DRIVEN: F30 BMW 320i Sport Line – entry-levelled up?

BMW320i54

In times past, entry-level cars were not kitted very well and most of the features were removed so the price can be justly slashed. As sure as nachos go well with cream cheese, the base cars will usually have smaller capacity engines for motivation.

Well, time for a change of thinking. Because when you peel open the door, you’ll be presented with a well-kitted interior. You’ll know simply because of the presence of the iDrive Controller with lets you interface with the crisp graphics in the 6.5-inch screen. Funny how such a little knob and a colour screen make a modern BMW feel complete.

The absence of additional cubbyholes or dummy buttons are sure signs that this Happy Meal isn’t one fry short. Much value you’ll get for RM238,800.

BMW320i45

OK, so there’s no navigation or a music interface for smartphones or even BMW Apps. In any case, all modules in here are glued tight and the trim that clothes them is of quality. It is a sharply dressed interior and you won’t mind spending time in it. Nicely bolstered seats and armrests will bring much comfort no matter if it is counting the seconds passed in traffic or traversing the Peninsula from tip to tip.

The engine isn’t the biggest of the bunch but it has enough strength to shoulder the 1,495kg car. It is a 2.0-litre force-fed that throws up 184hp and 270Nm from 1,250rpm, which gives the car a lot of go from the moment you step on the pedal. It takes 7.6 seconds to 100kph and stops the speedo needle at 235kph.

As speedy as it may seem, the acceleration isn’t eye-wateringly quick. Power is delivered to the rear though the eight-speed automatic, which isn’t setup for a sporty drive. Yet, you can feel that the ratios are tight and the gears shifts are crisply executed.

The ride is somewhat firm but never jiggly. It also tracks the undulations of the highways really well, which makes the car feel confident and grippy at high speeds. Push it around the B-roads and you’ll find the chassis is impeccably balanced.

The steering certainly plays up the sporty part. Steering feels properly weighted and it gets heavy with confidence at speed. Flick the wheel and you’ll know that the car has the potential to dance around corners. Body roll hardly occurs too, considering that this suspension isn’t tuned for spirited driving.

Criticisms? There are more than a few. It might seem that, in creating a car that is wonderfully drivable, BMW have left out the refinement that should have been here in the first place. Shockingly, road and wind noise intrude the cabin even when the car is travelling around the national speed limit.

BMW320i20

And then, there’s the engine, oh where to begin. The Auto Start Stop function works, as it should so fuel is used properly. You won’t feel the engine stopping; it’s that smooth. However, the same cannot be said when it restarts. It feels like a bear has just nudged side of the 3er with prejudice. Rough.

There’s also the issue of that tappet-like sound coming from the engine at parking-lot speeds, which sometimes make me wonder if I am driving a 320d instead.

Pity about the refinement because the 320i is such an accomplished driver’s car. You really need to turn up the volume up to drown out the external sounds. But if you can past that, if you can also get past the rough start-stop (which, by the way, can be turned off), then you shouldn’t write off this Bimmer. Because in a world where cars are becoming mere joyless tools, the 320i let’s you remember that driving can be satisfying.

This review originally ran in Issue #2 of Driven+ Magazine.

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Chris Ng

Chris Ng believes that all cars are made equal, and each one has its own unique story to tell. As such, the ex-advertising man is here doing what he truly loves, which is authoring the allegories and anecdotes of automobiles. Having served time in a motoring mag, he believes there's nothing more sublime than keeping the pedal floored and things burbling in top gear.

 

Comments

  • The Fox on Dec 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Best car in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 55
    • Sam Loo 2 on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Best car in your world:Toyota Altis/Honda Civic,high RV.Not like this useless junk and low RV Banyak Masuk Workshop car.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 59
  • seancorr on Dec 23, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    The wind noise is truly a bother and the road noise cannot be isolated due to the run flat tyres…guess BMW has to improve its NVH again as I notice sound leaking from the car when I tune the music volume louder.

    Other small little gripes I have with the 3 series is the lack of adaptive xenon lights which is present in its rivals. The Audi A4 also has the adaptive damper control as standard in its entry 1.8 TFSI and when you fork out the amount for one you’d expect keyless entry too but nope it ain’t available.

    On the positive side although the suspension is softer I find it stable on high speeds and around corners – as expected from a BMW and it’s engine power is a marvel even with the 1.6l 316i but the next generation Mercedes C180 engine will be more powerful. Now if only they increase the warranty to at least 3 years when it’s rivals offer 4 years now.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 71 Thumb down 2
    • Sportline on Dec 23, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      Yes, BMW makes superior cars but they don’t last and this is reflected in their reluctance to bring their warranty package up to industry standards. Two years is a real insult to owners.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 80 Thumb down 4
      • 2 years warranty only? on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

        I used to like BMW. My dream is to own a 520i. But since Mercedes has increased their warranty to 4 years, I rather buy the E250 anytime. Double the warranty. Double the peace of mind. We all know if warranty finishes, defective parts can cost and arm and leg. Some parts even cost RM$50,000 even. Not worth my risk. Anyway, its a well knwon fact, BMW breaksdown more often than Mercedes because too many electronics.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 6
        • rakyatbiasasaja on Dec 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

          if you have to worry about maintenance, sad to say you still cannot afford to drive such cars.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 45
        • Gitu je on Dec 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm

          cannot afford shut up la…
          keep dreaming..

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 36
          • Retiree on Dec 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm

            That’s not fair or nice to say that. Some people work many long hard years to buy a car that they’ve been eyeing and perceiving as luxury. Three decades ago they could walk into a Mercedes showroom pick one up on their retirement day and the car would outlast them. This isn’t the case anymore.

            It is unfair to say the poster can’t afford it. Maybe he can. But he can afford to buy only one. And not changing it every four years as others might be able to.

            Btw some of us younger ones also can only afford to buy passat B7. But we can’t afford a second car. So what so we do when the DSG / mechatronics give way?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 47 Thumb down 3
    • panadoll on Dec 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      this 1.6 T for 316i is their old engine. who knows in the future they will equip 3 series with their new 1.5l turbocharged 3 cylinder engine..

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1
    • Fredo on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

      it really comes down to what u want for you money bro.
      if u want nice interior with more features, a4 1.8T is obviously a better car. a4 1.8T and 320i is actually 2 diff breed. 1 is RWD while the other 1 FWD…power may be about the same but that CVT us the a4 is crap… well, at least we have a choice

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1
  • Hmmmm on Dec 23, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    The article is written in such strange grammar. Another Jeremy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7
    • hohaho on Dec 24, 2013 at 10:26 am

      This reviewer need to get some of his facts right. For example, the 320i is certainly no entry level 3 series in Msia now since the introduction of the 316i.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 6
      • Oh Gitu on Dec 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm

        The reviewer is right…

        “F30 BMW 320i Sport Line – entry-levelled up?”

        yes 320i is the entry level sports line as its being offered 2 option “luxury” or “sports”

        next up is the 328i…
        with its luxury and sports line up…

        where else…
        the 316i is entry level with standard line up; nothing to shout about at rm209K cheapo stuff toy…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7
    • old dog on Dec 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      agreed

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
  • The iDrive system is crap. Always reboot by itself during drive. No special scenario to reproduce but happens abruptly. Sent to service centre but they said needs to leave the car for a day to diagnose.
    Anybody had the same problem?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4
  • Don’t know how you can say the interior look classy and premium.
    Compared to proton, yes..

    But against the A4 and C class (furthermore, both old gen compared to the F30), it looks really cheap..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 22
  • Coogee on Dec 24, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Is this an old article or did BMW reduce the 320i price?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • ong chin aun on Dec 24, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Yes, good car, but still beyound the reach of most of the people. Sporty and well design. Best Man Win, just cn’t afford to own it. only appreciate .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0
  • Early Adopter on Dec 24, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I share the same view Coogee. I have trouble capturing the essence of this article. I had first assumed that they were upgrading the equipment on the 320i (which kept my heart pumping), but alas it was in my opinion an attempt to re-promote the model, probably a marketing gimmick from BMW due to year end and upcoming CNY season. Back to the car itself, the biggest turn-down on this particular model is still due to the non-availability of a spare tyre and utterly disappointing 2 year warranty (as many has mentioned). Not forgetting the poor service rendered by their sales advisor (Glenmarie outlet). I went there with my wife 2 weeks back and we were there for easily 45 mins. As expected, not one person attended to us (and trust me, not all of them were occupied as some were seen standing around looking at their mobile phones). As usual, they were very selective on who to attend. I simply fail to understand the arrogance in these people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 50 Thumb down 2
    • Gitu je on Dec 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      ye la u come with MyVi or Kancil or Jap/Korean..
      of coz la they dont see u…

      need to come with Conti…

      :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9
      • Early Adopter on Dec 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm

        So what you are attempting to deduce is, if you were to wear a simple tee & shorts and decided to walk into a decent restaurant, the waiter should have every right to simply ignore and not serve you at all?

        Don’t be so shallow buddy….the reality is simple, it is pure arrogance and lack of customer servicing insight by these small group of individuals who thinks they are on the higher tier of the society just because they work for a premium brand. In simple fact, they are just like any of us, a salaried person. Period.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0
    • So u just waited 45 minutes? Instead u can just call out for their assistance which will take 4 second ? Don’t give fake story here la.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • BMWShouldBeTakingNote on Dec 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

    BMW needs to start giving us more options. Why couldn’t we pay RM2xxxxxx and just let us add a few thousand for options like M adaptive suspension (which is really a must for a comfortable ride)? Why couldn’t we pay to add 8.8″ inch NAVI, HUD or moonroof? Having these as options will at least fend off some of the other top-end models than comes fully equipped and cost much much less. Right now they need to step up their game because I would not pay this much for a lesser equipped BMW just for best in class handling (perhaps engine and transmission). Tech feature and interior comfort is top priority when I dish out that much dough.

    BMW, please improve your Malaysian fleet with options!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1
  • I got my F30 320i last September. A few points for sharing.
    1. Wind noise NG.
    2. Run Flat Tyres noise NG.
    3. No spare tyres compartments.
    4. Screen 6.5″ too small.
    5. No navigation.
    6. No reverse camera.
    7. During start up engine roar noise NG.
    8. Steering knocking sound NG.
    9. Acceleration…OK…
    Damn. I am stuck with this car for another 4 years at least. Should have tested V40 T5 and wait for C200 next year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 4
    • Fredo on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

      i feel you bro…but didnt you check the car out properly and compare it with its competitors before decide on the purchase?
      It sounds like u get something u dun really want.
      As for me, i hv tested all the potential alternatives and made decision based on my own findings…its not the best in overall but i can live with it. the only regret is perhaps not getting the 328i instead :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
    • policeman on Dec 24, 2013 at 4:00 am

      You should have bought Inspira instead.

      and you’d be stuck with it for 2 years.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6
    • Pinto on Dec 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Just adding on –

      1) do you feel the leather takes too long to cool down and while driving your back feels hot?
      2) and the bottom of the seats rust up although it was replaced with no hassle. It’s happening again though.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • New C class only coming to malaysia in 2015

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • GoatFace on Aug 22, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      This is why i bought BMW 328i with M Sport Package. It comes with GPS and has brilliant handling. But still disappointed since it doesnt have spare tyre and rear seat is quiet small.. I love the Auto Start Stop Function though…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • heybadigol on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Im not surprised by the review. People who buy/own/drive BMWs do so for the driving enjoyment. Its not called the Ultimate Driving Machine for nothing. But it is not the ultimate luxury machine. That belongs to Lexus & Mercedes. Its not got the best customer service – again belongs to Lexus. And neither is it as reliable as a Lexus (being a luxed up Toyota has its privileges).

    At the end of the day, you buy what you perceive will give you what you want. If you want a fast & fun car that will make you smile ear to ear just when you hold the steering wheel, go ahead and buy that BMW. But of course it comes with a caveat – and you must accept this as something you need to deal with in order to extract the fun. Alternatively, if you want something luxurious, get a Lexus or Merc or Audi. If you want something that ticks all boxes, you can continue waiting, as I dont think there’s yet a car that does it all best. Well, maybe just maybe the new C Class might do it, but we’ll have to wait and see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1
    • oh please, the driving experience difference between the luxury brands these days is imperceptible. placebo effect.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4
  • nabill on Dec 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    should have reviewed the 316 with the 1.6 turbo n see if its worth it…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  • Mine is a 328i.For the past 15 months owning it, no major problem experienced. Performance wise…very impressive..but have to agree on the interior though…quite dated and dull. My other gripe is on the service interval under BSRI. You cannot send the car for service until the prompt on the dashboard said so. Mine is already 31000km but the notification on the dashboard said another 800km to go…so scary. Opss…parts is another problem. Ingress booked my door handle light since April but until now no news.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • Gitu je on Dec 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      most people with the new f30 328i got issue with steering rack..
      seat frame…
      absorber knocking sound…
      wind noise…

      claiming on parts takes 1/2 a year
      eg ur seat frame rusty…

      ok la u consider the lucky person..

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  • Mr Blooms Nursery on Dec 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Looking at what BMW has to offer in Malaysia with their 3-series, my heart is starting to sway a little bit towards the Lexus IS as a better overall package.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
  • deadaccu on Jan 07, 2014 at 10:59 am

    i bought mine purely for their ultimate driving machine experience n for the badge of course.fast forward 36 month later,2 problematic part and the car end up in the garage for 5 and a half month.and the cost,damn i could get a new myvi with that kind of price.i should have gone with the humble camry or accord but no,my inner snob wont settle for anything less.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0
  • z00b00 on Feb 08, 2014 at 10:34 am

    has owned this 320i luxury for the past 6months. have to say the car was much better in term of performance from my 2008 accord, especially the gear shifts are very2 smooth. here in indonesia, we got the bigger screen and GPS included too. i think thats the only difference with the malaysian version.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
 

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