Late last year BMW released their face lift to their 3 Series, it was an important milestone for the company as it marked the 40th year of production for the popular sedan as explained in my review of the 320i. Although not much was revised in terms of styling of the cars, 90% of the range received brand new engines and of this I spoke very highly about the 320i, I fell in love with that over the 7 days I had it, it honestly seemed like the perfect fit for my life and driving style. This year however I was given two other variants that got me thinking and could eventually sway may decision.
I got a call in the second week of the year, the BMW 320d and 318i were both available for test, of course I said yes to both. On one had you got the intro level diesel engine and the other, the much talked about 1,5ltr engine that had everyone raving about. The 3 Series is BMW's money maker, it's the most sold in volume and iconic in it's very own right as it was for most part of it's 40 years the entry level range to the German Motor manufacturers stable, so it was good to see that the latest variant was living up to the values of its predecessors.
320d - First up, the 320d rolled in for a week, the colour, Jatoba Metallic which was a brownish, charcoal colour with a full creme interior that matched it to perfection. The car sporting the Luxury package with high gloss wood finishes, chrome edges and elegant smoked 17" rims made it look like a proper luxury saloon. That's the thing with BMW, yes the optional extra list can go a bit but you can customise your car so well with it. Making your own unique and to your taste.
318i - In what was almost a spitting image of the 320d I had the week before, the 318i was almost exactly the same. The differences came with the rims and of course, single exhaust pipe as the diesel model had twin. The rims being the standard alloy colour didn't suit the colour as well as the smoked rims did, so that took me a while to get used to. Other than that, the car looked immaculate.
Going inside the car, the colour combinations of dark wood and creme leather and carpets was pleasing on the eye. The ride quality on the 320d and 318i were no different to that of the 320i I had last year. For a sedan aimed at the working class market, buyers of the car are getting premium finishes that one can also find in the 6 or 7 series. That's what I like about BMW, no matter the model, there is a consistency in quality that you won't find in other manufacturers. Same goes for ride quality, as it's unparalleled to its competitors but maintained throughout the range.
320d - the 2ltr 140kw diesel engine was impressive in terms of power and performance, plenty of torque with minimal turbo lag from the Twin Power turbo plant. Improved fuel economy which saw it's average consumption dropped to 4.0 ltr per 100km in ideal conditions, I managed 6.3ltr per 100km and I'm sure I could get it down to 5 if I drove it diligently but with all that torque, it would have seemed a waste to do so.
318i - While engine used in this car is shared with a Mini Cooper, don't be fooled by what it can do. Yes it is a bit sluggish on take off but it more than makes up for it when you on the road as it picks up paces quite quickly after passing 60kph. I was very impressed with the pulling power and the way it managed to carry the heavy body of the car even with a full load of passengers. I had the standard automatic gear box with this one and normally I do feel the ratio's and timings are poor with it but they seemed to have fixed that issue, so no unnecessary high revving and wasting fuel, which ultimately does wonders for its consumption.
320d - Honestly, driving both cars was a pleasure but with obvious reasoning the 320d did offer the better drive. It was more responsive on acceleration thanks to the torque, more faster but even though the engine has been refined, the sound is unmistakably diesel. It doesn't bother me at all but for many this hinders their choice in purchasing diesel. For me the cost savings speak for itself. Diesel is many places is cheaper than petrol and it doubles your range than what you would get in a petrol engine of the same capacity.
318i - While it did lack power at times, I can't fault the driving experience in the 318i. I was really impressed by by this car. As said before, the engine is more than capable to haul this big sedan around with ease and without using more fuel which is an added bonus. I was told that due to the coastal conditions that this car will perform even better than it would in higher altitude, so you have to take that into consideration as well.
Both cars came loaded with the best that the 3 series range had to offer, the lighting package really makes the car look stunning at night with welcome lights below the door handles. The camera package is becoming more and more essential to my needs with the car, not that it makes you lazy when it comes to parking but it provides you with a view of things you wouldn't normally see from your mirrors. If you want to be lazy you can always opt for the park assist feature which firstly scans for an appropriate parking spot then parks your car for you! Other extra's included the Harman Kardon hifi sound system with stereo 7 logic and one extra which I love, the adaptive LED headlights.
Overall after driving both engines, I can't say which one is better as they both have that charm about them and of course their use for a driver. the 318i is perfect for your daily run around, whether its to work or picking up the kids from school and running errands whilst the 320d is great for that was well but on long distance travels it really shows it's class with great speed and even better fuel consumption. If I had to choose, it would be the 320d, it suits my driving style and lifestyle. It's a cruise but packs that punch should you want to open it up a bit every now and then.