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BusinessCar Awards 2013: Business Car of the Year: BMW 3-series

Date: 22 January 2013

The 2013 Business Car of the Year, as voted by the readers of BusinessCar, is the most aspirational and in many ways the most trailblazing of corporate vehicles - the BMW 3-series.

The new model was launched in 2012, and although it brought no headline reduction in emissions over its predecessor's incredible 109g/km figure for the Efficient Dynamics model, the range as a whole was significantly more efficient than the previous 3-series line-up. Particular praise goes to the petrol and automatic options, including a new auto version of the ED model that matches the manual's 109g/km and 68.9mpg.

The new car also has a wider model range, in both the extended trim levels encompassing the new Modern, Sport and Luxury trims, and a wider choice of engine options such as the new 316i, 328i and ED?Touring models.

It also offers a step in the green direction with the introduction of a hybrid model in the second half of 2012. Built for more economic performance motoring rather than as a low-CO2 model, the Active Hybrid 3 is a 306hp saloon capable of a 0-62mph time of 5.3 seconds, but with CO2 emissions of only 139g/km.

Something else that's new for the 3-series in the UK, although it has previously been offered abroad, is 4WD technology. Coming with the 184hp petrol engine, the Xdrive range is the first time an all-wheel drive 3-series has been on offer to square-up to quattro versions of Audi's A4.

The new model has addressed an issue its predecessor was criticised for with the addition of an extra 15mm of legroom for rear-seat passengers, which is more than it sounds in terms of liberating knee-room. Boot space is also up 20 litres to help increase practicality, and as of early this year a DAB digital radio is offered as standard across the BMW range.

These changes to the new car haven't, though, meant anything is taken away. The 3-series has always been desired for the way it drives as much as its efficiency, badge prestige or practicality. The car mixes sporty and fun handling with a reasonable level of ride comfort, and great steering feel and industry-leading engines help maintain the focus on the 3-series being an appealing car for drivers.

The Touring model was added to the saloon in the later part of last year, offering a larger load area than any core rival, as well as standard kit including a hinged glass area of the tailgate that opens independently.

The BMW 3-series clearly leads its sector for efficiency and driving pleasure, two factors that aren't always easy to combine, and while desirability, practicality and the all-important running costs also score very highly. It was no surprise to see the car clearly lead the voting from the start of the 2013 Awards process, and justifiably follows the 1-series, our overall 2012 winner, into the BusinessCar record books.

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