GOOD teams can win one premiership. Great teams maintain their dominance and string titles together.
BMW has boasted the benchmark in the luxury compact range for years and has managed to keep the split-kidney grille in front of some strong competition.
For those who enjoy driving there has been little better than the BMW 3 Series.
Great feel through the steering and an ability to hug the bends makes short work of testing corners.
While there has never been any issue with the drive quality, base models did feel bereft of the goodies expected of a luxury offering.
Two new "cheap" 3 Series derivatives were introduced this year with specification befitting the propeller badge.
Just because you're in entry-level territory, it no longer feels like it once you are inside.
There's limited use of plastics, and while the leather is man-made most punters would struggle to tell the difference between the faux and real stuff.
Seating throughout is supportive, but the front pews could do with some more bolstering.
Being a compact sedan there is good room for the driver (who also has telescopic steering wheel adjustment) and front passenger, but if they're tall then rear seat knee and leg room quickly disappears.
Overall the ambience is pleasant with the stereo buttons and dials for the dual zone air-con easy to use. It's refreshingly simple.
Our main complaint was the standard steering wheel on the 318d is wiry, whereas the 320i gains a sportier number with paddle shifters.
The 6.5-inch colour screen doesn't fold either.
On the road
Every pull of the wheel reminds the driver why the 3 Series has been so loved the world over.
Direct steering and a taut chassis provide an engaging experience with great surefootedness.
For those who have a need for speed, the 320i is the pick between the base models. Power improvements of 17% and increased torque to the tune of 22% over the previous model make it even more fun to throw around.
You can choose between four driving styles, including Sport+ which quickens changes and de-sensitises the stability control.
It boasts your traditionally firm 3 Series ride, whereas the diesel with smaller alloys has a softer approach.
The oil-burner is passive in its power delivery, but strong torque makes it a useful ally around town.
Both models have an Eco Pro mode which makes things pretty doughy, but can eek out some savings with more efficient driving when acceleration is detuned, along with the air con, and other efficiency tweaks.
It only really works well in the city environs.
What do you get?
Sure you can head to the lengthy options list, although you can live without them courtesy of standard gear like push button start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control that even holds your speed down hills, multi function steering wheel and alloy wheels.
Also worth exploring is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200 petrol ($58,600) or the diesel CDI ($60,100), Lexus IS250 ($55,800) and the Audi A4 1.8 TFSI ($52,700) or the diesel 2.0 TDI ($57,900).
Both are misers in terms of fuel consumption, and we surprisingly managed to achieve close to BMW's average claims of 6.2 litres for the petrol per 100km and an impressive 4.5 for the diesel.
BMW offered free scheduled servicing for three years recently, but that deal finished in October so its best to investigate the ongoing out of pockets as maintenance and parts can be expensive.
Four adults can be carried, although the big and burly may find things tight in the back.
Two bottle holders up front, a good centre console and storage options in the doors are handy.
The back seats fold flat in a 60-40 configuration leaving a handy area for bikes and other awkward items.
This is bread and butter from BMW. There are the glamorous coupes and drop-tops, whereas the 3 Series is sensible yet classy. For those really wanting to spice things up, you can kit out the 320i with an M Sport package for $6844.
Base model 3 Series driving has never been better.
Specification improvements and changes to the cabin look and feel more "BMW".
Only $1200 separates the two in retail pricing, but they have different personalities. Those looking for a highway cruiser or city commuter would be best suited to the 318d, whereas drivers keen to push hard in the bends and with a want for more rapid acceleration would find things more rewarding in the 320i.
What matters most
The good stuff: Retail prices, corning abilities, standard features.
What we'd like to see: Option for slightly softer ride…but then again that would go against BMW's dynamic driving ethos.
Warranty and servicing: Three years/unlimited kilometres, and three years roadside assist. There is no set servicing timing. All inclusive servicing packages are available.
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