2012 BMW 3 Series 320d Review

Overall Rating

  • Interior

  • On The Road I

  • Ancap

  • How It Compares I Value For Money

  • See Full Specs
  • Country of Origin
    SOUTH AFRICA
  • Price
    $60,900 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    135 kW / 380 Nm
  • Transmission
    Sports Automatic
  • ANCAP Rating
    5
  • Airbags
    Driver & Passenger (Dual), Head for 2nd Row Seats, Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front), Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)
  • L/100 km
    4.5
  • C02
    118 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
    550 L
  • Towing (braked)
    N/A
  • Towing (unbraked)
    N/A
Tim O'Brien | Mar 7, 2012 | 13 Comments

2012 BMW 320d REVIEW

Price: $60,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo-charged DOHC diesel
Power and Torque: 135kW@4000rpm, 380Nm@1750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed sports automatic
Fuel consumption (claimed): 4.5 l/100km
Fuel consumption (on test): 6.2 l/100km

BMW's 3 Series: it’s been with us since 1975. Back then it was the size of a Cruze, now its dimensions are a near match for the Commodore.

And back then it was among the first of a new breed of smaller sporting sedans with crisp responsive handling and the quality feel and appointments of a premium saloon.

Successor to the famed 2002, the 3 Series was a car for the emerging young executive classes - both men and women - and, worldwide, it became the symbol for 'success on the rise'.

Fast-forward 37 years and, as a mark of success, few badges outside of Germany have the enduring cachet of the BMW roundel.

And few can capture the sheer driving excellence and agility of the sporting saloons from Bavaria.

Enter the new 3 Series. For 2012 there's edgier styling, and a longer wheelbase, and only one petrol six across the whole range (in the 335i, producing 225kW and 400Nm from its twin-turbo six).

But there's no shortage of power and performance anywhere with BMW's incredibly potent petrol and diesel fours.

We put the 320d through its paces and arrived at one inescapable conclusion: mid-size saloons don't get much better.

For performance, for engineering, and for that elusive X-factor: the satisfying feel of a superbly balanced sporting machine, BMW is in a class of its own.

Interior

Quality: Who can fault a BMW interior? It might lack a little passion, but fit, finish, and the quality feel to the leathers, plastics and tactile surfaces is simply first class.

The all-over beige of our tester was a bit, well, beige - it's not a colour I would choose - and the pterodactyl-skin trimmings (or whatever it is) to the arm-rests, console and dash is kind of wierd. But everything fits like a glove, and all switchgear and controls are perfectly placed and satisfying to the touch.

We love the '60s Astor radio' look to the dials, and love the look even more when lit up at night.

Comfort: The seats are simply super; firmly padded but nicely scalloped and with 'just right' under-thigh support. For effortless time at the wheel, at a $60k price, perhaps only the Lexus IS range comes close (but back seat passengers are cramped in the Lexus).

The ride is also - quite surprisingly - comfortable and certainly more compliant than the last two generations of 3 Series, which we thought were buttoned down a bit tight and jarred over Australian second-rate road surfaces.

Equipment: As a mid-spec model, the 320d is reasonably well-appointed. There's (naturally) an options list as long as the dingo fence, but BMW is loading in a lot more standard features than you would formerly expect to find.

Standard features include leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, intelligent cruise control, power-adjustable front seats with memory functions, automatic lights and wipers, and park distance control.

Our tester came with the 8.8-inch colour display - clear and easily navigated via the i-controller - and USB audio connectivity, Bluetooth, and a crisp six-speaker sound system with superb audio imaging is standard throughout.

Storage: The longer wheelbase of the new model - now 50mm longer, and with an overall increase of 93mm bumper to bumper - results in a bigger boot of 480 litres (as well as more interior legroom).

The clever 'elbow-jointed' boot hinges of the previous model have gone though, replaced with a more conventional hinged hanging arm that intrudes into the boot, but contained in its own cavity.

Besides an ample glovebox, cavities and nooks abound in the cabin - in the centre armrest, doors, console and centre-stack.

On The Road I

Driveability: Few cars deliver such satisfaction at the wheel.

That remarkable EfficientDynamics turbodiesel 2.0 litre DOHC four in the new 320d produces a lusty 135kW and 380Nm of torque. (It's essentially the same engine as in the 318d but in a higher state of tune.)

Throttle response is near instantaneous. Bury the shoe and there is a momentary pause, then it pulls like a train under a rising and irresistible swell of torque. Though a diesel, it is as smooth as a turbine and effortless on road.

It messes with the head that a diesel of such small internal dimensions can so easily propel a car of this size and 1430kg weight. Whether bolting from the line, pulling out of a corner or overtaking, it has winged heels when a turn of speed is called for.

BMW claims a fuel consumption of 4.5 l/100km for the eight-speed auto we tested (complete with paddle shifters); we managed 6.2 l/100km while left mostly in Sport and on a very tight new motor.

The 0-100km/h sprint time can be despatched in a claimed 7.6 seconds. There is a four-mode adjustment to the powertrain, steering, throttle and DSC settings – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and ECO PRO - we gave each a shot but ending up choosing Sport as the preferred default.

It also features stop-start - it bumps a bit when re-starting - and brake energy regeneration.

Suspension: Typically BMW, the 320d has remarkable agility at speed but is equally at home poking around town or in and out of city car parks.

With all-aluminium double-wishbone suspension up front and five-link rear (trademark BMW), combined with rack and pinion steering, it quite simply provides superior handling and on-road poise.

Refinement: Close the doors and you're in a vault. There is a distant satisfying groan to the diesel engine on the highway, and quite a nice growl when working hard, but of windnoise there is none.

At speed on coarse bitumen a little tyre roar intrudes, but the current generation of run-flat tyres are far quieter than those fitted to previous-gen models.

Braking: Though 'light' underfoot, the 320d's brakes manage to combine good feel and predictable stopping performance with minimum effort and pedal travel.

Whether gliding to a stop, or having to quickly throw out the anchors, braking performance is simply superb.

Safety

ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars

Safety features: No compromise on safety in any BMW; the 320d features six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, cornering brake control and traction control.

Each in the range also features BMW's 'active protection system' which automatically activates at speeds above 18km/h.

The system tensions driver and front passenger seat belts, and if it determines a crash is likely, belts are tightened further and windows and sunroof instantly and automatically close.

Optional items in the 'ConnectedDrive' safety range include lane-change warning, lane-departure warning, rear-view camera and surround view.

Warranty and Servicing

Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres

Servicing: BMW does not set servicing intervals for the 3 Series; servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage

How It Compares I Value For Money

Audi A4 2.0TDI Multitronic ($56,200) - A very nice car offering similar levels of performance but with less power and torque, and, in our view, bettered by the robustness, superior dynamics and feel of the BMW. (see A4 reviews)

Lexus IS 250 Prestige ($55,800) - Exquisite build, a premium interior and heavily featured - but there's something woolly and NQR with the IS 250: it simply lacks the BMW's dynamism, engineering and style sense. (see IS reviews)

Mercedes-Benz C 250 CDI Avantgarde ($67,900) - Some think it's car-of-the-year material, we don't, although it is a superb drive and very fleet of foot.

It is more expensive than the 320d but does not have the sporting feel, nor the rakish personality of the BMW. (see C-Class reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

TMR Verdict I Overall

The new BMW 3 Series 320d is, quite simply, a superb car. Anywhere you look, it is difficult to find fault. Spend an hour or two at the wheel and you will agree.

The interior, though a little soul-less, is exquisite in its quality and feel and the dynamics at the wheel are mesmerising. It is such an enjoyable car to drive it forces you to think about the driving experience and how capably this car performs.

It's not cheap, out of reach of my means, and possibly out of reach of most of middle Australia. And BMW service costs are certainly in the upper percentile - in line with a premium purchase.

But if the price of entry is within reach, this a car we're very comfortable in commending to you. If you're in the market for a premium sporting saloon, the 320d is one to put at the top of your list.

Pricing

  • BMW 318d - $56,400
  • BMW 320i - $57,600
  • BMW 320d - $60,900
  • BMW 328i - $66,900
  • BMW 335i - $91,900

Trim / Equipment options

BMW 318d – Modern Line - $3900, Sport / Luxury Line - $4900
BMW 320i/d - Modern Line - $3100, Sport / Luxury Line - $4100
BMW 328i / 335i – Modern Line - $1000, Sport / Luxury Line - $2000

Note: Manufacturer’s Recommended List Price is shown and includes GST and Luxury Car Tax (LCT) but excludes dealer charges, stamp duty, statutory charges and on-road charges.

Filed under: Featured, review, bmw 3-series, 3-series, diesel, 320d, 2012, rwd, turbocharged, sedan, bmw 320d, prestige, family, medium, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 4door, tim o'brien, 5seat, available

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  • mg81 says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Seems like there's a bit of a gap between the 328 and the 335 now... a 325d or 330d would slot in there nicely
    • Roger says,
      2 years ago
      Check out the on roads...particularly luxury tax. The others all get huge discounts because of fuel efficiency. 335 has a mighty standard features list too. If you option up the others you get close.
  • Roger says,
    2 years ago
    Beatiful car and am considering buying one....one issue though...made in South Africa.
    The coupes and Mercedes are made in Germany. Should I wait until the new 3 series coupe comes out and hope it is still made in Germany?
    • C A Fisher says,
      2 years ago
      hi made in south africa ...What you saying we make it best ...just bought one fantastic .....hey your kambrook appliences are can I say this ......China think
    • Cory says,
      1 year ago
      Roger. Do you even know where South Africa is, or what it's about? A German giant like BMW certainly won't build a world class leading car is a ***ed up place. Get a life man.
      • David says,
        1 year ago
        Check facts before posting clown...BMW 3 series does get built in South Africa. Rosslyn just outside of Pretoria. Shine up!
  • Sydlocal says,
    2 years ago
    The Cruze is between 10-25cm larger in all directions than the first E21 3 series! wink
  • Sydlocal says,
    2 years ago
    Tim, yes BMW service costs are in the upper percentile due to being a "premium" brand however there is one thing that many people seem to forget/fail to realise. I agree, a single service is more expensive than a mainstream brand, but many people forget that you only have to service a BMW up to half as often. Using average kms etc, a BMW 3 Series can actually be cheaper to service than a "run of the mill" Commodore/Falcon over a period of 3 years/60,000km.
    • Smart us says,
      2 years ago
      please elaborate this - how is BWM less on servicing intervals - as much as half often? what is the servicing time / km whatever comes first?
    • Smart us says,
      2 years ago
      i dont know where u getting your info from - BMW is 15,000km service intervals so its Falcon... perhaps some BMW stealer here promoting donk
      • Peter says,
        2 years ago
        A friends BMW 320D was driving 25,000kms a year and the first service was at 32,000kms and the second at 63,000km's. Thus for a typical car 15km year servicing inteval he had required only 2 services instead of 4.
      • Sydlocal says,
        2 years ago
        4 likes
        Marc, I don't know where you got your info from, but BMW has had "condition" based servicing for decades. It works out when a service is due depending on how you drive the car ie stop start verses highway driving etc. The more stop start/short distance driving you do, the shorter the intervals. If you don't do a huge amount of kms per year, it will go off an approximate time period, again dependent on how you drive. It is NOT an "X km/X months whichever comes first" interval like Australian/Japanese cars. My old 1994 E36 325i worked out at around 15-19,000km for a period of around 18-24 months between servicings with an even mix of country/city driving. Since around/just before 2000 (E39/E46 etc), basically all BMWs had a service interval of around 25-30,000km. Travel highway kms a lot and it can stretch out to around 30-35,000km. So over that period of 3 years/60,000km I mentioned above, the average BMW would have been serviced only once (mostly country kms) or twice (mostly city kms).
        And no, I don't work for BMW, I just used to own one around 8-12 years ago and have close friends who own current models.
        That is where the "half as often" comes from as the Holden/Ford would have to have been serviced 3 times and something like a Mazda or Subaru serviced 6 times compared to the BMW 1 to 2 times. It was also mentioned during "Wheels Gold Star cars" where they compare running costs (BMW was at or near the top of each of their respective classes). When serviced as per manufacturer's recommendations, the BMW 1/3 series were cheaper to service (by up to $100) over 3 years/60,000km than a Commodore or Falcon and WAY cheaper than something like a Mazda or Subaru. A BMW X5 was also cheaper to service than a Hyundai Santa Fe... smile
  • big m says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    Hmm smart us
    Now that you have been educated, no more coments!!
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