The latest version of the 3 Series is a car that confounds the tired old jokes about BMW drivers charging along in the fast lane.
That’s because the 318i Sport, as tested here, is the only executive car in Britain with a three-cylinder engine. And by exec standards, it’s not fast.
The engine in question is based on the petrol unit from the Mini Cooper and 2 Series. Don’t let the lack of pace put you off, though, because so long as you don’t thrash it in search of urge it doesn’t have you’ll be rewarded with a very impressive level of refinement.
It handles very well, too. This was helped on our test car by the optional M Sport adaptive suspension, which in combination with the lower weight of the three-pot engine allows the 3 Series to perform with real agility.
Another option on our test car was Servotronic steering. We can’t put our hands on our hearts and say we’d bother with this, but the weight of the wheel is excellent at all speeds, adding to your enjoyment of corners.
Thus this BMW really is a driver’s car in its own way – it really does prove that outright power and pace aren’t everything. Acceleration is delightfully smooth, even if we felt like it was taking longer than the official 8.9 seconds to complete the 0-62 dash.
Putting an engine like this in a junior exec is a brave move. If those tired jokes are right, BMW drivers who end up with one of these will simply thrash the life out of it, so whether it’ll cost any less to run is open to question.
If they keep out of the fast lane and enjoy just sailing along, on the other hand, they’ll be very happy. Because if calm, comfortable poise is what wins the day for you, this is the best 3 Series yet.
BMW 318i Sport
Engine: 3 cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 134bhp at 4500-6000rpm
Torque: 163lb ft at 1250-4000rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1475kg
Top speed: 130mph
Economy: 52.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 124g/km, 19%
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