It might wear an entry-level label, but there’s nothing entry-level about its price. Are you getting what you pay for with the 2023 BMW 320i?
- As much 3 Series as you’ll ever need
- Smooth and efficient powertrain
- Very well built
- Confusing infotainment software
- Firm ride
- Pricey compared to predecessor
Some of the most evident price hikes over the last few years have been seen in the luxury vehicle sector. The 2023 BMW 320i has long been the entry-level variant in the BMW 3 Series range, but its price has jumped a whopping $14,000 or so since the generation launched in 2019.
That’s a lofty price point to begin a relatively run-of-the-mill luxury sedan, so we’ve picked up an LCI example (facelifted) BMW 320i to see if it continues to deliver on the BMW principles of a sharp driving character, an impressive tech interface, and a practical and premium cabin.
How much does the BMW 320i cost in Australia?
Since turning a corner with this new G20-generation facelift, BMW has bumped up pricing for the entire 2023 BMW 3 Series range. It now begins at $78,900 before on-road costs for the 320i, before rising sharply to $93,400 for the next step up 330i, and then again to $97,400 for the plug-in hybrid 330e.
To add some context, the 330i sat around $70,000 after its launch in 2019, and the 330e was $75,900.
Make no mistake, when you see a new BMW 3 Series on the road, the person behind the wheel has paid a lot of money to be there.
Back to the entry-level 320i – let’s outlay what an owner can expect with their purchase. The 2023 BMW 320i introduces revised styling at the front end with a pinned-back fascia (with LED headlights) and a tweaked kidney grille. There are new 18- and 19-inch wheel designs along the side, while the rear end is treated to lower bumper with an accentuated lower black portion.
Over the pre-facelift 320i this new car receives a dual-widescreen driver display with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, and tri-zone climate control. This joins an M Sport package as standard, as well as Alcantara and Sensatec (faux suede and leather) upholstery, electric front seats, wireless smartphone mirroring and charging, head-up display, and 18-inch M Sport wheels.
Power for the entire 3 Series range – excluding the M3 and M340i – is derived from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. In 320i application the motor puts out 135kW/400Nm, which is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
BMW has been locked in an age-old battle with Audi and Mercedes-Benz with their own mid-size luxury sedans, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
|Key details||2023 BMW 320i|
|Price||$78,900 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||M Brooklyn Grey|
|Options||Metallic paint – $1538
Visibility Pack – $3692
– Adaptive headlights
M High Gloss Shadow Line with Extended Contents – $385
|Price as tested||$84,515 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$93,114 (Melbourne)|
|Rivals||Mercedes-Benz C-Class | Audi A4 | Genesis G70|
How much space does the BMW 320i have inside?
This latest invigoration with the large single-pane screen is a brilliant update to an already modern and tech-infused 3 Series cabin. Materials used throughout the interior are high quality and befit the price point and positioning. They also feel built to last the distance with a sturdy fit and finish.
Space in the front row is decent, though I found my leg was encroached upon by the transmission tunnel. For reference I’m 194cm tall, so shorter drivers are unlikely to suffer the same fate. You’re treated to a low driving position, the seats are comfortable and supportive (with adjustable bolstering), and everything falls ergonomically to hand.
BMW is one of the latest to introduce a little nib shifter in place of its traditional gear selector wand. It does mean there’s more room to wave your hand over the centre console, but it does take some getting used to (if you’re a BMW traditionalist you’ll be continually reaching for the old gear selector).
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Unfortunately, BMW’s moved a majority of the climate controls to the infotainment screen, which is plainly a bad idea. It means you must cycle through several screens just to adjust the temperature. There’s a dizzying array of content on the screen to waft through too, but more on the infotainment next.
Moving back, the second-row seats are a squeeze behind my own driving position and are best reserved for young kids or adults you’re not fond of. There is enough room to not be cramped, but the lack of foot room and knee space will annoy on longer drives.
There’s a 480L capacity at the back, but the boot doesn’t feature a power tailgate functionality. The rear seats fold forward in a 40/20/40 format.
|2023 BMW 320i|
Does the BMW 320i have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
BMW has consolidated its infotainment screens into a singular long pane of display that stretches from the centre of the dash across to the driver’s instrument cluster. This pane is actually made up of two separate 14.9- and 12.3-inch screens.
It looks very slick in its design and presents an extremely high-definition picture.
BMW has a reputation for its innovative and easy-to-use infotainment systems, but unfortunately the new iDrive 8.0 is not the simplest user experience. The layout arrangement of menu lists and the content-rich home page are confounding, while you’re often overwhelmed to complete simple tasks. The amount of icons on the app screen is bewildering, and it almost seems as though the designers have filled out the page full of icons to look populous.
Thankfully BMW’s still included the rotary controller to navigate the screen, but there’s little doubt the system is designed to be touched. I’ve loved the simple rotary controller that accurately takes you to the right infotainment function, but it’s tricky to prod your finger on the screen and maintain focus on driving.
The voice-activated BMW assistant does help, but shouting “Hey BMW…” is still hit-and-miss whether you’ll get a response.
I ended up running the majority of my week through wireless Apple CarPlay, which works really well. Also embedded within the system is wireless Android Auto, digital radio (DAB+), embedded satellite navigation, traffic and news updates, and app-based connectivity allowing remote access to vehicle check or remote locking and unlocking via a compatible smartphone.
Here’s hoping the iDrive system returns to a simpler layout in the next generation.
Is the BMW 320i a safe car?
The entire BMW 3 Series range was tested by ANCAP at the vehicle’s launch in 2019 – it scored a full five stars. However, the criteria it was tested against have been updated in recent years, which means it may be more difficult for this car to achieve a full five-star rating today.
In terms of a score breakdown, it scored highly for adult occupant protection (97 per cent), and received 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 87 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 77 per cent for safety assist.
What safety technology does the BMW 320i have?
BMW includes an array of active and passive safety tech from the entry-level variant in the 3 Series range. This means the 320i receives forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (including pedestrian detection), lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
It also receives a reversing assistant and adaptive cruise control, though curiously the latter isn’t accompanied by a lane-centring function, which we’d expect at this price point.
Dual frontal, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting (curtains) airbags and a driver’s knee airbag are standard.
How much does the BMW 320i cost to maintain?
Until recently, BMW was one of the last hold-outs still offering a three-year warranty with its products. Thankfully that is no longer the case, with the brand now including a five-year/unlimited-kilometre offering.
Unfortunately, the complimentary roadside assistance program remains at three years.
Servicing packages are available for the BMW 3 Series – a five-service (or 80,000km) basic package costs $2150. Services should be completed on an as-needed basis (the car will tell you when it needs maintenance).
The BMW 320i will cost $2179.42 per year to insure based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance||2023 BMW 320i|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Servicing costs||$2150 (5 services)|
Is the BMW 320i fuel-efficient?
BMW claims a low 6.5L/100km fuel efficiency on a combined cycle encompassing both rural and urban surroundings. I came very close to this claim recording 6.6L/100km over the course of a week, though my use case favoured highways.
BMW recommends the car only be refuelled with 95-octane petrol, which is more expensive than regular unleaded petrol.
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||6.5L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||6.6L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||59L|
What is the BMW 320i like to drive?
Even at the lower end of the 3 Series spectrum, there’s no doubt that the 320i remains a sporty driving experience – especially with M Sport parts fitted.
It rides firmly, steers with intent, shifts ratios diligently, and the engine is punchy enough for a spirited back-road blast. You need to know this going into the purchase, because it’s the diametric opposite of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class that prioritises luxury with a wallowy drive experience and soft ride comfort.
The suspension feels tight and doesn’t relent all too much when driving over large road annoyances like potholes or speed humps. Granted, it doesn’t jar over these impacts or feel overly rough, but it’s an intentional dynamic feel that some buyers might not appreciate.
Steering the car is easy with the chunky steering wheel and an accurate turn-in, while the car stays flat through corners and doesn’t let mid-corner bumps upset its stride.
BMW has a fascinating ability to tune a four-cylinder engine to perfection – extracting impressive outputs while balancing frugal fuel economy. In the 320i’s 135kW/300Nm tune, the turbocharged four-cylinder punches above its on-paper figures. Put your foot down and there’s a perky surge of power from the engine and the resulting hurried acceleration is swift.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is a very smooth operator whether you’re rolling about through traffic or demanding a lot, up and down hills. It’ll accurately serve up an appropriate ratio for any given situation.
While it is a sporty-leaning sedan, it’s not at the expense of refinement. The 320i is quiet, well put together, and engine noise through to the cabin is limited.
Around town it’s an easy car to park and zip around in, with good visibility out of the cabin despite a low-slung stance and driving position.
|Key details||2023 BMW 320i|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||135kW @ 6500rpm|
|Torque||300Nm @ 1350–4000rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque converter automatic|
|Spare tyre type||Run-flat tyres|
Even though BMW has afforded some extra niceties (that huge widescreen is very impressive) to offset a mammoth price increase, the 320i’s price tag is a tough one to swallow. In fairness, it undercuts the Mercedes-Benz C200 ($81,700 excl. ORCs), but it’s a long shot from the most affordable Audi A4 35 TFSI ($66,300 excl. ORCs).
There’s no doubt it’s still a thoroughly polished car with its well-presented interior, high-end materials and build quality, refined powertrain, and sharp handling. But it’s also missing a note with buyers by overcomplicating the infotainment system and giving the car a firm suspension tune. Perhaps that’s what some 3 Series buyers are after, but it’s unlikely they’re shopping at the entry level of the range.
You’re going to really have to want a BMW 3 Series to pick this over a better value Audi A4 or a more polished product in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But for the BMW diehards who appreciate it for what it is – a sporty sedan with a dizzying array of tech – there will be no other option.