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Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
180 HP / 184 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
7.1 Seconds
Top Speed:
130 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,295 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
17.0 CU-FT
MPG:
24 City / 36 HWY
Base Price:
$32,750
As Tested Price:
$34,975
When BMW switched its entry level 3 Series, the 328i, from a naturally aspirated, 3.0-liter six-cylinder to a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, we weren't entirely sure what to think. Sure, from a pure numbers perspective, the new 2.0-liter cooked the old 3.0's goose, delivering more torque at far more accessible engine speeds while boosting horsepower and fuel economy.

While we miss that revvy six-pot, the numbers for the 2.0 were just way too good to pass up. Then we received news of an even less-powerful 2.0-liter 3 Series – the 320i. This was interesting, as it saw BMW delving into a power level previously owned solely by the anemic Lexus IS 250 and its six-cylinder engine.

Could BMW make a sub-200-horsepower sedan that still drove the way we expected a 3 Series to drive? To find out, we borrowed the new 320i for a week of testing.

Driving Notes
  • For the 320i, BMW has detuned its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder from 240 hp to 180 hp, all of which is available from 5,000 to 6,250 rpm. Torque is similarly taken down, from 255 pound-feet to 184 lb-ft, spread from 1,250 to 4,500 rpm. A six-speed manual is available as standard, although our tester was fitted with the more frugal eight-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard and what we found ourselves with, while BMW's xDrive system offers some all-weather ability for the low-powered sedan.
  • Regardless of which transmission is chosen, the 320i can hit 60 in 7.1 seconds. Hardly brisk, we'll agree, as the average hot hatch can out-sprint this BMW. But in practice, the readily available torque and excellent transmission result in a car that feels quicker than its numbers indicate. We were rarely wanting for power while testing the 320i, as a bootload of torque was seemingly always ready to be called up. Having the smaller engine doesn't feel like a handicap, like it does in the Lexus IS 250. We can thank the broad spread of torque for this.
  • This is a responsive engine, too, without much in the way of turbo lag. In fact, this author prefers its smoother dynamics to that of the more powerful 2.0-liter in the 328i. It doesn't sound half bad either, with the single-pipe exhaust delivering a smooth, refined note that isn't intrusive or noisy.
  • The eight-speed automatic is the excellent 8HP unit from ZF, which, if we're honest, is one of the best traditional, torque-converter-equipped automatic on sale today. It is quick on upshifts and downshifts, and will happily drop multiple gears in a single go. It doesn't need to be thought about - it just delivers whatever the driver needs, seemingly before the driver knows it. In practice, the transmission responded well in manual mode. It still doesn't beat a dual-clutch system for involvement (or for that matter, a proper manual trans), but it can provide some entertainment in the right circumstances.
  • The ride provided by the sporty suspension certainly adds a degree of entertainment to the 320i. It feels poised and balanced, with progressive body roll that comes on through a turn. Despite the sportier ride, though, the 320i is still very much a comfortable car. BMW's decision to fit 18-inch wheels as the largest option on this model makes for a ride that isn't compromised by the firmer suspension.
  • Opting for the least-powerful 3 Series is also a boon to fuel economy, with BMW claiming our auto-trans car will net 24 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. We certainly had no issues hitting right in the middle of those two, recording numbers in the high 20s.
  • Aiding the fight for fuel economy is BMW's Driving Dynamics Control, which features an excellent Eco Pro setting. Paired with a smooth stop-start system, we imagine netting over 30 mpg would be a fairly easy task for a conscientious driver.
  • Not surprisingly, the 320i is the cheapest member of the 3 Series family. Prices start at $32,750 for our rear-drive model, while opting for xDrive adds $2,000. Our tester's sole option was the $1,300 Sport Package, so while we had a very reasonable as-tested price of $34,975 (including a $925 destination charge), that number only tells part of the story.
  • Our tester was stingy on the standard equipment. The sport seats were unheated and featured manual controls, while a dumbed-down version of the brand's iDrive control handled the radio and Bluetooth functions. Moreover, those infotainment options lacked things like streaming Bluetooth audio and satellite radio. And for some reason, the USB input wouldn't recognize the iPhone 5 we attempted to use for some extra tunes. The lack of rear park sensors added insult to injury.
  • It's not that the 3 Series is a bad car for lacking these features, but it's simply something prospective customers should keep in mind before making a purchase - a well-equipped 320i isn't going to be anywhere near that $32,750 starting price. Fitted with the missing features we listed above, the price pushes $41,000.
  • The 320i puts BMW into difficult territory. Between the base price and a well-equipped price, there are no shortage of upstart competitors, from a Ford Fusion Titanium to more traditionally luxurious brands, like the new Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. If you really want a BMW, the 320i retains the brand's pedigree well – it's just going to cost you.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 239 Comments
      Joe
      • 1 Year Ago
      BMW has been selling models like this forever on Europe. They have even produced 3teen (318) series. They have kept their luxury persona in the US by only importing higher end models but apparently feel their brand image is strong enough to branch downwards. Mercedes is the same, while living in Europe I saw more Mercedes and BMW's with cloth interiors and plastic hubcaps than I did luxury models of either. They are some of the most common taxicabs in France. Sure BMW's M-series and the AMG benz's have always been a marvel of engineering, but their entry level sedans sell like accords and camery's.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 1 Year Ago
      I would like a manual transmission. I also live in the northeast, so I would like the x-drive. Why do I have to shell out over $45K for a 335i if I want both?
      Frisky_Dingo
      • 1 Year Ago
      As others have mentioned, I'd take a stripper 3 Series over a loaded up Optima any day of the week. You can call me a badge *****, or whatever else you'd like. But I don't need all that extra crap, and if you can't see where the extra money went comparing similarly equipped cars, you're not an enthusiast. I suppose it depends on how one defines 'better'. I personally define it with how the car itself drives, without features, value, and all the other things factored in. According to that, anyone who is into cars could see how no mainstream midsize sedan is a 'better' than a BMW. Better value, maybe?? Sure. Better for a family?? Yeah. But just plain better?? I don't think so. If I were without a family and wanted something nice, but not necessarily without a lot of features, I could see the appeal of this car. I build one that I could easily live with for $35,525. Mid 30s for a light. rwd, manual sedan with good driving dynamics, gas mileage, and loads of aftermarket support?? Yeah, that's not exactly what I'd call a bad deal. Hell, you could easily lease one for low $400's. I'd pay a $100 more a month for this over over an Accord or Optima.
        Susan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Frisky_Dingo
        This one would be just fine for a small family, too.
      Psyclist
      • 1 Year Ago
      not too bad for a base model, nice that they used a turbo engine. At 32k id get this over the ATS with the 2.5L, but at 36k the ATS gets the 2.0L turbo, Id rather go there then... I wonder what they did to the engine going from the 328 to the 320...smaller turbo im guessing?
        NeoReaper
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Psyclist
        Actually, it's just a semi-neutered exhaust and a retune. For $500 bucks, you would be at near 328i power so it's a hell of a lot cheaper than an ATS 2.0 with better mileage and rear seats that fit people with legs.
          Brian Calhoun
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NeoReaper
          http://www.bmwblog.com/2011/11/16/kelleners-tunes-the-four-cylinder-n20b20-to-nearly-300-horsepower/ Geez.
          NeoReaper
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NeoReaper
          I didn't say equal, I said near so please calm down. The neutered exhaust prevents the output from being equal. All BMW did was decrease the boost on this car essentially, so a $500 dollar retune will actually do it. If you wanna learn more about it "the internet" is your friend, learn to use it.
          WCauto
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NeoReaper
          There is no way in the world for $500 this car will equal the 328i. Please site any sources that show exactly how BMW detuned this car. And if you're talking about flashing the cpu then you've just voided the warranty, something you do not want to do to a BMW.
          NeoReaper
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NeoReaper
          @Justin gee yeah, down 20 because it has a RESTRICTED exhaust like i said already. im glad someone was able to spoonfeed you the info you needed.... infant....
      jz78817
      • 1 Year Ago
      the cut line on the hood bothers me. the front lip of the hood should have gone all the way to the headlamps and grille; as it is it stands out too much. Plus if there are even minor misalignments between the hood and fascia they'll stand out. but, if that's the biggest flaw I can see in this car, can't be that bad..
        S40Powered
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jz78817
        I agree!
        oRenj9
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jz78817
        Safety standards are to blame for that one. Until they start making plastic hoods, I think that line is here to stay.
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      The best aspect of the 320i is the $1200 Sports Package that has all the good stuff from the 328i's $3200 M-Sport Package (M steering wheel, sport seats, sport suspension). Grab that and the $900 Xenon package and the Manual Transmission, and you've got all a proper BMW needs. The navigation/bluetooth integration/etc on even a 7-series are flat inferior to a Kia Forte, so why bother spending money on them in the bottom-rung 3-series?
      Rob
      • 1 Year Ago
      It is a shame BMW is trying to reach down to capture some customers from the Acura ILX or the VW Jetta GLI (neither are spectacular cars). $32,500 for a not that well equipped car just to have some "curb appeal" is pretty foolish in my book
        hboi18
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rob
        Ill agree with you except for the acura Ilx.....thats just garbage
      Kevin
      • 1 Year Ago
      Think BMW has put itself in a precarious position especially when the 1 series has more power and a little smaller but not far off in price!
      AARON
      • 1 Year Ago
      So now BMW expects you to pay $32K for an under-equipped car with an underpowered four cylinder? It just goes to show that people will pay a lot of money in order to own a so-called "status symbol."
      John Blaze
      • 1 Year Ago
      I hate to admit it but I would rather take a fully loaded Honda Accord or Mazda 6 with all of the goodies over this spartan thing.
        Spartan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John Blaze
        But...but...but...It's a BMW with RWD driving dynamics and 50/50 balance that I never would notice anyway! John Blaze, I agree with you 100%.
        The Wasp
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John Blaze
        I would proudly admit that -- and throw in a large number of other cars.
        S.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John Blaze
        Im with you there! But judging by the sucess of the M-B CLA, people seem to care more about the badge than a good value. So like the CLA, I assume this will do really well too
        NeoReaper
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John Blaze
        FWD, noisy, harsh, and a possibly with a CVT. Yes, sounds fantastic.... if you don't want a BMW
        dea5787
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John Blaze
        Agreed But if I had a choice between a fully optioned BMW 3 or a fully optioned accord or Mazda 6, then I'd glad the BMW. I'm sick of seeing all these bare bones 3 series lease specials on the road.
      Espo70
      • 1 Year Ago
      It is shameful to know what the level of standard equipment on these high end German brands does NOT include. A backup camera, NAV, proper smartphone integration, heated seats, should be standard. Over 40 grand for a properly equipped entry level BMW without awd and only 180 hp is a joke. That's why everyone leases these things.
        pjtocci
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Espo70
        Tell me why a dinky car like this needs a backup camera. Seriously, explain.
          Espo70
          • 1 Year Ago
          @pjtocci
          Because, regardless of whether you feel the car is "dinky", a backup camera represents a safety technology that is becoming standard or available on almost every car. I would expect it to be standard on a 35k German luxury sedan.
          Susan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @pjtocci
          Backup cameras are a response to poor engineering, meaning big vehicles with small windows and impaired rear vision (think of the typical crossover/CUV trucklet). Not all vehicles need cameras.
          adam1keith1980
          • 1 Year Ago
          @pjtocci
          Because many Americans cannot drive. They cannot shift a manual transmission. They cannot use turning signals for some reason. They cannot stop hogging the left lane. They cannot park. They cannot appreciate the superiority of RWD; instead, they care about backup cameras. This is the state of the driving culture in the USA. This car is a gift from BMW to enthusiasts. Enthusiasts are lucky that something like this still exist.
        George
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Espo70
        Your comments are ridiculous - you seem to assume people want AWD and that is the mark of a sport sedan. A backup camera? Who needs a backup camera. Your comments on leasing and the reason behind it don't make a lick of sense either.
          Espo70
          • 1 Year Ago
          @George
          Ridiculous how? I never said awd is the mark of a performance sedan, but in the northeast, where I live, it is beneficial. So it's an option I would select. As far as a back up camera, you're taking one example I used and making it the focus of your argument. Is it absolutely necessary? No. Can one operate a car without it? Of course. But you can say the same thing about a lot of the other safety feature that have been added to cars in the past 20 years like abs, traction control, stability, etc. The point is if I'm paying top dollar for a German luxury sedan, I should expect to find the same safety and comfort features that are standard on a $25k Japanese economy car. Leasing-an affordable way to purchase a car by deferring the total cost and making payments based on its depreciation. You think more people are financing a $45-50k 3 series, or leasing? Let's get real. There's your lick of sense.
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