Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Fire up the... BMW 3-Series

THE problem with BMW's 3-Series is you don't really need to read a road test to decide whether one should take pride of place on your driveway. It's simple; you either want one or you don't.

That's why I thought I'd start this week not with the car, but Coldplay. Every couple of years, they release an album which goes straight to the top of the sales charts with almost crashing inevitability, and - being someone who doesn't want to follow the herd - you do your absolute darndest not to buy a copy. Then you hear one of the tracks on the radio and you realise, as much as you hate them for it, that they've recorded an absolute belter. Again. If Coldplay made a car, they'd make a 3-Series. That's why it now outsells both Ford's Mondeo and Vauxhall's Insignia.

You don't need me to tell you then that this sixth-generation car is larger than the old one, a little lighter and - this being 2012 - kinder to the environment too. In time you'll be able to buy it as a coupe, a cabriolet and a Touring estate, but chances are it'll be this saloon version you'll be seeing on driveways up and down the land in the next few months.

Even if the new 3-Series is awful it'll be parked on driveways up and down the land in six months time but - and it's a verdict I deliver grudgingly, through gritted teeth - it's really, really good. The styling, inside and outside, is still a little bland for my liking and at £28,000 for the 320D Efficient Dynamics version I tried it's not especially cheap either, but once you get in it's an absolute delight to drive. It's not just that it feels agile and well balanced, but all the controls are exactly where you'd instinctively expect them to be, and feel as though though they could withstand years of abuse. It's comfy too - an Audi this agile would land you an appointment with your osteopath, but in the 3-Series, even motorway speeds, progress is quiet and unruffled.

In this corner of the motoring marketplace the badge is just as important as the car it's glued onto, and I know full well that if you want a new 3-Series you're going to buy one anyway. It's good to know, though, that there is substance to back up the gravitas that blue-and-white propeller brings.

The new Mondeo will have to be unbelievably brilliant to coax buyers out of their Beemers. Watch this space...

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