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2012 BMW 3 Series Saloon Review

Astounding economy from new BMW 3 Series

As before the EfficientDynamics version of the new BMW 3 Series is based on the 320d SE, but is tweaked for even greater efficiency. Despite lower emissions it currently sits in the same tax band, though the improvements in fuel economy should benefit high mileage drivers.

Review

Overall rating: 4/5

As before the EfficientDynamics version of the new BMW 3 Series is based on the 320d SE, but is tweaked for even greater efficiency. Despite lower emissions it currently sits in the same tax band, though the improvements in fuel economy should benefit high mileage drivers.

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics saloon
Pricing: €39,350 (identical to 320d SE)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi A4, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
CO2 emissions: 109g/km (Band A, €160 per annum)
Combined economy: 68.9mpg (4.1 litres/100km)
Top speed: 230km/h
0-100km/h: 8.0 seconds
Power: 163hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,750- to 2,750rpm

In the Metal: 3/5

The new BMW 3 Series continues to divide opinion. For what it's worth, we dig the daring, protruding kidney grille design and the 5 Series like rear end. However, it's a shape that is very wheel and colour sensitive, so the 16-inch 'turbine' rims fitted to the EfficientDynamics model look puny. You're stuck with them unless you upgrade to aftermarket items, though they're virtually the only clue to the fact that this is the EfficientDynamics model.

Neither is there anything inside to give the game away. As in the rest of the range, it's a stylish cabin. It is a pity that some of the plastic switchgear doesn't feel as solid as it does in the 5 Series, but it's undoubtedly well put together.

Driving it: 4/5

The EfficientDynamics saloon should drive just like the standard BMW 320d really, though there are some differences. First up, the engine is detuned slightly, from 184- to 163hp. You'll do well to notice though, as there's the same 380Nm of torque available from just 1,750rpm. Indeed, as the final drive ratio has been lengthened, you tend to drive this car in a high gear with low revs.

That's made easier by the 'centrifugal pendulum absorber' fitted to the flywheel. It reduces vibration under acceleration at low speed, eliminating the feeling that you need to change down a gear. Thanks to its inclusion, the Optimum Shift Indicator has been altered, helping you drive more economically more of the time.

To be honest, you'd have to drive this and the regular 320d back-to-back to notice, but it must work, as fuel economy is impressive. Unfortunately, the engine is quite noisy, which makes you thankful for the stop-start system around town.

As you'd hope, the EfficientDynamics edition steers like any other 3 Series, which is to say it is beautifully balanced and agile like none of its rivals. This new generation has comfort on its side too and that's enhanced in the EfficientDynamics car thanks to the deeper tyre sidewalls.

What you get for your Money: 5/5

BMW prices the EfficientDynamics saloon identically to the SE model and its spec mimics that car - apart from the smaller alloys. The other differences are all in the name of efficiency, including a 10mm lower ride height. However, buyers of the EfficientDynamics model have less choice from the options list. While they can specify an eight-speed automatic (impressively without denting the economy or emissions), there's no M Sport option and the Touring line-up does not include the EfficientDynamics grade. That's the price of 7.5mpg (0.4 litres/100km) and 10g/km improvements.

Worth Noting

In some European countries company car taxation - or Benefit in Kind - is calculated according to the car's CO2 emissions. The 320d EfficientDynamics makes a lot of sense in that case. It's likely that we'll see alterations to the tax bands here in Ireland in the next year or so and then this model may come into its own with lower VRT and annual road tax.

Summary

The EfficientDynamics saloon is the most efficient version, no question, but it will benefit high mileage buyers most. If you've already decided that you'd like a new BMW 320d SE in its standard guise then there's no reason not to go for the EfficientDynamics version instead - the drop in power is small. If, however, you want a sportier looking 3 Series you're better off with a 320d Sport or M Sport - they're economical by any measure.