New BMW 3 Series is great drive

My previous experience of a BMW 3 Series was driving one up a mountain in Italy. It was one of the few cars, apart from 4x4s, to make it up the steep rugged terrain to the place we were staying on holiday.

Since then I have just watched these sporty superstars of the road effortlessly overtake our ancient Volvo on the motorway...until recently when I was invited to test drive the new BMW 3 Series saloon, which is launched this weekend (February 11).

The new BMW 3 Series comes in a variety of models. Guided by Roman Zawadzki, of Sytner in Coventry, I took the wheel of a 320 Diesel Sport, braving the Friday traffic through the city streets and onto the A45 for a short spin.

For the driving enthusiast the stand-out feature is the BMW Efficient Dynamics, an award-winning programme of technologies designed to reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.

The drive performance control enables you to switch to the fuel-saving ECO PRO mode for urban driving. Then, once you are out of town, you can flick the switch to sport mode and let her go.

The marketing brochure boasts “Less emissions. More driving pleasure”. The ride is certainly pleasurable and comfortable. It’s a delight to accelerate past slower traffic and the car holds the road beautifully around bends and corners. And, as far as fuel consumption goes, the new diesel version will give you a pocket-pleasing 60mpg.

Compared to the old 3 Series the suspension is softer and there are several design changes. There is more cockpit space and it is easier to get in the back seat. The windows are bigger, giving more light. The boot space is increased so there is space for golf clubs.

One big plus for the shopper on the sport, modern and luxury models is the remote control including integrated key. As long as you have the key fob with you, you can place your foot underneath the rear of the car and the boot will open automatically. And the driver has no need to insert the key, just press the starter button.

The driver gets the impression of total control with the centre console and dashboard within easy reach. The finish is immaculate and there is an information screen shaped like a horizontal iPad with Bluetooth and other functions available. There are two cupholders and the tray which covers them is removable into the glove compartment.

Just like some other manufacturers, BMW have made it a doddle to park the car with its Park Assist feature.

BMW emphasises the rear wheel drive in the design with the car misleadingly appearing to be higher at the back.

The headlights have been designed to look grimacing. So, from the front in the dark the car could appear to be a tiger waiting to pounce. The indicators have been moved from the side onto the wing mirrors.

Driving this car is a great experience and, with more fuel economy, it is even more attractive.

The BMW 3 Series has been top dog in the compact executive saloon market for several years. The new Series 3 seems likely to keep it there for many more years.

Models range from the 318i ES priced at £22,690 (OTR) to the 335d M Sport costing £38,935 (OTR).

To book a test drive at Sytner Coventry, call 02476 600 600.

Peter Gawthorpe

At a glance – BMW3 Series 320d Sport

Price: £29,895 (OTR)

Engine: 1,995cc

Performance: Top Speed 146mph, 0-60 in 7.5 sec

Fuel Economy: 60.1mpg

Emissions: 125 g/km CO2

Available at: Sytner, Coventry, 128 Holyhead Road, Coventry

CV5 8NA. Tel:02476 600 600