If you considered a BMW 3-series in the past, most likely you were turned away because of the BMW price tag. The new 320i however knocks $3,000 off the price tag and a much less powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This all sounds good on paper, but are you really buying a 320i because of the badge? Let’s find out.
Performance: The 320i comes with the same 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder but only produces 180hp instead of 248hp. Most will think it’s too watered down, but in our opinion we found this engine to be quite enough. City and highway driving never felt underpowered and the overall impression of the engine itself is quite good. Fuel economy isn’t too much different than the 330i which is a little disappointing considering the decrease in horsepower.
Ride & Handling: The 320i rides and handles the way a BMW is supposed to. Sharp handling, precise steering and excellent body control. The all-wheel-drive version has oodles of grip, but the sweet spot is the rear-wheel-drive configuration. You can really kick the car into corners and it feels much lighter and more engaging to drive hard.
Refinement: Some wind noise will sneak into the cabin at highway speeds. This however can be drained out when you turn the radio on. Road noise and suspension noise are well suppressed. The turbo engine has an addicting turbo whirl that adds a bit to the overall sporty nature of the car.
Behinid the wheel: Drivers will be greeted with plenty of adjustments for the driver’s seat and steering wheel. The instrumental panel has a minimalistic approach in terms of how the controls are laid out. Most are hidden away in the standard iDrive system. BMW has vastly improved the interface and made it less fiddly than the previous version.
Space & Practicality: There is plenty of space for both front and rear passengers. Headroom and legroom are plenty. The boot offers a decent size too, although you’ll have to pay extra for split folding rear seats.
Equipment: The 320i comes well equipped considering that the price drop between it and the 330i. Automatic climate control, iDrive interface, and an eight-speed automatic are standard. You’ll have to pay extra for leather seats, xenon headlamps and a sunroof. Considering the amount of kit you get already, the only option that makes sense would be the Xenon headlamps. The cool corona ring day-time running lamps are definitely worth the extra money.
Buying & Owning: The 320i doesn’t really offer much of a fuel advantage over the 330i, which is disappointing because it would broaden the appeal. The price between the two trims isn’t that significant to really make this version of the 3 series a real bargain. Running costs should be decent if you keep a light food on the accelerator pedal, resale value should be strong as with all BMW Cars.
Reliability: The quality materials used inside the cabin are up to par with the price tag. Everything feels high quality and long lasting. Although some plastic around the glove compartment look rather cheap, reliability is reasonable for the 3 series.
Safety: Front and side curtain airbags are standard as well as knee airbags for front passengers. Adaptive brake lights, anti-lock brakes with traction control and electronic stability program should help aid in traction. An engine immobilizer and anti-theft deterrent keeps theft at bay, an anti-theft alarm is optional.
The 320i is the cheapest way into the 3-series line-up. It may skip a few of the desirable features that you’d want, but for the price and what it offers it’s quite enough. However, like all cars there are downsides. The fuel economy benefits aren’t significant compared to the 330i. Some may view it as a watered down 3-series, while others will say there are rivals that offer much more for this price. If you like the BMW badge but couldn’t afford a 330i, this maybe your new way in. Otherwise we’d say go with the 330i.
Likes: Attractive starting price should lure new buyers. Sharp steering and handling, turbo engine is smooth and doesn’t feel underpowered. Halogen headlights are weak.
Dislikes: Some will see it as a watered down 3-series. No fuel economy benefit compared to the 330i which has 68 more horsepower. Add on the options and this entry-level is about as expensive as the 330i.