When I was on the market for a new car some 2 years ago, I knew I wanted something that would not only excite me but tick a few of the boxes I didn't even consider until that point.
At the time, my partner and I were looking for a medium car with the right price and features. As a must, we thought of Sat Nav, leather seats and Sunroof amongst the stuff we assumed would be standard on whatever we chose. The car had to be more power than our previous car, a 2010 (MY11) Golf 118TSI Comfortline with all options. Lastly it had to be a brand which we both liked or trusted, which surprisingly reduced our list quite significantly. The list was narrowed to the Merc C class, Audi A4, BMW 3 and VW CC.
From there the process of elimination went a bit quicker, the Merc and Audi had already been in the market for a little too long and were due to replacement in the coming years, which do not help on resale value. The CC is a great car, but resale value was already very bad, so the only car left was the 3 series which had only been launched a few months before.
When looking at the car, we thought the 320 would be our pick but were convinced the 320d would be a great alternative since there were few available to match what we wanted. We were able to snatch a demo with low kms at a great price, with Sunroof, Sat Nav and Bi-Xenons so the deal was done. Even though it did not have all the options we wanted, the price spoke louder.
Having lived with the car for 2 years now, I have a few points which still excite me and a few that don't. So, below is a list of points about my car and the way I use it. It is worth noting that there are a few comparisons with VW group cars (VW, Audi & Porsche) as they are vehicles I sometimes drive and can draw a comparison point, rather than the usual ignorant rants I could speculate other vehicles do or feel like.
The power of this engine is surprising. The usual diesel lag is there, but once it goes... it really goes. This car is a pleasure to drive anywhere thanks to this very efficient engine. The only thing I would criticise is the amount of noise the engine makes. If compared to other diesel engines from the VW group, this one is the loudest.
The transmission is probably responsible for some of my fuel savings. It is also very good on high speeds. I drive the car every day into the third level underground and the transmission at "carpark" speeds is shocking. Same goes for slow moving traffic. I see people criticising VW's DSG transmissions at low speeds but having recently had a Passat for a week, I can tell you that car is a lot smoother in my car park and at low moving traffic. The BMW jumps every time you slow down and then accelerate slightly to continue moving.
There is no faulting this car when it comes to fuel consumption, it is great and the averages are fairly right.
There is a reason BMW calls itself the Ultimate Driving Machines. This car handles really well, this was the selling point for me, that engine mated to this vehicle equals something really special. I read a few reviews which mention the adaptive chassis control is a must for Australian road conditions and I can see why, however, the standard setting is fine for those of us who, unfortunately, stick to the speed limits. The steering wheel is light when driving slow and beautifully weighted when driving fast. Having driven the Bells Line a few times has given me a greater appreciation for this car.
Looks are for every individual to decide. For me, the BMW 320d is beautiful. I see many of them on the road and still think they look fantastic. I have to say that the Daytime Driving Lights that come with the Bi-Xenon headlights complete the look. Cars that do not have this feature, I think lack that visual touch, let alone the benefits of the Bi-Xenon.
Inside the design is clean and practical. Buttons are at the right spots and the feel/touch is nice too. The location of the Sat Nav unit is good too and does not look like it was placed there as a last minute resort like the one on the new Merc.
Now here is where things get a bit more complex. The driving position is good, however, the left foot rest (or, lets say the space in the foot-hole) is very small so your left leg is always bending to the right. On small drives, this does nothing, but on long drives it is really annoying.
When test-driving the car, I did not even think of jumping on the rear seat. Big mistake! The rear seat has to be one of the most uncomfortable rear bench in car history. Anything more than 30 minutes makes anyone complain of the lack of cushioning, so, again, long trips are a no no.
The actual drivers seat and front passenger seat are very comfortable and have plenty of adjustment for you to find that perfect position.
This car has a fairly small boot if compared to the other German cars we compared. However, the one thing I like is that instead of the spare wheel, you have some extra storage under the boot floor which is perfect for those things that are always in the boot. For a dog owner like me, it is perfect to keep balls, towels, treats, bowls etc.
Yes, unusual topic, but having a dog which travels with me everywhere, I have had my share of good and bad reviews for cars. An easy thing for me would have had to buy a stationwagon or an SUV, which today I would probably agree with, but at the time, we did not find a car that was the right price and the 3 series wagon had just come out so no discounts at all.
The dog is the back seat resident in my car since we do not have any children. Lucky for me, she does not complain about the cushioning either. The plastic which makes the back door window sill however complains a lot. As dogs do, there is slobber which embeds itself onto that plastic and it is really hard to come off.
The rear door window itself is pretty good as it lowers completely making any dog very happy. The position of the window lowering button is in a place which dogs tend to place their paws, so I have to constantly lock it from the drivers door as my dog has learned how to lower her window quicker than she learned to poo outside the house.
Technology & Connectivity
For a vehicle in the price category of the BMW, I expected a little more. Lucky for the new drivers, things that annoy me today are no longer an issue for new customers. The bluetooth connectivity which only streams calls is one thing which annoys me because I have to have an iPod in the centre armrest storage (which isn't very big) with 2 cables to connect it to the car as I cannot stream music straight from my phone.
The onboard computer in the speedo console is minimal, you would think the car would have all the options found in most vehicles nowadays, but no, its date, temperature, kms. It will change to show songs and radio stations when you choose to change them and it also shows calls incoming but that's about it, nothing exciting to see here folks!
The satellite navigation unit and all its functionalities are easy to use and navigate. The round dial and shortcut buttons between the two front seats is surprisingly easy to get used to. Without having to take your eyes off the road, you can touch and find what you need.
One thing I do not comprehend is how BMW decided to create the buttons on the steering wheel. I am not complaining, as the buttons are very easy to use, but the buttons to change songs are one set missing.
The blinkers are a bit touchy. When activated, they make very little noise and the stalk does not really move to a different position when they are active, so, sometimes, when driving they go off and you don't notice, making it hard to get where you want and confusing some other motorists along the way.
There is acceptable storage inside the car, but there are a few things to note here. The cupholders in the front have a type of lid, which when removed does not belong anywhere. This part has lived in my glovebox since we bought the car, making it useless to me. The door storage areas are good enough but always full because there are no other places to store things. So if you have a drink and a wallet, they wont fit on the centre storage. The space under the front armrests is small but good for the iPod and some pens and coins.
The nets behind the front seats are useful, but leaving anything there for too long will deform or loosen the net.
With the recent price reduction on many vehicles, I still think I paid a great price for the car I got. I would not be in line to buy a brand new of those any time soon as it is way too expensive. What I found is that the website will give you a drive-away price that includes all onroads and when you get to the dealership, their "dealer delievery" charges are absurd to say the least.
The options list in the car are a bit too long, but then again, so is the list for other cars in this category. The entire idea the sales consultants try to tell you about being able to customise the car according to your needs crap is just that... crap! When buying a luxury car, you do not expect to get the luxury part as a factory option, you expect it to be there. The worst part is when you come from an old Golf to a new 3 series and realise some things which were standard on your car are an option on the new one.
I bought the car with the expectation it would cost more to service and that is just what it did. I have only needed one service until now and it costed me around $750. There is another service due in a month or so and I believe it will stay around the same if not more. To all the companies who introduced capped price service or anything which gives you an indication of costs, well done!
Overall this is a great car, I often find myself patting the steering wheel and enjoying life onboard the car. The BMW 3 series is an enjoyable car to drive and easy to live with. There has been plenty of faults pointed out in this review, however, I do love to drive this car. Looking back at my purchase in 2013, I believe I made the right choice of vehicle then. Today, I do not think I would be buying another 320d. Not because the car got worse, but because the competition got better.