We already know the 3's exterior is more mature and interesting than the old fifth generation car, while inside the cabin there's much more space for passengers. But the revisions and changes under the skin are really worth noting.
Having extensively driven the new 3 at its European launch some months back (see our reviews archive), Motors was keen to get behind the wheel of the least powerful, but ultra-economical and efficient, tax band 'A' 316d. With just 116bhp, 0-100kms takes 10.9 seconds (11.3 auto), but there is a good amount of torque created (260nm) and it is this that helps shift the 316d along quite impressively.
316d expands the engine line-up that launched with just four units initially. Prices for 316d start at €35,980 but hey, this is a premium machine so the car on test had one or two extras that brought the price up to a whopping €44,000 – that's 5 Series money! Drive Performance Control is standard across the range and it is a great tool as it allows you set up the car to how you feel like driving – Eco Pro (allows you to get the most from your fuel), Comfort, Sport and Sport+ (on some models).
My test car had a host of toys like 'Servotronic' (speed sensitive) power steering (€248), reversing assist camera (€413), heated seats (€413) and the extended interior light package (€275), to name a few. Of course, obligatory leather seats (€1,745) were present too, but the latest 8-speed automatic gearbox at a €2,104 premium over the manual is clearly money well spent. To say the automatic's changes are smooth is an understatement. The gearbox is fantastic and really well suited to the Beemer.
My one criticism with the 3 Series is the amount of room in the footwell of right-hand drive cars. In the manual, you have an offset leg position that is annoying, but in the auto your left foot sits in line with your leg – straight ahead. The 8-speed has a broad ratio of gears (a 6-speed manual gearbox is standard) and this can really help hustle the car along. In fact, BMW tells me that the 3 Series automatics are as fuel efficient as their manual counterparts.
So, to state the obvious: the new BMW 3 Series is bigger, better and more complete than the car it replaced. The 316d automatic is a brilliant option to have in the range, especially as the larger 'engined' cars, by the time you spec them up, are too close to the excellent and bigger 520d. For doing the daily commute or for discerning drivers who like the car's premium looks and styling, the 316d makes huge sense. Let's not forget it handles really well too, as it features a near-perfect 50/50 balanced chassis, making the sixth generation Beemer a no-brainer.
316d is no M3, but a 3 Series for the times we're in.