BMW’s top-selling 3 Series variant in recent years, the entry-level four-cylinder 320i, has returned to the fold after a model-change hiatus.
The 320i is now armed with a more powerful and more fuel-efficient turbocharged direct-injected 2.0-litre petrol engine – a detuned version of the N20 engine from the 328i that kicked off sales of the new sixth-generation F30 3 Series earlier this year.
Alongside the 320i at the bottom of the 3 Series range is a new model, the diesel 318d, that uses a detuned version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine in the existing 320d, while also losing a few bells and whistles to create a price leader to attract fresh customers to the Bavarian brand.
With sub-$60k pricetags, these most affordable 3 Series models are expected to do much of the heavy lifting in the showroom as BMW looks to claw back Mercedes-Benz C-Class’s lead in the medium-size luxury-car class.
Model release date: May 2012
BRANDISHING all-new ‘flame surfacing’ styling that defined BMWs in the 2000s, the fifth-generation 3 Series sedan grew in every department compared to its popular E46 predecessor.
It also introduced the company’s controversial iDrive system to the long-lived range.
Six-speed gearboxes prevailed, even in the base 320i (110kW/200Nm).
Models included the 160kW/250Nm 2.5-litre inline six-cylinder 325i (joined later by a detuned 130kW/230Nm 323i version), as well as the 190kW/300Nm 330i – until a 225kW/400Nm 335i twin-turbo six-cylinder range-topper arrived.
For the first time, a diesel 3 Series was released in 2006 (115kW/330Nm 320d).
Along with a raft of changes, that was uprated to 125kW/340Nm during 2008, as was the 320i (to 115kW).
A powerful 180kW/520Nm 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel was added in 2009 (330d), but the performance flagship was the 309kW/400Nm 4.0-litre V8-powered M3 – the first in Australia in four-door sedan guise.
There was also the E91 Touring wagon (from 2006) and E92/E93 Coupe/Convertible variants.
Minor trim and visual changes were introduced during 2010 and 2011.