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Test Drive Review: BMW 320d SE

Date: 25 November 2011

BMW 3-series in line to beat 100g/km barrier
Category: Upper medium
P11D price: £28,025
Key rival: Audi A4

The sixth-generation 3-series has big shoes to fill. Last year, the outgoing model accounted for one-in-three of all BMWs sold and it consistently held the reputation for being one of the most desirable cars in its class.

Building on those successes, the latest version incorporates a redesigned exterior and cabin along with a lengthier wheelbase, which lends itself to an additional 15mm of rear legroom and a 20-litre larger boot.

BMW has also teed up an arsenal of optional equipment - a rear-view camera, high-beam assist and adaptive headlight control to name but a few - which it claims isn't available on rivals from other manufacturers.

Emissions levels nosedived on the previous 3-series, not least because of the introduction of Efficient Dynamics technology, but similar gains have yet to be made with the new car, and the lowest-emitting variant - again, the Efficient Dynamics version - offers 109g/km. The difference is that this model now achieves the same level of cleanliness when fitted with BMW's eight-speed automatic gearbox (a £1525 option), where a manual was the only choice before. Further reductions in emissions and running costs are promised throughout the car's lifetime, and a stop/start system is now standard.

The 3-series has long since been the favourite among keen drivers in this sector and nothing has changed there. The driving experience is broadly similar to that of its predecessor and there's a fine mix of precise handling and good ride comfort - even more so with the optional adaptive suspension system.

Its chief rival, the Audi A4, arguably has the edge when it comes to refinement, but that's not to say that the BMW's cabin is an unpleasant place to sit. Only a little surplus wind and road noise disadvantages it.

A new trim system called Lines has also been introduced. It's essentially a way of defining the look of the car inside and out, and incorporates more aggressive or conservative styling features accordingly. Sport Line and Modern Line add £1000 over the standard SE model, while Luxury Line costs an extra £2500.

The UK has the largest take up of BMW's M-Sport package, which appears on around 60-70% of all models sold and includes a body kit, interior styling features and M-badging inside and out. It won't be available with the 3-series until March and will cost in the region of £2000. Lower-powered 316d and 318d 2.0-litre diesel variants will also arrive in spring next year, along with the 320i.

The latest 3-series certainly hasn't lost its touch and remains one of the most appealing models in the segment. Steep P11D prices will render it out of reach for many, and it has yet to move the emissions and economy game along in the mammoth way its predecessor did - but that could change in the future.

BMW 320d SE
P11D price£28,025
Model price range£24,825-£36,525
Fuel consumption62.7mpg
CO2 (tax) 119g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% per month£61/£121
Service intervalvariable
Insurance (1-50)tbc
Warranty3yrs/unlimited mls
Boot space480 litres
Engine size/power1995cc/184hp
Top speed/0-62mph155mph/7.5secs
On sale February 2012
VerdictStill one of the most
enjoyable and desirable
cars in its class


Still one of the most enjoyable and desirable cars in its class