Current 3 Series a tough act to follow

* All the details on new 3 Series * How it compares with new A4 * Other compact executives to look at...

Current 3 Series a tough act to follow

The new BMW 3 Series is one of the most eagerly anticipated cars to arrive in the UK this year. It has a tough act to follow, though because the current car has been our favourite compact executive since its launch in 2005. No other rival comes close.

As we said in this years Car of the Year Awards, However much youre spending on a compact executive, the BMW 3 Series is your best option.

Nevertheless, no company can afford to stand still in todays market, so we expect to see BMW trying to improve on even this level of excellence.

Improved efficiency
First of all, with economy and emissions ever more important, we expect the range of engines which is believed to be entirely turbocharged will be even more efficient than the current range, with many of the improvements down to BMWs Efficient Dynamics technology.

BMW is expected to introduce three-cylinder engines to the range and there's also the probability that, following the recently announced Active Hybrid 5 a petrol/electric hybrid based on the 5 Series saloon there will be a hybrid version of the new 3 Series.

More high-tech kit
We also expect to see some of the technology from BMWs larger 5 and 7 Series saloons filtering down to the 3 Series. So, next years buyers may well be able to specify their 3 Series with adaptive cruise control and a head-up display, as well as safety equipment including a lane-departure warning system and a pop-up bonnet to help protect pedestrians in an accident.

Our wish-list
Overall, there are no significant failings for BMW to address the current model is already class-leading in pretty much every area and achieved a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.

However, nit-pickers will point out that the ride can be a little on the firm side especially in models with sports suspension so we expect to see efforts to improve that, perhaps the inclusion of the 5 Series Variable Damper Control.

Likewise, wed like to see BMW make the seats easier to adjust, eke out a little extra headroom for rear-seat passengers, and make the boot a more practical shape.

More models
The 3 Series saloon is due to go on sale early next year. Wed expect the Touring version to arrive in mid-2012.

Convertible and Coupe versions are likely to be launched in 2013, although these may be labelled as 4 Series models. A 3 Series Gran Turismo that will closely follow the template set by the 5 Series Gran Turismo is also expected.