BMW 320i (part of 3 Series range of sedans) is more than a good romp on city roads. It’s the company’s most affordable petrol sedan, it gets a cracker of an engine, is not squirrely to drive, and its rear seat is among the best in business. It competes with Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the new Jaguar XE.
The 320i continues the design tradition of the BMW brand. The exterior is sporty and elegant, and conveys aesthetics and dynamics at first sight. Combined with the headlights, the striking BMW kidney grille forms a harmonious unit. A view from the sides highlights its precise contours. Horizontal design lines stretch the vehicle optically, making it look longer than it is, and more importantly longer than competitor cars.
The classical three-box design language is not compromised—it has a long bonnet, short front overhang (the lengths of a car that extend beyond the wheelbase) and long wheelbase. The flowing transition from the curving roof line to the flat standing rear window lend the car a coupé-like appearance. It rides on big, 17-inch wheels.
The cabin, as you’d expect in a BMW, is a high-quality selection of materials. The driver seat has a cockpit-like feel to it—all controls are in easy reach and the instrument display ‘opens up’ to the driver. At the centre of the dashboard sits a monitor that is reminiscent of ultra-modern flatscreen TVs. It can be conveniently accessed by both the front passenger and the driver. The car is low, yet getting in and out is easy. However, if you have been driving SUVs of late, it’ll take you some time to get used to sitting in a low sedan.
The rear seating area is spacious, but more importantly, the rear seat provides ample back and thigh support. However, it’s difficult for three people to sit at the rear—the central tunnel takes up the third, middle passenger’s leg space. The boot space is huge.
Features include BMW iDrive (the on-board driver information system), BMW Apps, park distance control, connectivity through Bluetooth and USB devices, and BMW navigation system with integrated GPS and 3D maps.
There are two bottle holders integrated into the central console in front of the gear selection lever—these can easily hold disposable coffee cups or aerated drink cans. There’s space for big, one-litre bottles in the storage compartments under the armrest and in the doors. The central console has space for keeping mobile devices.
Under the hood of the 320i sits a cracker of an engine. This 1998cc petrol motor produces a peak power of 184bhp and maximum torque of 270Nm.
Even at low engine speeds (low RPM), the responsiveness of the motor is excellent. It’s not for nothing that the engine is called the TwinPower Turbo—isn’t it a powerful sounding name? It can accelerate the car from 0-100kph in a brisk 7.3 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 235kph. Clearly, this car is faster than you’d expect is possible with a particular output. Also, the eight-speed automatic transmission performs so smoothly that gear-shifts are almost imperceptible.
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The claimed, maximum overall fuel-efficiency is an impressive 17.61kpl (we got an average of 15kpl in mixed driving conditions). The fuel tank capacity is 60 litres, and that translates into a safe range of 600-800 km on a full tank. The reason the 320i is so efficient is because of EfficientDynamics—a BMW strategy to minimise fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, while enhancing driving pleasure. It is a package of functions, including features such as auto start-stop, EcoPro mode, brake-energy regeneration, lightweight construction, electronic power steering, equal weight distribution on the wheels and so on. In the 320i, you can experience all of these.
The 320i is currently available in only one trim level—the Luxury Line for Rs 42.7 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. It has all the features you’d expect in an entry-level luxury car, and a few more. The 320i is not one car, but a combination of three—sports car, city car, luxury car.