Tri-pot Three introduced

A Three with three-cylinders under the bonnet – a new concept for NZ has arrived.


TWO years after becoming internationally available, a three-cylinder Three-Series sedan has come on sale here.

The marque staple is carrying the smallest engine ever placed into a Three, reintroduces the 318i badge that has not been seen in BMW showrooms since 2005 and also rekindles pricing that will also seem very yester-year, with the car starting at $59,900. Before now, the cheapest Three has been the $72,000 320i.

At the heart of the car is a 1.5-litre 100kW/220Nm petrol-turbo that is well-entrenched within BMW-dom, being the fossil-fuelled power within the i8 and also a sole motivator in the 2-Series Active Tourer as well as several MINI models, including the recently-introduced Countryman Cooper.

Ironically, the 318i preceded most of those vehicles into production – it’s been coming off the Munich marque’s assembly line since 2015 and given that it has been available in right-hand-drive, including Australia, since that year, BMW NZ could obviously have played this card earlier.

What factors have led to this change? Three Series volume for the past four years has fluctuated, but one consistency has been that a car that was once the marque’s best-selling model here is now, thanks to the general consumer abdication to sports utilities, now become much less important. The car is outsold by almost all of BMW’s X-badged crossovers.

Nonetheless, local product spokesman Paul Sherley believes this is a good time to have a new base model.

He suggests the 318i was a car that could appeal to a variety of customers.

“We certainly see it being a car to bring new customers into the brand, along with providing an alternative to those (people) currently thinking about a used Three Series.”

He claimed the car represents a strong value proposition, pointing out that when the 318i was last in the market, it sold for slightly more than $60,000 “which equates to around $75,000 in 2017 terms.”

The previous car was also much less richly-appointed that the latest model, which has BMW’s base ‘Business’ sat nav and automatic air conditioning and electrically adjustable and heated front seats.

The price buys leather-look vinyl rather than real hide but BMW says the interior trim is highlighted in high gloss black to further convey a premium appearance.

The safety package is strong, with Lane Change Warning as standard along with the Driving Assistant package, a camera-based driver assistance system consisting of Lane Departure Warning, person warning with light city braking function and approach control warning with light city braking function.  Rear view camera and Park Distance Control front and rear is also standard equipment.

The model also accesses the full suite of BMW Connected technologies.  These include Real Time Traffic Information, Concierge Services, Remote Services and TeleServices.

Intelligent Emergency Call enables contact with emergency services in the event of a serious accident, or through a manual override in unsafe situations.  A SIM card embedded within the vehicle ensures the BMW 318i Sedan is always connected via a 4G data link.

As appealing as all of the above is, unavoidably customers will want to get to the heart of the matter – so, is the engine up to snuff in this car?

It’s a question that MotoringNetwork cannot directly answer until we get to test the car, but overseas’ tests say the mill, which mates to the range-standard ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, should not be taken lightly and is reasonably oblivious to the F30 generation car’s substantial size and weight.

Sherley, unsurprisingly, expresses unbounded enthusiasm

“The drivetrain retains typical BMW characteristics,” he told us. “A high-revving, powerful petrol engine, impressive torque figures from only 1250rpm and excellent fuel economy.” (BMW claims an optimum 5.4 litres per 100km).

The model might be expected to stay around for perhaps three years at most, as the next-generation Three is due to release in Germany in 2019. On past experience, NZ sees new BMWs about eight to 10 months after their left-hook home market release.

The next car looks like being a big step forward, with BMW having recently confirmed it will achieve the same infotainment and safety technology that has gone the latest 5 Series and 7 Series models, plus all the glam features of a colour display central locking key, remote control driverless parking and gesture control functions.