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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

BMW 320d shows why 3 Series has stood the test of time

This tried and tested sedan has the dynamics and the fuel consumption you would expect.

Can you believe it has been 45 years now that BMW’s 3 Series has been the benchmark for driving dynamics and performance in the premium mid-size sedan segment? There can’t be a petrolhead who does not have a soft spot for the 3 Series.

From the early days of the iconic BMW 3 Series E30. To the first SA E36 M3, the everfresh E46 and the howling V8 E90 M3 which also spawned the first turbopetrol high-performance 335i models. To the F30, to today where the latest G20 range now only features turbocharged models, there was always a 3 Series for you.

The motoring landscape has changed massively over the years and now buyers put their money into SUVs. Sedans in the premium segment have become a mature niche that has long seen off the challenge from other volume brand sellers. It’s now an Audi, a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz and that’s it.

The updates for MY2023 G20 3 Series were minor and mostly cosmetic, and consisted basically of targeted updates to the front and rear-end design plus the introduction of BMW’s Operating System 8. This includes BMW Curved Display and the standard fitment an eight-speed Steptronic transmission with gearshift paddles on the steering wheel and a newly designed selector lever.

ALSO READ: Next BMW 3 Series coming in 2025 on two different platforms

3 Series’ most sensible offering

It was against this backdrop that I opted for the most sensible offering, the R880 313 (package dependant) BMW 320d, a derivative that has remained mostly unchanged in basic mechanical concept, and one that has also been with us forever. A forever that I sadly believe will come to end in the near future as European motor manufacturers are forced to phase out diesel powertrains.

ALSO READ: Sharpened-up, facelift BMW 3 Series priced

My kids immediately dubbed the 320d a good-looking, old dad car, and I was okay with that because my plan was to cruise around in comfort without ever having to look at the fuel gauge like an old dad.

Fast and frugal

The 140 kW and 400 Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant silently delivered all the urge I wanted daily. I never bothered to test the performance claims, but the on-paper numbers that come in at a 0 to 100 km/h time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 240 km/h show that this 320d still has a lot of hustle when you want it.

ALSO READ: You can still buy a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class for under R300k

What was of more importance for me was the fuel consumption. The claim is 4.6 litres per 100 km over the average cycle or urban and open road driving. It could be achievable on the open road, but the real-world situation is a bit closer to 6.0 litres per 100km, which is still excellent.


I came away from my week in the BMW 320d suitably impressed, in a mature, non-street racer kind of way. Or old dad if you like. The dynamics are still there, the power and consumption are as you would expect.

Bottom line is that because this sedan delivers exactly what it states it will on the premium box when you buy it.

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