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Think 'fastback' BMW 3 Series; stretch it, and that's pretty much the new 3GT.

3GT joins the Tourer and Saloon to make up the third body style of the reigning Irish Motoring Writers' Association Continental Irish Car of the Year.

Built using the platform from a 'stretched' 3 Series (which is only available in China), 3GT is longer (+200mm), taller (+81mm) and has a longer wheelbase (+110mm) than the 3 Series we know in Europe.

The exterior has a strong family resemblance to the 5GT and another niche Beemer, the X6. The body styling has an air of strength, helped by 18-inch alloys which come as standard. The front end has the saloon's DNA, while side-on you notice a piece of bodywork shaped like a '7' (or reverse '7' depending on one's viewing point). This is not just a styling piece of trim, but the 'Air Breather' vent. This aerodynamic aid works with the 'Air Curtain' air vent in the bumper to smooth out the airflow across the front wheels.

The rear of the GT slopes at a shallow angle to accommodate the large glazed tailgate. Surprisingly, there is no rear wiper: BMW told me that a wiper was unnecessary because water would simply run off it once GT was moving at speed. During our test drive it rained - and it did!

The standard electronic hatchback opens to reveal a useful boot. With the seats folded you can see where the GT marries the best of tourer and saloon qualities. Dramatic bodylines and creases add to the GT's sense of drama.

Inside the five-seater, you'll find an identical 3 Series dashboard (and switchgear). The fully adjustable driving position is higher than the saloon and tourer's. Rear passenger space is very impressive. Much in the same way the BMW 5GT (built on the 7 Series platform) delivered 7 Series legroom, 3GT's rear legroom is bigger than a 5 Series!

The engine range features three petrol and two diesels. Power is delivered through a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels. X-Drive (four-wheel drive) will be available later this year in all the petrol versions and the 320d (diesel).

GT's ride quality is very comfortable. The larger distance between the front and rear wheels means passengers get an armchair ride. We drove the 320d and also the range-topping 335i straight six cylinder. Needless to say, the 335i had creamy power delivery but sadly will be a rare machine in Ireland - costing well over €60,000.

An 'Active' rear spoiler (a first for the German firm) deploys above 110km/h. You can raise it with a switch also. GT's ride is soft when cornering and it is easy to load up the suspension a great deal before you lose grip – again, the longer wheelbase helps here.

The 184bhp 320d was entertaining on the twisty roads of Sicily. Our test cars had all the usual electronic toys but I would make sure to specify the superb eight-speed automatic (with paddle shifts) and the HUD (head up display) which projects your speed and navigation instructions onto the windscreen in your eye line.

3GT launches in Ireland this July. On the road prices start at €44,170 for the 318d SE and rise up through the 23-model range to €67,640 for the 335i M Sport. Five trim levels will be available: SE, Sport, Modern, Luxury and M-Sport.

3GT will appeal to those who find the only slightly more expensive 5 Series (€45,570) too big, or feel they are too young for it.

3GT is a perfect match for those drivers who want something a little different, need the interior space and want ultimately a practical, yet stylish car.

Michael Sheridan