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BMW 320i SE Saloon

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      17.07.2008 18:28
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      22 Comments

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      Great car

      We have had our car for just over a year now so it seems a good time to write a review about it. We have a 07 plate BMW 320i SE automatic in Montego blue. The 20 means it has a 2 litre engine, and the i means it is petrol rather than diesel. Getting this car was not my choice, I wanted a Ford Mondeo but my husband wanted this car and after much pestering I relented. Not that I have any complaints, it is a great car.

      Why did we choose it?

      The BMW 3 series is a highly rated car and had won lots of best buy awards and 5 star ratings for motoring journalists, and is generally considers the best car in its class. Top Gear gave it 5 stars, so did Whatcar? where it is a best buy both new and used (and was their car of the year in 2006). Which? gave it 4 stars and a best buy award. All these people can't be wrong and the fact it is so highly regarded helped in the decision making process. We also considered the Mazda 6 but I found the seats to be too hard but otherwise we liked it, the Mercedes C class but it felt like a boat to drive and was as unresponsive as the 206, the Audi A4 but I didn't like the interior, it was really cheap and poorly put together. We couldn't have the Ford Mondeo as my Husband has issues with owning a Ford and living in Essex (don't ask). In his mind there was only one car we could possibly get and after as test drive I agreed. We paid £23,000 for it and I think we got a very good deal (RRP was nearer to £27,000).

      Features

      The 3 series (basic model) comes with the following as standard (sorry for the list, best skip this paragraph): remote central locking, power steering, driver and passenger and side airbags, dynamic stability control (anti-lock brakes, automatic stability control, cornering brake control, dynamic traction control, and electronic brake-force distribution), immobiliser and alarm, manual air-con, alloy wheels, first aid kit and warning triangle, front and rear fog lights, run flat tyres and tyre puncture warning system, cup holders, electric windows, start/stop button, and CD player.

      We decided to go for the SE rather than the basic ES model. With the SE we also got: cruise control, rear parking sensor, automatic air con, auto dimming rear view mirror, and multi function controls for steering wheel. Of course on top of this there is a huge list of extras you can have e.g. sat nav, leather seats. We opted for sports seats, splitting rear seats, metallic paint, and of course the automatic gearbox.

      Safety

      One of the most important factors in choosing a car for me was its safety rating. Having watched an article of Top Gear as few years ago where they crashed cars with different Euro NCAP ratings at 40 mph (I think) I was shocked at the difference between them. The 3 series has a 5 star Euro NCAP rating for adults, the highest you can get, and this is very reassuring in case the unthinkable may happen.

      Driving

      The car is great to drive. On country lane B roads it is great fun, it is sharp and responsive and you really feel in control. It also copes with motorway speeds extremely well, at 70 mph you get the feeling the car isn't even trying. The car is a very good long distance cruiser. The car is very quiet, even on the motorway there is not a lot of road noise.

      The handling is very good and the steering is responsive. From what I can gather with my basic knowledge of cars (gleamed mainly from Top Gear) the stiffer suspension and taut chassis means the car is doesn't suffer from body roll as much as a softer suspension car (the 206 was shocking for body roll) and handles well through corners. This basically means when I am in the passenger seat and my husband is driving, generally far too fast, he doesn't get shouted at as much. The car is rear wheel drive which might also have something to do with how good the handling is, but this is a bit beyond me. The rear parking sensors make parking very easy considering it is a large car, it has a good turning circle and the car is easy to manoeuvre. Proven by the fact my husband hasn't crashed into any concrete pillars yet.

      Automatic

      The automatic gear box is very good, there is no noticeable lag between putting your foot down and the car responding, unlike in some other autos (e.g. the 206). When using the step down function (basically slam foot to floor and car changes down a gear to give more power) it really goes. It is by no means slow and sluggish and is a joy to drive.

      Tyres

      I think I am right in saying that all BMW's come with run flat tyres these days. Run flats are specially designed tyres with reinforced side walls so that they can support the weight of the car even at very low pressure, which means that you can continue driving even if you have a puncture, albeit no faster than 50 mph or further than 150 miles. The run flat tyres mean that the ride is firm but still comfortable, but I like the security that they offer. I know that even if I get a flat tyre I won't be stuck by the side of the road somewhere, but will be able to continue with my journey. Having had a tyre go at 70mph on a dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere at night in my last car this is very reassuring. Also because the tyres wont suddenly lose pressure and deform there is less risk of an accident occurring because of a puncture.

      As there is no need for a spare tyre this means that there is more space in the boot. If you do get a puncture the car gives a warning bong and displays the run flat symbol. This has happened a few times, most of the times the pressure in one the tyres was a bit low (1.5 rather than 2.0) and just needed topping up. Once we had a huge nail embedded in the rear tyre. In a normal tyre this would have meant we wouldn't have been able to drive the car but because of the run flats we were able to drive to the garage to have it looked at (and to work and back for a day, topping the tyre up before each journey).

      I have heard people complain about the car tramlining which seems to be caused by the bridgestone tyres. I have not experienced this problem and I am not sure what they are even on about.

      Bong

      The car bongs at you for everything, which can get rather annoying. Bong, warning ice, yes I know, it's bloody snowing. A few times it has bonged to tell me that the front passenger isn't wearing their seat belt when no-one is sat there, just my handbag and shopping. The only way to shut it up is to fasten the seat belt or it bongs every second. Either that or put the bags on floor. On the plus side it bongs to tell you that you are low on windscreen wash, oil, petrol etc which is really useful. The on board computer also tells you your average speed, average fuel consumption, outside temperature, and how many miles you have left.

      The looks

      I think the car looks very masculine and aggressive, something my husband likes but I don't think it is very pretty. I got to choose the colour and plumped for a lovely metallic blue, but the rest of the colour options are rather boring, basically dull colours and shades of grey.

      Inside

      The inside is a bit blunt, the dash board is angular and straightforward. The glove box is tiny. You can just about fit the manual it there but maps don't fit. I guess it really is just for gloves. The nets on the backs of the front seats are also tiny, I can only get one map in each. The compartment between the front seats is large, and has a can cooler in it and an auxiliary input socket for mp3 players to connect too. Overall storage space is adequate.

      One rather exciting thing is that you don't get a traditional key but a key fob and a start/stop button. To start the car you put the key fob in the slot and press the star/stop button. Even I found this exciting, very James Bond.

      The driving position is very good. Before this we had a Peugeot 206 (awful car, wasn't my choice) and the driving position was shocking. I am 5"10, tall for a woman but this is average height for a man, and I had to have the seat as far back as it would go. With the seat this far back I found that the steering wheel (which adjusts only up and down) was too far away. For short journeys it was liveable but for longer trips it was very uncomfortable. This isn't a problem with the BMW. The seat is fully adjustable, as well as moving up and down and forward and back, it can be tilted and of course the seat back can be adjusted. The steering wheel too is fully adjustable, both up and down and forward and back (think it's called reach and rake). The seats are comfortable and supportive.

      I think the leg room for passengers in the rear is more than adequate. I have seen some reviews (whatcar?) where they say the head room in the back is a bit lacking if you are over 6", but unless you plan to have basketball players in the back a lot it is not a problem. I have sat in the back and had plenty of head room, and leg room. Not an issue, plenty of space.

      The boot is huge, it has 460 litres of space. We also opted for the splitting rear seats so there is the potential for even more space. The only slight problem is the size of the opening, it isn't very large. So while you can get a lot of small boxes in the boot, big ones won't fit through the opening. The reason for the small opening is to give the car more strength.

      Fuel Consumption

      Fuel consumption is very good for a 2 litre large car. The official stats say that it will do 31.7 mpg in urban areas, and 55.4 in extra-urban (motorways) with a combined of 43.5 mpg. The figures for the manual gearbox are a couple mpg higher. We mainly drive in urban settings, basically around town and the car is currently showing our average mpg as 32.4.

      General

      We have had the car for 14 months and have never had a problem with it. It is coming up to its first service (18,000 miles) so don't know how much servicing costs. The car is well built, it feels solid which makes me feel very safe. The quality of the trim is very good, nothing has broken yet. BMW's also tend to be very reliable cars

      Depreciation isn't that bad as the car is desirable and so holds its value well. After 3 years and 36,000 mile its resale value is 50% of the original cost, which is the best for large cars (Audi A4 is also 50% but for comparison Vauxhall Vectra is 29% and Peugeot 407 is 33%, figures from Which?).

      My only complaint about the car is that there is no back windscreen wiper. I find this really annoying and don't understand why there isn't one.

      General Stats

      The car is in insurance group 14, which is about £550 a year. It's CO2 rating is 190 g/km and car tax is £215 a year (according to the V5C, the figure on BMW's website is 156 g/km, don't understand). The 0-60 speed is 8.9 seconds and it has 170 bhp. It is in the lower 20% tax band for company cars.

      Summary

      This is really a very good car. Wonderful to drive, responsive but also fairly economical, it is spacious, dependable and also safe. Yes they tend to be more expensive than the other cars in its class, but you get what you pay for and it holds its value well. It isn't the prettiest of cars but I am rather fond of it.


      Thanks for reading. Also in ciao as rd52169

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