The BMW 3 Series has always been the go-to car if you wanted a premium sports saloon, and the 330i has always been the sweet spot of the range. It’s the direct descendant of the 328i of the E36 and E46 3 Series generations with their lovely normally aspirated straight six engines. The 330i now has a turbo four-pot instead of an in-line six but it’s still the pick for the best value and performance.
Positioned right in the middle of the 5-tier 3 Series line-up, the 330i is priced from $70,900 plus on-road costs and calls the similarly priced Mercedes-Benz C300, Audi A4 45 TFSI and Jaguar XE P300 as rivals.
There are two trims to choose from -Luxury Line or M Sport (no cost difference). Our test car is fitted with M Sport and personally I think this is the correct look for the 3 Series. The M Sport package brings beefier front and rear bumpers, along with sportier side sills, black window frames and black air breather surrounds. The 3 Series is already a sweet looking sedan but the M Sport body kit adds a good dose of aggressiveness to the mix for a properly sporty appearance.
While all 3 Series models can be had with M Sport package at no additional cost, the 330i does come fitted with extra M Sport goodies such as 19-inch light alloy wheels and M Sport brakes with striking blue coated brake calipers.
On the inside, M Sport details carry through with M Sport steering wheel, black headliner, aluminium trim finishers and blue contrast stitching on the upper dash and seat upholstery.
As detailed previously in our review of the 320d Luxury Line last year, the new 3 Series interior is a major step up from before. It ought to be as the C-Class and A4 have great interiors in recent generations, leaving the 3 Series playing catch up. But not anymore, the ambience inside the new 3 Series cabin is uplifting, welcoming and expensive. Unlike before, there’s a generous lashing of aluminium inserts on the dashboard, centre console and door cards. To spice up the cabin further, you can option up interior mood lighting which adds subtle colour changeable light strip on each door.
In terms of technology, you get a 12.3-inch fully digital instrumentation cluster with quirky C-shape dials and 10.25-inch infotainment display with BMW’s excellent iDrive 7.0 interface. While the iDrive rotary controller is still present in the centre console the display can now also be operated by touch. iDrive 7.0 features sat nav, Wifi, Bluetooth, digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The new 3 Series’ longer wheelbase (+41mm) has contributed to a larger cabin space, especially the rear legroom. The space back there is now approaching that in older generations 5 Series, which is supposedly one size up. Due to the lack of a spare wheel (the 3 rolls on run-flat tyres), the boot space is a sizable 480 litres, expandable by folding the 40/20/40 split rear seat.
The 330i is motivated by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 190kW at 6500rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1550-4400rpm. It delivers the perfect blend of refinement, performance and efficiency. This is a 3 Series variant that feels relaxing and muted in every day use yet ready to serve up a bit of zest when poked.
Driving the rear wheels through an 8-speed torque converter automatic, the 330i is no slouch with a sprint time of 5.8 seconds to 100km/h from rest. While the Audi A4 45 TFSI and Mercedes C300 are both capable of the same feat in about the same time, the 3 Series gets there feeling just a tad more enthusiastic and engaging. Admittedly the turbo four is in no way as silky or musical as the fabulous straight sixes of the pre-downsizing era, but it still sounds satisfyingly feisty above 4ooorpm, though like most modern cars these days, some of the noises is digitally enhanced through the speakers.
The 8-speed auto is well paired with the high output 2.0L engine, combining smoothness and fast shifts that work well in both spirited and normal driving. Such well calibrated is the transmission that most times it can be left in ‘D’ and allowed to adapt to whatever your driving style is. If you’re in the mood, flick it to ‘S’ and it will downshift more eagerly and hold revs for longer. For total control, there’s the full manual mode using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The M Sport package brings a slightly firmer suspension tune than the Luxury Line and it’s a brilliant match to that powerful 2.0L engine. While adaptive dampers are available as an option, the standard passive dampers are pretty well sorted. The set up pipes through just enough road feel for that sporty feeling without being overly busy on our average roads. It has a depth of versatility that makes the car relatively compliant around town, yet properly dynamic in challenging back roads.
Tipping the scale at 1545kg, the 330i is one of the lighter cars in class. This combines with BMW’s hallmark 50:50 front-rear weight distribution and that well judged M Sport suspension to endow the 330i with impressive balance and control. It steers with precision and intuition that few rivals can match. Sure, the Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic and Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce feel more lively and the A4 45 TFSI with quattro all-wheel drive is more grippy, but none is so well synced and reacts so crisply to the driver’s inputs.
The M Sport variable ratio steering wheel is nicely weighted and so well proportioned to the car’s pace that turn-in feels wonderfully natural and once into the apex you rarely have to correct your angle. Front end grip is phenomenal and the rear comes around beautifully, too. Body roll is very well suppressed and there’s a great sense of cornering balance, handling progressiveness and adjustability, and smoothness that makes the 330i such a fantastic driver’s car.
The 330i impresses with good fuel economy, too. If you’re careful with your right foot, it’s capable of over 800km on a single tank (59 litres). Over my week-long test, I averaged 7.2L/100km on the trip computer, not far off the rated figure of 6.4L/100km considering my occasional heavy right foot.
Unlike most manufacturers, BMW offers condition-based servicing for its vehicles. Rather than having a set servicing schedule based on distance or time interval, the 3 Series’ servicing is determined based on how the car is driven. This means servicing is more frequent if the car is often used for short distance travel or in extreme cold condition, or less frequent otherwise.
The BMW Service Inclusive Basic package covers your scheduled servicing needs for 5 years or 80,000 km, whichever comes first. With packages starting from $1,565, the Basic package includes your annual vehicle checks, oil changes, all filters, spark plugs and labour costs for the duration of the package.
Design & Comfort
Performance & Handling
Equipment & Features
- Sporty-elegant looks
- Refined interior
- Strong powertrain
- Brilliant poise and dynamics
- Quirky digital instrumentation
- Expensive options
The 3 Series is BMW’s core model and the 330i is the 3 Series range most important variant. You’d bet BMW would put all its effort to ensure it gets the 330i right. And the good news is they have.
The new 330i M Sport combines sharp and engaging driving dynamics with luxury and refinement in one very appealing package. Certain left-field options may be a hint sportier and its fellow German rivals may offer more comfort or tech, but as the quintessential everyday sports sedan the 330i is still the one to beat.
2020 BMW 3 Series 330i Pricing and Specification
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From: $70,900|
|Warranty:||3 years/Unlimited kilometers|
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Engine:||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel:|
190kW @ 6500rpm, 400Nm @ 1550-4400rpm
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||132.6|
|0-100km/h (s):||Claimed: 5.8 / Tested: 5.9|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.4 / Tested: 7.2|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||59|
|Body:||4-door sedan, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 7 Airbags, Parking Assistant Plus incl. Surround View, Tyre Pressure Sensor, Emergency Stop Signal, Hill Descent Control (HDC), ABS, BA, TCS, EBD|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4709/1827/1435/2851|
|Tare Mass (kg):||1,433|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 1,600kg / Unbraked: 750kg|
|Entertainment:||Navigation system Professional with 10.25-inch colour touch display, 10-speakers, Bluetooth/USB, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto|