BMW’s bread and butter needs no introduction – the 3 Series has been around since 1975 and has been viewed as a benchmark for sport sedans ever since.
South African roads are no stranger to this model, either.
So much so that if you have a look around the next time you are driving you will easily find one changing lanes in front of you – possibly without its indicator on.
I am proud to admit that I am one of those BMW 3 Series drivers, although I always signal when I turn.
It is an exceptional car, whether it’s fully loaded for a long trip with family and friends, or when it’s only you and your 2-tonne baby on an empty road.
My 2012 BMW 320D with sport package and 115,000km on the clock is no exception.
My car is fitted with a 2-litre turbo diesel engine and an 8-speed Steptronic gearbox, delivering 135kW at 4,000rpm and 380Nm at 1750-2750rpm – pushing the 320D from 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.5 seconds.
When it comes to power figures, I have determined through thorough informal testing that in order to reach the fabled 7.5 seconds you would need a wind tunnel, perfect liquid levels, and a driver with a bit less around the waist.
The 320D is not slow by any means, though, and is able to beat most cars on the road in a robot drag race.
The automatic gearbox is nothing to complain about, either.
It offers quick and smooth gear changes, and has never given any problems since I took ownership of the car in September 2015.
Thanks to the gift of 50:50 weight distribution, my rear-wheel drive 320D stays planted firmly on the tarmac when going around corners, too.
There is minimal body roll, virtually no understeer, and plenty of oversteer if you control the throttle just right.
The four different drive settings will add to your experience as they are catered to whatever you want to do, and everything in between.
On one side of the drive mode selector there is eco-pro mode (read: boring). This decreases throttle response and relaxes the suspension and handling to increase fuel efficiency and comfortability on long roads.
On the other side there is Sport+. This causes the 3 Series to act jittery and agitated – it turns off select safety precautions, maxes out throttle and steering response, stiffens the suspension, and puts the car in manual mode – becoming the version BMW intended it to be.
We’ve been been through a lot this car and I – from getting beached on a cabbage farm and having to go for a chassis wash to get all the dirt and manure out, to following a fully kitted Hilux up a 4×4 trail to reach a birthday party in the mountains – and it has not let me down.
Despite this, I have not experienced any major problems and routine services along with brake pad and tyre replacements are the only costs to date.
The latter are not cheap, and assuming you’re like me and do not want to put cheap products on an expensive car, brakes and tyres all round cost R12,000 and R10,000 respectively.
On the inside, the leather seats still look great with minimal signs of wear – only showing evidence where the driver repeatedly enters and exits the car.
All panels and parts are still where they need to be with no sagging or creaking, and there is not a single button that doesn’t do what it is supposed to.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect car and if I must say something bad about my beloved 320D it will be this.
The material used on the inside door handles is not the best quality.
I am not sure what it is, but it was not made to withstand the South African sun as it flakes and smudges on hot days.
This caused the handle to become sticky and worn down on the driver’s door. There is a photo at the end of this review which shows you what I mean.
The infotainment system is a bit lackluster by today’s standards, too, and it only offers Bluetooth connectivity for calls – and not any form of entertainment.
After eight years my F30 3 Series is, in my mind, still a very good looking car.
It has stylish lines flowing from the nose, over the sides, all the way to the rear haunches giving it a sporty look – and if you have the optional sport package you will enjoy upgraded alloy rims and interior trim along with a key fob that matches.
It’s not a large car and is nimble around town, fits in most parking spaces, and you will not scrape driveways or bumps if you go over them at a responsible speed.
However, the ride height is quite low and, as a 1.97m-tall driver, I have difficulty entering and exiting the car.
The interior is spacious, however.
With the way that my driver seat is set up I’m not even all the way back on the railing, there is plenty of head space – even for me – and I’m not touching shoulders with my front passenger.
Storage space in the cabin is slightly limited, and your best bet for storing anything bigger than a wallet would be the glove compartment.
Luckily, the boot is spacious – 480 litres – and there have only been a few instances where that wasn’t enough.
Fuel consumption on the diesel engine is also surprisingly pleasant, standing at a lifetime average fuel consumption of around 6.7l/100km – with periodic spirited driving sessions part of the calculation.
In conclusion, it’s been an absolute pleasure owning a 3 Series and it definitely won’t be my last.