What is it?
The seventh-generation G20 BMW 3 Series arrived in Australia in March this year, starting with an initial range of two sedan variants in a choice of diesel or petrol-flavoured 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
The 330i petrol is the more powerful of the two, offering 190kW and 400Nm compared to the twin-turbo 330d’s 140kW/400Nm. This makes it the sportiest 3 Series variant on sale at the moment... until the all-wheel-drive M340i arrives in showrooms later this year, that is.
How much is the BMW 330i?
BMW 330i pricing starts at $70,990, which is $3000 more than the 330d. The price of both includes an M Sport exterior and interior bling, while the 330i also gains adaptive M suspension.
Each variant also comes with the Luxury Line Package as a no-cost option, which brings leather Vernesca upholstery with sports front seats, ash wood trim, sports leather steering wheel, digital instrument panel, LED fog lights and, in the case of the 330i, 19-inch double spoke alloy wheels to the party.
Our test car also featured the extra-cost Visibility Package, which for $5070 includes a sunroof, metallic paint (in this case the stunning Portimao blue), ‘Laserlight’ LED headlamps and interior ambient lighting that took its retail price to $76,060.
The 330i’s base price compares well to similarly-powered rival sports sedans like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce ($72,900), the Audi A4 40 TFSI quattro ($70,300), the Lexus IS 300 F-Sport ($66,820), the Mercedes-Benz C300 ($71,800) and the new Genesis G70 3.3T Sport ($71,000).
The BMW 3 Series is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is two years less than the new industry norm of five years. It does mirror the same warranty period as its European rivals.
Who is it for?
The BMW 3 Series is one of the world’s most popular sub-$100k prestige cars and has broad appeal, particularly with younger professionals.
The 330i is a solid choice for someone looking for an elegant, well-equipped daily driver that can also let its hair down when some spirited driving when desired.
Is the BMW 330i easy to live with?
The 330i is very much a driver’s car, with the comfortable leather sports seats affording an excellent driving position, while the view out the windscreen in conjunction with the well-presented head-up display is terrific.
The interior fit and finish are of the quality you expect from BMW, and the build quality feels typically solid as demonstrated by the solid thud when you close the doors.
Everything is laid out intuitively, which gives the cabin a sense of familiarity. The digital displays on the 12.3-inch gauge cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment screen look sharp and the system is easy to negotiate via the rotary controller on the centre console, or via the voice control system.
Physical buttons and switches still abound, though, which cover most functions. Most are mounted flush within the black surface on the centre console which avoids clutter and makes them easy to find.
Apple CarPlay is included free for the first year but (somewhat inconceivably) will be an extra cost option after that. Of course, if you buy a Mazda 3, it comes for free forever.
Unlike most cars, you don’t need a cable to pair your iPhone with CarPlay; just the Bluetooth connection. We found, though, that it did cut out from time to time. Android Auto is not yet available.
Other notable standard kit includes USB-A and USB-C connectivity, surround-view parking monitor, wireless phone charging, 10-speaker sound system and BMW’s excellent ‘Professional’ navigation with traffic information, while active safety includes autonomous emergency braking, rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitor and warning and lane departure alert are also fitted.
Active cruise control is one notable omission for this price range, though.
The 2019 3 Series has a 44mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor, is up to 43mm wider and sits 10mm lower than the previous model.
The extra space benefits the front passenger, with the seat sitting also able to get down nice and low. Rear seat space is still pretty tight for legroom, and wedging three people across the bench is best reserved for shorter journeys. There is good all-round vision back there, however, and rear-seat passengers benefit from having their own air vents and climate control settings.
When you’re not filling the back with people, the rear seats conveniently split 40/20/40 to provide flexible expansion to the handy 480-litre boot space.
For all its spirited performance, the BMW 330i consumed premium unleaded at a relatively frugal 6.4L/100km according to the official combined figure.
How does the BMW 330i drive?
Even when the powerful M340i and M variants arrive to flesh out the 3 Series range, the 330i, in isolation, could still be seen as a feisty option, but with an excellent ability to dial things down for urban duties.
The 2.0-litre turbo engine feels responsive through the eight-speed automatic gearbox that's amplified when selecting Sport mode, which also provides a throaty synthetic engine note.
The eight-speed 'box cycles through gears smoothly, and is also compliant when shifting gears manually via the paddle shifters.
The ride on the 19-inch wheels is firm but helped by the adaptive dampers that reduce the jarring you get when riding over bumps in the regularly suspended 320d. That firmness comes into its own when you require sharper handling, though, which you get in spades thanks to beautifully weighted steering, while the taut chassis feels immune to body roll.
Around town and on the highway, the 330i is a comfortable cruiser that will make the daily drive an enjoyable one.
The BMW 330i will soon concede the mantle of performance hero of the G20 3 Series range with the arrival of the more potent M340i.
But its circa-$70k price point and its ability to balance both elegance and performance mean it should easily retain its mantle as the sweet spot of the new 3 Series range.
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