Fleet News

BMW 318i SE

BMW

Review

WHAT is it about BMW that its cars are so sought-after? An untroubled run-out of the old 3-series saw continuing demand forcing BMW (GB) to procure extra production from South Africa in a bid to satisfy orders before the new model went on sale on September 24.

And back in March, our sister publication, Fleet Car, surveyed contract hire rates on the old 318i SE and rivals, revealing that all five quoted suppliers awarded it the lowest rentals among considerably younger opposition - and this at the very end of an eight-year production run.

In any language, that is remarkable marketing, and judging by early leasing industry response, the new 3-series looks set to follow suit. Already waiting lists for the car run to more than six months, while contract hire companies report record trest drive requests. Leading motor industry cost analyst, CAP Motor Research, has awarded the new 318i SE a sector-leading residual value prediction of no less than 53% of cost new after three years or 60,000 miles. At that level, it beats even the 51% of the traditional class-topper, the Mercedes C-class.

Initially, just three new 3-series models are on sale: 318i (ú19,745), 318i SE (ú21,045) and 328i SE (ú28,145), though these will be joined by the 323i SE in December, priced at ú24,745. The new 136bhp 2.0-litre direct injection diesel debuts next summer along with the entry level 316i. At those levels, the 3-series is expensive in the class: an Audi A4 1.8 SE costs ú20,640 while even a Mercedes C180 Esprit looks good value at ú19,950. But despite the 318i SE's higher price, spec for spec compared with the old model it is less expensive.

So does the promise live up to reality, or is hype masking the issue - that of whether the new 3-series is worth a half-year wait?

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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