The winner BMW 320d ES List price £25,936 Target price £24,080
The BMW 3 Series is one of those cars that comes along extremely rarely indeed. It doesn’t so much move the goalposts as dig them up, run away with them and set up an all-new stadium around them. It is, frankly, awesome.
In almost every area, the BMW leads the class – and in many areas it leads by no small margin.The best all-rounder of the bunch has to be the 320d ES, though. It, along with every other Three, sets the standard for sheer driving pleasure with the way it makes mincemeat out of the most battle-scarred British B-road while managing to ensure that mile after mile of monotonous grey motorway passes in a silken cocoon of refinement.
There’s a little bit of wind noise audible on the motorway, but in reality the only reason you can hear it is because there’s relatively little in the way of road- and engine noise.
The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is not only smooth and refined, but also offers sparkling performance. Yet the real trump card lies in the way BMW’s Efficient Dynamics measures, which include active radiator grilles and an engine stop-start system, keep CO2 output to a minimum and fuel economy to a maximum.
The 3 Series is desirable, too, which keeps resale values high, and this also has a positive effect on leasing rates; the 320d ES is cheap to have as a company car.
Still, there’s no point in having a car such as this if it’s only big enough for you and a passenger. The good news is the Three can cater for four generously proportioned adults easily, and the boot’s big enough for their clutter.
So there you go, the 320d ES remains miles ahead of anything Audi and Mercedes can offer – and we reckon it’ll probably remain that way for some time yet.