Is the BMW 3-Series still the car to beat?
There are serious alternatives to the mighty BMW 320d. Question is: do you dare to be different?
Posted: 11 Jul 2012
Ah. Even given armour-piercing statistical ammunition, you can't get away from the fact that some people just can't bear to lend personal weight to an accepted cliché. And thank goodness. But not wanting a small exec four-cylinder BMW doesn't necessarily open up the whole gamut of wider car-buying. People still have company-car schemes to comply with, and while they might want to step lightly away from the herd, dropping themselves into a third-hand VW Phaeton V10 diesel - no matter how hard you argue the Top Gear maths - simply isn't on the cards. Luckily, options exist. And they're not as wacky - or compromised - as you might expect.
Let's start with a light smattering of ground rules. The BMW costs, in the Sport variant we have here, £29,080, with the base 320d ES costing a grand less. So we're arbitrarily looking to strike around the £30k mark, though this is more about concept than terribly model-specific comparison. Cars must seat four comfortably and five at a push, have decently comparable bootspace, economy, insurance and running costs. And - most importantly - be worthy of more conversational start-up than the default German competition from Mercedes and Audi, for which the following page might be of interest.