We try out the first rung on the 3 series ladder.
As you read this, we’ll have driven every example of BMW’s bread and butter 3 series model range. Now that we’ve had some time behind the wheel of the 320i, what we discovered will come as a shock to no one.
- typical BMW dynamic brilliance
- commendable fuel economy
- feels stronger than its output suggests
- electronic power steering is still a little aloof
- no backup camera or proximity key for the price
- as the options are added the value proposition diminishes
- Even the most entry level Bimmer can still impress; just be careful with the option sheet.
You still get confident and superbly engineered driving dynamics. The unwavering safety net of xDrive is still top notch and you’ll be hard pressed to find another vehicle to whittle away a pile of kilometers on a road trip. Not as exciting is the fact that you must also embrace an option list that can pile on the dollars frighteningly fast, steering feel whose lucidity has been compromised in recent years and a de-tuned version of BMW’s excellent N20 turbocharged four cylinder.
Actually, that last point isn’t so bad at all. 181 horsepower may seem a bit paltry amount of grunt but like many Bimmer’s this mill feels stringer than the numbers suggest. If you really miss the power you’d normally have on tap in the 328i, I’m sure the aftermarket is busy at work coming up with electronic tuning solutions to help you safely dial up the boost pressure until you’ve got something that is as good or better than the output the middle range 328 can muster. More power is always tempting but leave it alone and you’ll get stellar road trip mileage of 6.2L/100km like I achieved round trip when visiting Bon Echo Provincial Park recently.
BMW claims that the 320i is aimed at people like me, young(er) professional types who are getting their first taste of an entry level sports sedan. With a base price of $39,900 this may be a bit of a stretch, but look at its competitors- they are all within spitting distance of each other. The problem begins to manifest itself when you start checking off options- our lightly optioned tester rang in at $47,150. That might be a bit of a stretch for the demographic they’re going after, made less attractive when you consider that the 328i can be had for pretty close to $40 grand.
The bottom line is the badge on the trunklid motivates many shoppers, and BMW’s spinning propeller doesn’t just signify your dedication to sporty handling. It’s a statement, and there are those who won’t mind shelling out the extra dollars. For them this car will more than fill the need for commuting. For those that really value their driving experience, there aren’t many players in this segment that deliver as many thrills on a budget (again, if you’re careful) as the BMW 320i.
2013 BMW 320i xDrive- Specifications
- Price as tested: $47,150
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre inline 4 turbo, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 181 @ 5000-6000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft): 184 @ 1250-4800 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,547 kg (3,410 lbs)
- Fuel consumption: City: 9L/100 km (26 mpg) Highway: 5.7L/100 km (41 mpg)