The BMW 330i starts from about $77,000 drive-away.
The BMW 330i starts from about $77,000 drive-away.

BMW returns to the original performance flavour

Once BMW’s bread and butter, the 3 Series of the new millennium had a tendency to be bland.

Good to drive, yes. Hard to fault, absolutely. But there was little to inspire or excite.

The compact sedan was lost in a sea of SUVs and swoopy-backed offshoots.

Glimpse at the new edition of the 3 Series and it appears BMW has dished up more of the same. Not this seventh generation.

One steer of the 330i and it restores faith in the propeller brand. For those happy to part with $77,325 will find joy which eclipses the dented bank balance.

The BMW 3 Series is a return to form for the brand.
The BMW 3 Series is a return to form for the brand.

VALUE

Prestige carmakers often dangle the optional extras carrot. Starting with a rudimentary product in the base variant before showcasing alluring additions for some extra bucks.

BMW is no different, luxury buyers don’t typically like getting what everyone else has, but going straight off the shelf with the 330i doesn’t equate to a poverty pack.

Standard fare includes ultra-plush leather trim and not the man-made stuff, 19-inch alloys, wireless phone charging, 10-speaker stereo, tri-zone aircon, configurable 12.3-inch instrument panel for the driver as well as a central 10.25-inch infotainment screen featuring Apple CarPlay (Android Auto expected this year), along with an external body kit as part of the M Sport package.

Servicing packages are available, and the basic one covering five years or 80,000km is $1565. That doesn’t include some items, including brakes, so check the details before committing.

Warranty remains at three years and unlimited kilometres — gazumped by Mercedes and Land Rover at five years.

PThe 2020 model BMW 3 Series.
PThe 2020 model BMW 3 Series.

SAFETY

Five stars come with a gamut of equipment you’d expect for this money.

Adaptive cruise to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front to help make light work of traffic, semi-autonomous steering/lane keeping to maintain the 3 Series within lines, surround view cameras and also a head-up display which projects vital information onto the windscreen to save the driver looking down.

Another handy inclusion is the cross-traffic warning front and rear — brilliant when reversing from carparks or creeping out of laneways.

I nside the new BMW 3 Series.
I nside the new BMW 3 Series.

COMFORT

Shift the drive mode to comfort and the ride on smooth surfaces rivals a baby’s rear end. Transition to sport and let the good times roll.

While still maintaining run-flat tyres, the firmness associated with previous iterations is gone courtesy of a platform that’s longer, wider, lighter and stiffer than its predecessor.

Don’t expect a magic carpet, rather a dramatic improvement of sporting balance with day-to-day acumen.

All chairs offer impressive levels of comfort, even in the back seat which has impressive legroom.

This latest version of BMW infotainment is relatively cohesive operationally, although it can take some analysis and some of the basic functions, like connecting CarPlay and changing radio stations can be cumbersome when first introduced.

Weekly grocery trips are swallowed by the 480-litre boot and functionality is aided by 40-20-40 split fold seats.

The new BMW 3 Series.
The new BMW 3 Series.

DRIVING

Sporting prowess returns. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a cracker, and surprisingly responsive.

Boasting 55kW/100Nm more firepower than the base 320i variant, the 330i can haul from standstill to 100km/h in less than six seconds without turbo lag.

Not only useful in a straight line, the reworked suspension geometry ensures the compact sedan can also handle a bend. Feeling remarkably lithe and agile, most drivers will struggle to find its limit.

Steering weight is spot-on, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is near faultless. Try and do a better job with the steering wheel paddle shifters … you won’t.

The Pirelli P Zero rubber hangs onto the bitumen with aplomb, although keep testing the 330i’s abilities and there’s a fair chance you’ll be on a first-name basis with the local tyre shop.

The BMW 3 Series is armed with Pirelli P Zero rubber.
The BMW 3 Series is armed with Pirelli P Zero rubber.

HEAD SAYS

The base model is $7k less. Opting for the 330i is a no-brainer.

HEART SAYS

I’m a driver and SUVs aren’t real cars. This 330i delivers in every aspect, rear-wheel drive and punchy performance with cornering dexterity.

The BMW 330i starts from about $77,000 drive-away.
The BMW 330i starts from about $77,000 drive-away.

ALTERNATIVES

MERCEDES-BENZ C300 $80,386 D/A

Refined and brimming with prestige appeal, it’s powered by a 190kW/370Nm 2.0-litre turbo/nine-speed automatic with an ability to rip from 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds. Awesome interior design and superior infotainment.

GENESIS G70 $79,8000 D/A

Handsome, athletic and loaded with gear, the Genesis (Hyundai’s luxury brand) is a valid alternative to established brands. Has a fire-breathing 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre V6 twin-turbo, as well as a five-year warranty and five years free servicing. Anniversary deals currently available.

The BMW 330i starts from about $77,000 drive-away.
The BMW 330i starts from about $77,000 drive-away.

VERDICT

We’ve missed you BMW. The 330i epitomises what made the propeller badge revered around the world. One of the best combinations of sporting prowess and daily luxury on the compact sedan market.

ATA GLANCE

BMW 330i

PRICE $77,325 drive-away (worth it)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/100,000km (short), $1565 for 5 years (OK)

SAFETY 5 star, 8 airbags, lane-keep assist, auto emergency braking front and rear, active cruise, blind-spot monitor (fine)

ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 190kW/400Nm (quick enough)

THIRST 6.4L/100km (miserly)

BOOT 480L, rear seats fold (about right)

SPARE None, run-flats (not great)