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This is the bigger, lighter, techier new BMW 3 Series

The core of BMW’s range is back to scare away the C-Class, A4 and Giulia

Published: 02 Oct 2018

Settle down, we’ve got a lot to get through here. This is the new BMW 3 Series saloon and first of all, it’s stolen Peugeot’s headlights. Look! Bookending the merged kidney grilles are headlights with little notches of bodywork eating into them. Very Peugeot 3008.

Fortunately, the headlines don’t stop there. Though while we’re dealing with the looks, isn’t it pleasant to have a new BMW that doesn’t make you want to wretch in the design studio’s face? Take note, X2, X3, X4, X5, iNext, 6GT…

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The agreeable styling is draped over a body that’s 85mm longer and 16mm wider than the last 3 Series. The unhelpful bloat disguises a 41mm longer wheelbase, which liberates the most cabin space of any Three to date.

And yet, this XXL seventh-gen version is said to be 55kg lighter than the last Three. A whole 15kg of that comes from fitting an aluminum bonnet and front wings. Using aluminium for the front suspension struts and engine subframe has cut 7.5kg. Meanwhile, structural rigidity is up between 25 and 50 per cent across the car. Because a stiff chassis means more ultimate driving machine, ja?

Inside, BMW’s finally stopped fiddling with its 1990s design themes and gone chasing after Audi and Mercedes modern-cool ambience. We’ve got a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that lies flush with a widescreen iDrive console. Metal buttons add a touch of class to fiddling with the air-conditioning. There’s ambient lighting, more sculpture to the shapes and surfaces, and the centre console’s been thoroughly reimagined.

Down between the seats, next to the stubby new gear lever, is the new home for the engine start button, and individual mode buttons for the different driver settings. Right next to the auto hill-hold switch, too. Good luck hitting the right toggle when you arrive on a twisty B-road and fancy indulging the trademark 50:50 weight balance and rear-drive chassis…

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Oh, and this is the first Three to ditch a manual handbrake. Like most cars nowadays, it’s got a switch instead, freeing more space for your giant smartphone to live instead, we suppose.

Adaptive suspension is optional, as is xDrive all-wheel drive. At launch, you’ve got a choice of a 320d diesel with 187bhp and 295lb ft, good for 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds if you spec the paddleshift gearbox, or 7.1 seconds if you stick with the (all-new) six-speed manual. The 320d xDrive is slightly slower on paper, but is quicker on snow and ice, if you catch our, um, drift.

Petrol duties are handled by the four-cylinder turbo 330i with 254bhp and a 5.8sec 0-62mph sprint. It returns a claimed 48.7mpg and 132g/km, to the diesel’s 67.3mpg and 110g/km. Later on, there’ll be a plug-in 330e hybrid to make the company car fleet manager’s choice a little easier (and diesel’s job tougher still).

Basically, the new Three is a big collection of numbers all of which are quantifiably better than the last one. The boot is 36 litres bigger. There’s 11mm more rear legroom. Optional laser headlights can peer 350 metres into the gloom. The standard stereo offers 100 watts, the cost-extra Harman Kardon hi-fi ups that to 464 watts.

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And, instead of a dizzying array of optional trims and configurations, there are now merely six option packs and ten single options for the car. That’s merely BMW following suit with Audi and Mercedes, but it makes sense when these cars depend so heavily on which tech boxes you tick. Before any are selected, the new Three starts at £33,610.

BMW’s also followed Mercedes into the ‘say hey’ game with a new Siri-like voice assistant, that’s ready and waiting to do your bidding as soon as you utter ‘Hey BMW’. The company says “BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant learns routines and habits, and is subsequently able to apply them in the appropriate context. The system helps the driver, learns their preferences and is familiar with their favoured settings – e.g. for the seat heating or the places they drive to frequently using the navigation system". Very clever. And somehow terrifying.

Plus, there’s remote driverless parking, you can unlock the car with a smartphone app (so long as you own a Samsung Galaxy) and BMW says its utterly pointless gesture control has learnt two new gesticulations. The mind boggles to what they could be.

So, you’re up to speed on the new BMW 3 Series. Now, go. Lie down in a darkened room and contemplate how many of these things you’ll clap eyes on in the next seven years. All with Peugeot headlights you can’t unsee…

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