Over 23,000 BMW 3 Series of all body types have been sold in the UK in the first six months of this year, most four door saloons and a high proportion of course to company car drivers.
The 3 Series is the UK's top selling premium brand range and the 7th best selling model range of any make.
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Interestingly Mercedes-Benz has achieved their all-time UK six months sales record in the UK much of it down to the C-Class range which has entered the new car top ten in 10th position. As yet the Audi A4 range, the main premium brand sales contender to the 3 Series and C-Class, has yet to achieve enough sales to feature in the top ten.
In April, soon after its launch, changes to the company car Benefit-in-Kind tax CO2 emissions based rates did the 3 Series no favours with the main selling 320d moving from the 13 per cent band to 18 per cent.
However BMW had in the pipeline a different version of the 320d, the 320d Efficient Dynamics (ED) with the lowest CO2 emissions making it the most efficient executive car on sale with CO2 output at just 109g/km.
This means BIK company car tax is now 15 per cent for this version and that also means businesses can write-down 100 per cent of the cost of the car in the first year of ownership.
This new 320 ED, 161bhp model with a six-speed manual gearbox is priced at £28,080, the same price as the best selling 320d 181bhp SE version on which it is based.
Both versions are available with an auto transmission option which adds £1,525 to the price but doesn't have any adverse affect on performance or changes the fuel economy or CO2 emissions over ED manual models.
All customers, both retail and fleet/business users, will also benefit from the lower VED road tax the 320d ED enjoys over the standard version. The ED model has a £0 in the First Year rate and then only £20 per annum for the second year of ownership onwards.
The standard 320d with 120g/km of CO2 also has a £0 First Year and then £30 per annum after that. It's only a £10 saving but every little bit helps. An even larger saving is to be had by the improved fuel economy. Officially for the Combined Cycle the 3 Series ED saloon will return 68.9mpg against 61.4mpg for the standard 320d.
Now we know that official mpg figures rarely match actual ones but my test 320d ED with a manual gearbox returned a fantastic 66mpg average for a week's driving covering more than 800 miles. This included over 500 miles on motorways at the usual 70-80mph cruising speeds, slower runs on winding A/B roads, queuing in and out of the Goodwood Festival of Speed event plus local trips to the shop.
Remember this is a premium brand, high performance executive four door saloon I am writing about so it rather makes the case for electric and hybrid cars of this size seem a lost cause.
My driving was undertaken just using the ED model's gearchange driving prompts which generally mean short shifting between the gears.
This was no carpet slipper economy driving exercise, just normal style, normal accelerator pedal pressure and changing gear as indicated. The Drive Performance Control was left in Eco-Pro mode which harmonises various engine, steering, suspension and power demand functions as needed.
Although the power of the ED engine compared to the standard 320d has been dropped by 20bhp as part of the Efficient Dynamics tweaks, the torque remains the same at 280lb ft so that means despite the taller gearing the driver doesn't find themselves continually changing down through the gears to keep the car moving in the normal spritely BMW manner.
Top speed is still 143mph and zero to 62mph takes 8.0-seconds. In top gear at just 2,000rpm the car cruises happily at 80mph. Just 1,500rpm returns a carefree cruising speed of 60mph, no wonder its fuel frugal.
All BMW cars, not just this model, have BMW's award winning Efficient Dynamics construction and power saving technologies.
The 320d Efficient Dynamics variant has added tweaks such as auto stop/start, brake energy regeneration, Drive Performance Control, gear change indicator, electronic power steering, lighter components, reduced rolling resistance tyres and lowered suspension for improved aerodynamics.
In all respects the 320d ED model was just like driving a normal 3 Series rear wheel drive saloon, agile handling, sharp steering but fitted with 16-inch wheels without run-flat tyres the ride was more comfortable and the handling less fidgety over poorer roads surfaces.
The specification is based on the best selling ES trim and equipment level so includes all the usual items such as electrically operated windows and door mirrors, air conditioning, Bluetooth, iDrive infotainment, alarm, cruise control, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and a good sound system.
As usual there is a long list of extra cost options so the owner can specify their exact requirements just as they can with any other 3 Series model.
The new 3 Series saloon is an impressive and therefore popular executive premium, brand car. The Efficient Dynamics version with real-life savings in fuel and tax costs makes it even better and the sensible choice for many people. There are no drawbacks, only advantages as far as I can see.
BMW 3 Series 320d Efficient Dynamics 4-Door Saloon
2.0-litre, four cylinder twin-turbo diesel, 161bhp, 280lb ft of torque, 6-speed manual, rear wheel drive.
143mph, 0-62mph 8.0 seconds, 68.9mpg (66.0mpg on test), CO2 109g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £20 per annum second year onwards, BIK company car tax 15%.
Significant tax advantages and fuel savings for company car drivers, auto gearbox option doesn't alter CO2 emissions, comfortable ride, high quality interior, same price as a standard 320d.