After what seemed like an eternity I finally got the chance to get testing again, and with some long distance traveling planned for work purposes it made sense to request a car for this journey. BMW SA were kind enough to drop off their new 320i sedan, I use the term "new" very loosely because the G20 model has been around for over a year now and while sales of this particular model haven't been as great as its predecessor, iwhich is no fault of the actual car but down to another model from the BMW stable, the X3, the G20 3 Series is still a very good car. You see when the BMW Group decided to change up their plant in Rosslyn from manufacturing the 3 Series Sedan to the X3, there has been a surge by dealerships to push the locally made model and it makes sense too. The market trend has shifted to suburban type vehicles so naturally the X3 would be the perfect medium to large offering for those who were used to the 3 Series. In saying that, the market for a mid-sized luxury sedan is very still much there, hence the 3 Series is still in existence and it has some stiff competition from its competitors but for me personally, there is something about the 3 Series that just pips them in every aspect and after spending a short but sweet time with the base engine variant of the range, it just reaffirmed my stance.
Having already discussed the design of the G20 model in detail previously, there isn't much to add on to this aspect but I can talk about the spec which was kitted on this particular model. As you know with BMW there are a variety of ways the end user can customize their car, giving them a sense of individuality, which is great seeing that this was offered mainly on the more higher end models. The car was Alpine White and came in the launch edition M Sport guise. It was fitted with 18-inch double spoke bi-colour rims which are a different option to the normal M Sport rim and just added extra character to the overall look of the car. While I would have liked this rim to be 19", the smaller rim size did make sense given it was multi-spoke and the extra thickness of profile on the tyre would affect ride quality for the passengers. Other note worthy design features which I never touched on before would be the use of high gloss black plastics on the front and rear diffuser, we've become accustomed to seeing the use of that hardy, robust plastic so much that the use of this seems rather elegant and classy even if it is on the sports kit. The rear diffuser is rather stylish with the dual tailpipes and the faux air outlets which cut out from the sides. I was skeptical on white in this car at first as I thought it would be rather boring but turns out it works quite well.
When I attended the launch of the new 3 Series last year, this was the one model I didn't get a chance to get behind the wheel off, mainly due to me wanting to check out what the 330i had to offer as well as the 320d so I'm glad I the chance to spend a few days with the current base engine model of the range. While it may be overlooked by many because its the entry level, this engine is quite a dynamic one. The 2.0-liter 4 cylinder Twin-Power Turbo engine delivers 135kW and 300Nm of torque, so more than enough power to slug this big car around. Having had to do a decent long distance trip it would allow me to see how this engine would cope on the long haul. Having driven 450km that day, with me mainly making use of the active cruise control and the BMW driving assist package which is an optional extra. It really does take the annoyance of cruise control away, knowing when to slow down for cars in front of you, helping your car stay in the lane and even assisting with turning for bends. You have to set the distance meter though as the car will start braking from way before hand, then forcing you to accelerate more when overtaking. This I think was one of the downfalls to my drive and purely my fault which resulted in my average fuel consumption for the journey being 7.9L per 100km. This was also due to the number of times the road switched over to single lane driving and avoid all sort of obstacles, on your standard long distance trip Joburg with dual carriage way it would come down significantly less.
I think it's safe to say BMW are not compromising on luxury in any of their latest models, I mean if there is a difference from the 1 Series up to the 5 Series, it is very minimal because I cannot fault them. Yes there is that optional extras list which you can fill up very quickly at quite the price but even some of the standard stuff is just quality. The dual zone climate control aircon works like a charm up front with a third zone for the rear passengers. The seats are premium as you can get and very comfy, you won't find yourself making adjustments while driving in a hurry. The steering wheel is super comfortable and while the car has semi-autonomy where by you don't really have to keep your hands on the wheel all the time, it really feels good to have it on them. Ride quality is faultless, the suspension is great, very little road noise in the cabin of the car and if there is due to the type of surface you're traveling on, the Harman/ Kardon sound system made you forget about it very quickly. The ambient interior lighting adds another dimension to your experience in the cabin, while not distracting it sets a great mood for driving. Everything is laid out well, in arms reach of the driver and most importantly works. That is all we ask for and that is what BMW delivered. Boot space, there's plenty of it, they've improved on this aspect while I feel head room on the boot could be better I suppose they did their best given what they had to work with.
From all the engines I've driven in the 3 Series range so far, this one does seems like the most practical, shock, horror! Yes, this coming from me, the very person who swears by the 320d but hear me out, while the 320d would give you a better consumption than the 320i, you cannot ignore the performance you get from petrol combustion than diesel. That torque figure on the 320i is staggering and truth be told, if you drive this car properly there's nothing stopping you from achieving 8L per 100km in suburban driving. The extras that came with the car were perfect and even though I did miss the adaptive LED lights with high beam assist, this standard one wasn't too shabby. The digital instrument cluster has been a common feature in these test units, so much so that I forget a base model comes with the standard analog one, I've said many times that this is more than sufficient so there wouldn't be a need for the heads up display if you have it ticked. The larger infotainment screen with the professional sat-nav is rather handy as well, the hand gestures become troublesome for those who like to talk with their hands while driving, example myself who ended up muting and skipping tracks while conversing with my passenger. Overall it's a great package from BMW, and one that will sell relatively well on the market.
2.0L Twin Power Turbo