations at low revs, encouraging the driver to change up a gear sooner to maximise economy.

The fact is that BMW truly has outdone itself with this model - so much so that we're not likely to see a serious improvement for the next few years. When the new 3-series arrives in February, the cleanest version will maintain the same 109g/km figure, only this time it will be available with the company's eight-speed automatic gearbox, so a manual will no longer be the sole choice.

However, BusinessCar learned that BMW is planning to introduce a sub-100g/km 3-series within the new version's lifetime. Insiders confirmed the next generation of diesel engine will arrive in around three years' time and drag the emissions down to either 98g/km or 99g/km.

Headline figures like that, along with genuine, no-compromise savings for fleets, are why BusinessCar readers have voted the 320d ED their Green Model of the Year yet again. It seems unlikely that BMW or its rivals will top such a benchmark in the immediate future, but the 3-series will no doubt face increasingly stiff competition until it ducks under the 100g/km barrier, as rivals play catch-up.