24 July 2019

Review: BMW 330i

In the premium segment, the BMW 3 Series has an iconic status, writes Brian Byrne. For the young executive moving upwards, it’s the aspiration model beyond whatever motor they have at the moment from the mass-market pool.

Given that getting someone into a brand at this level can mean keeping them for a career, it’s arguably the most important car in the Munich-based maker’s portfolio.

So BMW tends to be careful with how they change their 3 Series when it comes to a new generation. Recognition is everything in the premium business, and there’s no wriggle room for being daring and major shifts.

The 330i which is the subject of this review is a case in point. Make no mistake, there are significant changes both outside and underneath. But in neither case do they distract from the icon familiar.

The unmistakable cues of the older 3 Series remain, but closer examination brings out the subtleties of sheetmetal shifts and restyle. The most significant of these are not quite so subtle, with the distinctly more predator design of the headlamps and a totally revised take on the ‘kidney’ grille. Especially in this 330i with its completely black grille theme.

It brings thoughts of stealth and coiled energy, a cat stalking and ready to pounce.

As an overall style, the latest car has a great deal of cohesion. You have to hand it to the designers, they understood exactly where they wanted to go, and they reached their destination.

The inside has been changed much more dramatically, and that’s a good thing — in truth the older 3’s cockpit area had become tired. Even boring. Now there’s a lot more digital magic involved, both in the main instruments area and the centre stack infotainment screen. The significantly more brushed metal theme in the review car offers youth appeal.

There seems to be more switchgear and buttons than before, but there’s a decent clarity about how they’re presented. It didn’t take me long to feel comfortable.

It wasn’t long before I was in the humour to take the car for a long spin either. Especially after completing what had been three days of being more or less confined to my desk, completing a magazine and sending it to my printer.

I chose a mix of motorway, trunk roads, and a maze of smaller back roads for that particular trip, in the course of which I revisited some long-time old haunts and found a few roads on which I hadn’t travelled before.

The weather was fine, the handling of the car impeccable, and I got the opportunity to play with the different driving modes. On that, I eventually left it in automatic, finding the technology very responsive to changing road conditions.

The 330i’s 2.0 petrol engine was again a nice change from the diesels to which we had been accustomed for most of the years of the previous 3 Series. The response was brilliant, as it should be with 258hp on tap through the impeccable 8-speed autobox. The short story is that I thoroughly enjoyed that particular day’s driving.

The 3 Series fights in a very competitive arena, against Mercedes-Benz’s excellent C-Class, the highly attractive Audi A4, and Volvo’s S60, for instance. These are the brands that Munich wants its potential owners to stay out of.

The new 3 Series should be able to manage that for them.

PRICE: From €53,460 for the 330i M Sport review car; options brought it to €61,087 (of which €20,000 is VRT and VAT). WHAT I LIKED: The car is true to its tradition. RATING: 4+/5.