Possibly the undisputed leader in the Compact Executive Saloon segment, the BMW 3 Series is what other manufacturers benchmark their own models against.
The 3 Series has been BMW’s best seller since it was first launched in 1975, and it’s little wonder why. Each succeeding generation has continually improved on the one before in functionality, power, comfort and desirability, so its success comes as no surprise.
With each generation, BMW has its signature double kidney grille adorning each one, as well as the modern rendition of the four circular headlight design of the original 3 Series. It can be said that its design is more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and the ethos remains mostly the same even up to the current generation.
A quick side note, this BMW 320i EfficientDynamics is currently listed for sale at Sphere Automobile, so do approach them if you are interested!
What is this?
This is a 2014 F30 BMW 320i EfficientDynamics. Now, you might be wondering, 320i EfficientDynamics? Isn’t there already a 320i? Yes there is, and the “regular” 320i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 181 horsepower and 270 Nm of torque.
The 320i EfficientDynamics, however, is what BMW claims as the “most efficient premium car of its class”, marketing speak for how it has been engineered to be as fuel efficient as possible. So instead of a 2.0-litre engine, a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder is fitted instead, producing 170 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque.
Power is sent to the rear wheels (like it should be in a BMW) via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Weight comes in at 1410 kilograms, and the century sprint is accomplished in 7.6 seconds, which isn’t half bad for something that was optimised for efficiency.
But what does “EfficientDynamics” stand for? For the 320i EfficientDynamics, the engine software was optimised for fuel efficiency, the ride height was lowered by 10mm for better aerodynamics, and the car started up in the most economical mode by default unless selected otherwise by the driver. Basically everything that BMW could do to make this car as fuel efficient as possible.
Is it any good on the wallet?
With the term “EfficientDynamics” in its name, it is expected for this car to maximise every last drop of fuel in its tank. BMW claims 5.4 l/100km, or 18.5km/l, which is almost as high as some hybrids.
However, real world fuel consumption is an average of 6.5l/100km, or 15.4km/l, which is still a very respectable figure. With a 60 litre fuel tank, this gives it a theoretical range of 924 kilometres, which is extremely impressive for a non-hybrid or diesel car.
Being a BMW, however, it is prone to oil leaks, especially as the car ages. With this particular unit almost eight years old, checking for oil leaks and any gaskets that require replacing is highly advisable.
The 320i EfficientDynamics’ engine, the N13B16, has been noted to exhibit excessive vibrations, increased fuel consumption and uneven idle as it ages. While it has been noted to be fairly reliable, these problems do pop up, especially in units that have accumulated mileage.
Excessive engine vibrations could be due to ineffective engine mounts, or in the N13B16, clogged up fuel injectors. As for the uneven idle, it could be due to a failing idle air control valve, with the only fix being a replacement with a new part. Should you also face high fuel consumption, a malfunctioning air flow meter could be the culprit, and that would require replacing it with a new part.
Is it comfortable inside?
Being a BMW, it is built to a standard that we have come to expect, and this 320i EfficientDynamics doesn’t disappoint. Being built in 2014, the technology in the interior can’t compare to modern BMWs, but for what it is, everything works as it should.
The iDrive system on this car is the previous generation system. Still, it works smoothly and is very intuitive to use, and Bluetooth connectivity is available for your phone (there is no Android Auto or Apple Carplay). The iDrive system set the bar on how infotainment systems should work, and it is little wonder why various manufacturers have tried to imitate it.
A welcome touch on top of the iDrive system is the optional Harman Kardon speakers that were factory fitted to this particular unit. While I’m no audiophile, there was a noticeable difference in sound quality, even when playing songs from the radio.
The seats are completely upholstered in leather, as well as the dashboard and door panels, which are soft to the touch too. The front seats have electronic adjustment, with two memory settings for the driver’s seat only.
The rear seats are best left for just two passengers, as the transmission tunnel takes up a lot of legroom in the middle, and the middle seat is raised as well. While a person can sit there, it is best left for shorter journeys. Legroom overall is also sufficient for most people.
The HVAC controls are physical buttons and knobs, and are easy and intuitive to use even when on the move. There are air vents in the rear too, which does help on hot days.
The controls for the volume is also a physical knob, and beside it are numbered buttons you can program as radio presets or to link directly to a certain function you use frequently, like the phone or music player.
As for the gauges, BMW only transitioned to a fully digital gauge cluster in the generation succeeding the F30, so this generation of 3 Series still has analogue gauges for the speedometer, tachometer, temperature and fuel gauge, while a small screen displays information like the odometer, range and eco-indicator.
Can it carry a lot of cargo?
With 480 litres of boot space, it’s not exactly generous, but it is sufficient for most people and their daily needs. Fold the seats down, and the boot capacity expands even more.
BMW fits their cars with run flat tyres which allows the car to keep driving for a limited distance even when the tyre is flat, to allow you to get to a tyre shop. So no, there is no spare tyre. The ones on this unit are not run flats, however, so do your checks before purchase.
The 320i EfficientDynamics came from the factory with 16-inch wheels and 205/60/16 tyres, while this particular unit has 18-inch wheels and 225/45/18 tyres.
While it may be of some detriment to the fuel economy, it does contribute positively to the aesthetic of the car, while not affecting much of the ride quality.
Being German, the natural rival of the 3 Series has always been the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Both models target the same demographic of customers, and are also priced similarly. For some people, it may be what one manufacturer has over the other that could sway them to purchasing either vehicle.
If you don't want a German Compact Executive Saloon, the Japanese make one too! The Lexus IS range comes with a selection of engines ranging from a sensible 2.0-litre four-cylinder, a hybrid, even a snarling 5.0-litre V8. We've even done an article on one, which you can read here!
With the popularity of the 3 Series, each new generation is fundamentally better than the last. But sometimes, consumers crave the simplicity and the more analogue feel of the older generations, which is why even 3 series from the nineties are still in high demand.
Regardless, the F30 platform has proven itself to be as popular as ever before, and with so many of them on the road, owning and maintaining shouldn't a hassle. Plus, with its global popularity, aftermarket support is plentiful, should one wish to fit such parts in place of factory BMW parts.
Even at the lower rung of its hierarchy, the 3 Series is still a well built car that is comfortable, stylish and appeals to a wide audience, which is definitely one of many reasons why it has only become increasingly popular over the years.
If you are keen on getting a BMW 3 Series as your next car, or any other used car for that matter, do take a look at our used car selection here for some of the best deals!
Motorist would like to extend our thanks to Sphere Automobile for loaning us the BMW 320i EfficientDynamics for this article.
Photo Credits: Lee Thern Yang (@TheBigSoup)
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