There aren’t many compact luxury sedans that have enjoyed the attention and due fanfare the BMW 3 Series has enjoyed till now. At one point, not too long ago, it was an unrivalled monopolist in the segment because of its form and its BMW lineage. This 4-door sedan stands proudly on the company’s pedestal as one of the bestsellers, even when pitted against its illustrious elder siblings. In some countries, it has even trumped the sales numbers of non-luxury sedans that operate in a similar size configuration.
The compactness of the 3 Series makes it endearing for discerning Indian motorists who keep their automotive preferences well within the congested confines of city spaces.
In its 2020 variant, the BMW 3 Series presents the seventh generation of the automobile with significant improvements on its past specifications, while still retaining the recognisable 3 Series flavour in every inch.
For a premium midsize sedan, the BMW 3 Series has nearly always ticked the right boxes for decades. While the company hasn’t thrown in radical editions to the previous design, there is a visible sharpness in the way they treat their aesthetics. The contoured surfaces add a distinctive character to the car’s exterior and this is accented effortlessly with deliberate lines.
At the front, the hallmark kidney grille still separates the car from the clutter of sedans out there. The full LED, adaptive headlamps are available in the standard edition and linked to the headlights. This feature could well be the most defining difference when compared to earlier models in the same line. The bonnet is visibly more rounded than we’ve come to expect in the 3 Series. A significant development is that the car is now 7cm longer than its predecessor, with more height and width thrown into the equation.
While the distinct grille proves to be more of a visual mnemonic of the BMW line, it also doubles up as a functional cooling apparatus for the engine. Lying under it are vents that open up when the engine requires to be cooled down.
The rear really has no special talking points other than the standard dual exhaust tips, which can be upgraded by going for the M Sport option. The L-shaped LED tail lights look great and are pretty much the highlight of the uneventful rear configuration. In all, it looks sporty, but not in the aggressive kick-dust-on-your-windshield kind of manner.
Step into the cabin and you could immediately notice how it has improved from the sixth-generation model. It does seat you lower to give you a sportscar sensation. The dashboard is positioned to aid you in your conquest for speed and performance. The instrument cluster is completely digital in this case, which may put some purists at unease. An 8.8-inch touchscreen on the dash gives you access to most significant controls, with an interface that can be customised to your preferences. The iDrive controller hosts a touchpad on which you can scribble instructions. What I really liked was the responsiveness of the voice commands. The Personal Assistant helps drivers keep their eyes and hands on the road by simply voicing instructions that can adjust basic features within the car. A welcome feature for busy Indian roads.
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The cabin focuses on driver and passenger comfort, as is expected from a 3 Series. Climate control can be toggled in three different zones within the car so that everyone enjoys temperatures set according to their whims. The 10-speaker audio system will keep you entertained on all your rides, especially with the convenience of the touchscreen’s infotainment interface to control playback.
The seats are comfortable and offer power adjustments with a sporty feel and memory functions to remember your preferences. The default wake word to get the system respond to voice commands is ‘Hey BMW’, which may seem to be a mouthful if you want something affected immediately, but I won't crib about it anymore. And finally, it has sufficient boot space to accommodate a couple of large suitcases, which better be flatter because of the lack of vertical space.
The 2020 BMW 3 series is available in both petrol (330i) and diesel (320d) variants in India. I took the 320d diesel option for a spin and could feel the power of the 2-litre engine, as it fired up 190 ponies and offered a torque of 340Nm.
What sets this model apart from its previous version is the absence of the single twin-scroll turbo, which is now replaced by two sequential turbos. I could feel the engine to be more cooperative on city streets, thanks to this configuration that helped harness sufficient power, between the first few gears. For a mid-sized compact sedan, the 3 Series impresses with a 0–100kmph acceleration in 6.8 seconds.
Driving on open roads gives you the real feel of the car as the engine’s audial symphony does well to emphasise its power. Being a low-seated car helps you get more control in motion, especially around tricky turns. If you’re wondering how the car would deal with pothole-ridden roads, I’d like to assure you that the suspension seems to be at the top of its game. Having shaved 55kg from its previous version, it is easier to handle.
While the BMW 3 Series may be perceived to be a luxury car in its own right, it felt like an everyday one, both on the Expressway and the congested bumper-to-bumper traffic. There’s nothing more pampering than having to tell your car to cheer you up, verbally, and have it respond with mood lighting to make you feel better. In its segment, it clearly is faster and sportier than contemporaries and pays mind to all your creature comforts. If you’re looking at the 3 Series as an upgrade, then it could be your initiation into a highly digital, new age BMW that is made with your future preferences and connectivity needs in mind. It’s a resounding ‘YES’ from me.