Tony Bosworth reviews the BMW 320i with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

In a Nutshell: BMW’s 320i is a true driver’s car and with the M Sport-package it certainly looks the part, even if it does top the scales at over $68,000.

Practical Motoring Says: Yes, there’s still fun to be had on the road as long as you’re holding on to a chunky BMW M Sport-package steering wheel attached to the company’s 320i.

I HAVEN’T DRIVEN A BMW for quite some time, not least because back in the 1980s while on a launch on the French Riviera I had a bit too much to drink at the bar and told the company’s UK public relations manager they were yuppie cars. Well, we’ve all said things we regret, even if they were true at the time…

But I’m making no mistake now when I say today’s BMW320i is just about the perfect car. Why’s that then?

Well, first of all it’s an ideal size, it’s got four doors – so it’s nice and practical – and its lines are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, so it’s both unmistakably BMW and also superbly well made, both inside and out.

It’s a good-looking car and with the M package wheels and lowered suspension and that shark-face bonnet and eight-bar kidney-grille it sits the road with a brooding menace.

But above all, this car simply makes you smile because it’s fun. You feel at one with this machine, and in large part that’s down to the sweet turbocharged four-cylinder two-litre producing 135kW of power and a thumping 270Nm of torque sent through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and unusually these days it’s sent to the rear wheels where there’s also an electronic – or computerised, if you like – limited slip differential.

Hustle the 320i (with M Sport package) along – and believe me, that’s how you’ll want to drive it – and keep your foot to the floor and it hangs on to each gear just like a manual. My 10-year old, said it sounded like a racing car, and oh yes it does when you push it. It’s the best engine and such is the constant stream of power you’d barely know there was a turbocharger under the bonnet – there’s never any lag.

You can also change up and down with the steering wheel mounted paddles, but honestly I don’t think you need to, the auto gearbox is simply faultless and smoothly quick shifting.

You can also change between Eco, Comfort and Sport. My money says you’ll just leave it in Sport, but Eco can save a bit of fuel by letting the gearbox change up into a higher gear quicker, while dulling the throttle action.

The M-Sport package suspension achieves the sort of poise, flexibility and handling package few other manufacturers ever get right. There’s barely any body roll and while you can still unseat the back end of the BMW 320i if you try really hard, the level of grip is impressive and frankly the limits are unlikely to be found by most drivers.

Steering is perfectly weighted and allows quick and precise turn-in, aided in no small part by the fat little leather-clad steering wheel. Overall, the driving, ride and handling package is just brilliant and it will put a smile on your face, I promise you that.

The driving position is just perfect, too. It’s one of those rare cars that seems to be able to fit any shape or size of person as if it’s tailor-made. I could almost live inside the 320i. Rear seat space is not bad at all considering this is very compact sedan, and the boot is very sizeable.

The official fuel consumption combined figure is 6.3L/100km. I’m sorry, but the best I could get was 9.3L, and I’m pretty confident most drivers will see that sort of figure.

This car simply begs you to drive it with, well, enthusiasm. You just can’t help it, it’s like it’s got its claws into you. You’ll be taking the BMW320i out for a drive just because it’s there and you can.

Along with other German manufacturers, the BMW 320i’s extra cost options list is long. If you’ve opted for the M Sport package though you’ll already have most of the goodies, but then the M Sport package does cost you an extra $8300 over the base price of $60,000 (+ORC).

You get very smart M design alloy wheels wearing 19-inch rubber, M Sport suspension, Sports leather seats (which are supremely comfortable and support well), the fat and flat-bottomed M steering wheel which is wonderful to hold, special door sill finishers, and an aerodynamic package, as well as shiny exhausts.

BMW’s info and satellite screen is not the biggest by any means but it’s very easy to use and it packs a lot of information in.

And yes it’s a very safe car, with ABS anti-lock brakes as part of the Dynamic Stability Control system which also includes cornering brake  control, stability control and brake assist. You can also specify special four-piston M brakes and yes, of course they cost more at a not inconsiderable $1400.

As standard there’s also what BMW calls Active Protection which means if a crash is imminent the windows and any sunroof automatically closes, and the seat belt pre-tensions and pulls you in tight. There are six airbags.

A BMW is never cheap, in any respect, but you’re paying a premium here for the good things – quality (I get the feeling this car will last a very long time indeed), performance, handling, sheer driving pleasure and, yes, the BMW badge.

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BMW 320i (M Sport Package)

PRICE $68,300 (+ORC) WARRANTY three-years, unlimited kilometres SAFETY five-star EuroNCAP ENGINE 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 135kW/270Nm TRANSMISSION eight-speed automatic DRIVE RWD BODY 4.62m (L); 1.81m (H); 1.43m (W) THIRST  6.3L/100km


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