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BMW 320i 2022 review

 

With its fluid and driver-friendly dynamics, the G20 3 Series is still the segment’s handling benchmark – but the base 320i ultimately doesn’t feel as complete as our favoured 330i


Good points

  • Sweet rear-drive chassis
  • Telepathic transmission calibration
  • Superb cabin build quality
  • Affordable service packs

Needs work

  • At list price the 320i isn’t great value
  • Fidgety ride on passive dampers
  • Rear seat still tight for adults
  • Short three year warranty

The G20-generation BMW 3 Series has repeatedly performed strongly in Chasing Cars testing, owing to its sweet rear-drive chassis and the ability to get the 330i in practical wagon form. Since its Australian launch in March 2019, we’ve driven a host of 3 Series variants from 330i through M340i up to full-fat M3, but it’s taken until now for BMW to deliver a base model 320i sedan for us to test.

BMW sells the 320i in Australia from $71,900 before on-road costs, and it regularly runs enticing discounts for the model. To the end of March 2022 the 320i was available for $71,000 driveaway, and from now until June 31 BMW is offering a three-year finance deal with a 10 percent deposit, $38,805 guaranteed future value and weekly repayments of $249.

So with the arrival of the new Mercedes-Benz C200 at $78,900 before on-road costs (with no-negotiation, fixed prices), and Audi’s otherwise charming entry-level A4 35 TFSI ($59,900) not being fitted with adaptive cruise control and using a relatively modest 110kW/250Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, the 320i on paper looks like the most complete package from the traditional German trio.

This particular 320i had option boxes ticked including the $4800 Visibility pack that brought excellent laser headlights, a sunroof and sapphire black metallic paint. It also featured the Comfort pack with a power bootlid, handy digital key and heated front seats with lumbar adjustment for $3000 bringing this 320i to $79,700.

Those paying attention will note that this 320i’s as-tested price before on-road costs is very close to a standard 330i ($79,900) which has a beefier 190kW/350Nm tune of the same ‘B48’ engine, adaptive dampers, larger 19-inch alloy wheels and BMW’s driving assistant professional package thrown in as standard – so is the 320i really a good buy?

How does the 320i drive?

The 320i’s longitudinally-orientated 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine is sweet and refined in operation and punches out decent outputs of 135kW/300Nm, enough to get this 1470kg midsize sedan to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds.

While it’s adequate, the gruntier 190kW/350Nm tune in the 330i definitely adds more high RPM theatre to the 3 Series sedan, but it’s not strictly necessary. Regardless of engine tune, BMW’s calibration of the famed eight-speed ZF automatic transmission is excellent: slick and relaxed when cruising, yet rapid and telepathic when pushing on.

Next to the automatic gear shifter there are buttons for the three selectable drive modes: Sport, Comfort and Eco, with Sport offering ‘Individual’ customisation through the touchscreen, allowing drivers to tailor the steering, engine and gearbox response – though not damper settings, as these are passive on the 320i.

Superb adaptive dampers – standard on the 330i – are available as a standalone option ($1100) or part of the M Sport Plus pack that also bundles a rear lip spoiler, black pack and M Sport brakes for $3231 and our testing suggests the switchable suspension is almost a must-have option for the 3 Series (unlike the 4 Series coupe). Not for the body control that the firmer Sport setting adds, but for the more cosseting urban ride of a 330i in Comfort mode.

On its 225/45 front, 245/40 rear 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 run-flat tyres the 320i transmits a constant jiggle from road imperfections into the cabin. This is more pronounced at urban speeds, and although it does subside somewhat on country roads BMW has clearly tuned the 3 Series for athleticism over comfort.

The 320i’s knobbly ride does have its payoffs though, because when you find a great stretch of road this base model executive sedan devours technical corners, with great chassis feedback making it into the cabin and an exploitable rear-drive balance.

On smooth hotmix freeways the 320i really nails the luxury feel with a flat ride and excellent NVH suppression that helped dampen the Yarra Valley’s poorly surfaced roads. Still, initial testing suggests the new passively-damped ‘W206’ Mercedes-Benz C200 strikes a better balance between everyday comfort and backroad poise than this 320i – a future comparison will surely find out.

BMW 320i 2022-14

The 320i scored five stars when it was evaluated by ANCAP in March 2019 with a strong 97 percent result for adult occupant protection. However the related G42 2 Series Coupe recently scored four stars in Euro NCAP testing with the same safety hardware due to poor results in lane-keep assist tuning.jir

In 2022, the base model 3 Series adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning feel immaturely tuned compared to the full Driver Assistance package’s ($2900) advanced lane tracing and highway travel assist that comes standard on the ultimately more convincingly-specified and complete 330i.

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
7.5
Ride & refinement
7.5
Handling
8.5
Safety
7.0

How is the 320i’s interior?

This car’s particular sapphire black duco and black leather interior with a sunroof is a conservative set of options. You can of course step out with the 3 Series – it’s one of the main draws of any luxury vehicle – with bright paints such as sunset orange and Portimao blue to choose from.

The same is true of the leather. In conjunction with the optional comfort pack’s genuine leather upholstery, BMW offers the choice of oyster, cognac or Tacora dyed cow-hide to lift the cabin’s appearance. There are also more interesting trims available than this tester’s easily-marked piano black inserts.

Not so great is the need to opt for the comfort package to score expected niceties such as heated seats and lumbar adjustment for the driver with seat ventilation not available at all on the 320i.

What’s hard to criticise is BMW’s consistent devotion to cabin organisation. All the controls you need are sensibly laid out including steering wheel buttons to adjust driver assistance, cruise control, volume and media selection. On the centre console the legible drive mode buttons are all laid out next to the gearshift and push-button start for easy access without resorting to touchscreen interaction.

The times you do need to interact with the 10.25-inch touchscreen are painless with the 3 Series as well, with easy to hit targets, high resolution and attractive graphics. Unlike Audi and Mercedes-Benz, BMW retained the iDrive rotary controller for easy use on rough roads.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and the CarPlay connection was faultless during our testing. Only the dull 12.3-inch digital driver’s display could do with some improvement in contrast and legibility (though BMW has addressed that in its latest EVs including the i4 and iX).

Like other contemporary BMWs the 320i had exemplary build quality with a hewn-from-solid feel to the steering wheel, dash and door cards and no creaks or rattles during the test period.

Despite the G20 3 Series growing 85mm in length and riding on a 41mm longer wheelbase than its F30 predecessor, back seat room still isn’t this car’s priority.

That said, four people up to 180cm would be accommodated by the 320i in reasonable comfort with head and toe room the main issues for me at 188cm tall. Five is a squeeze though thanks to the 320i’s raised middle seat and sizable transmission tunnel, meaning that the 4 Series Gran Coupe with swooping styling has less trade offs than you might expect.

The Gran Coupe’s liftback also beats the 3 Series’ boot in terms of broad access for large items – though this 320i has a power bootlid as part of the comfort pack – but with 480 litres of total space, the sedan does have plenty of space for luggage and a neat 40/20/40 split folding rear bench.

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
8.0
Cabin technology
8.0
Driver comfort
8.0
Passenger space
7.0

What are the 320i’s running costs?

With key rivals such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar Land Rover and Lexus all shifting to a five year warranty, BMW’s three-year unlimited kilometre guarantee has fallen behind.

Unfortunately no BMW is available with a factory extended warranty either, unlike Porsche vehicles that can have factory warranty extended at a cost depending on the model.

However affordable service packages are available, with BMW’s ‘Basic’ offer that covers the 320i’s maintenance for five years/80,000km costing only $1750 compared to $5200 for a Mercedes-Benz C200 (though that pack covers 125,000kms) or $2920 for an Audi A4 35 TFSI.

BMW will sell you the more involved ‘Plus’ plan which increases the price to $4665 for five years but covers consumables such as brake rotors, brake pads and wiper blades.

The ADR 81/02 combined consumption figure for the 320i is an impressive 6.3L/100km and in our combined testing the 3 Series returned 9.3L/100km.

Running costs scorecard
Consumption
Good
Servicing
Great
Warranty
Below average

The final verdict

How much value does this base model BMW offer? When it’s on offer and you can get a little off the top then the 320i’s exploitable chassis and sweet motor make it an enticing deal.

But when you consider the small $8000 jump to the 330i with its more powerful tune, more sophisticated dampers which add both comfort and control, it’s hard to actively recommend the 320i as the best 3 Series in the range at its full list price.

BMW 320i 2022-5

The fact BMW’s warranty is only three years and cannot be officially extended doesn’t help the value proposition of the base car either.

Importantly though, the 3 Series is still the best in class on a challenging, twisty road with sublime dynamics that rivals struggle to match, add to that it’s slick and easy-to use cabin and we can see why BMW’s midsize sedan is still the best-selling combustion engined car in the segment.

Overall rating
Overall rating
7.5
Drivability
8.0
Interior
8.0
Running costs
Average
Overall rating
7.5
Drivability
8.0
Interior
8.0
Running costs
Average

Variant tested 20i M SPORT

$71,900
Details
Options fitted
BMW Visibility Pack 1 (MP+PSRG+LLED+AIL)
$4,800
Comfort Pack
$2,600
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges
$83,243

Key specs (as tested)

Engine
Capacity
1998 cc
Cylinders
4
Induction
Turbo
Power
135kW at 5000rpm
Torque
300Nm at 1350rpm
Power to weight ratio
92kW/tonne
Fuel
Fuel type
Petrol
Fuel capacity
59 litres
Consumption
6.3L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
936km (claimed)
Drivetrain
Transmission
Automatic
Drivetrain
Rear Wheel Drive
Gears
8
Dimensions
Length
4709 mm
Width
1827 mm
Height
1435 mm
Unoccupied weight
1460 kg

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