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£27,540 when new
What’s going on, isn’t this a car that launched three years ago? You’d be forgiven for thinking so, but no. It is in fact the new(ish) BMW 3 Series, recipient of a mid-life refresh to arm it against XE, A4 and C-Class shaped enemies attacking from all sides. Avid TopGear.com readers among you will note we already drove the fruity 340i version back in July, but with that expected to soak up a mere three per cent of UK sales, it’s largely irrelevant. Time then to take a look at the meaty part of the range, including a collector’s item. Don’t tell me, the 3 Series has gone front-wheel-drive too? No no, nothing quite that drastic. A choice of rear and four-wheel drive xDrive flavours remain, but this oddity concerns the engine. Replacing the four-cylinder 316i in the foothills of the range is a new 318i, powered by the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as the latest MINI Cooper. If you don’t count the Ford Mondeo 1.0 EcoBoost as premium (and we don’t), it’s the first three-cylinder offering in the premium compact saloon class. Producing a modest 134bhp and 162lb ft of torque - identical figures to the old 316i - but with fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 52.3mpg and 124g/km for the manual version (the auto is fractionally cleaner), it’s 12 per cent more efficient. Sounds like it couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding, isn’t it woefully slow?