What is it?
Step straight from an outgoing BMW 320d M Sport into this new-generation 320d Sport, and it’s easy to see that BMW has tackled the three weakest areas of the old model with some success.
What’s it like?
First, the ride. True, the test car came optionally kitted with the adaptive M Sport suspension that does a fine job of smothering bumps, but equally it rides on 50-section run-flat tyres, and even in the firmer Sport and Sport Plus modes it delivers a fluency of motion that you simply won’t experience in the old M Sport 320d. The gearchange has improved too, from being springily obstructive to smooth-moving and compliant when warm.
More subtle – though not when it fails you for the umpteenth time – is a sat nav that picks more intelligent routes and manages to serve instructions before you get there rather than just as you’re driving by it. Day-to-day, that makes a difference.
BMW’s 2.0 181bhp TwinPower diesel serves up the same impressive blend of sporting performance and heart-warming economy, mileage in the high 40s a certainty with 50mpg-plus a real possibility, especially when you engage the Eco-pro mode and follow its advice. If all this sounds a bit worthy, well, keen drivers will almost instantly notice the sharper steering, this 3 Series changing direction with the agility of a cat on the run but without any of the nervous darting. It rounds corners with such ease that it makes the outgoing model feel slightly slow-witted, though it’s hardly that.