But a diesel 3-series? Sure, we've seen them before in the 325tds and 318tds, but neither could be described as class-leaders at the ends of their lives. Their relatively old-tech systems were light years removed from today's clean-burning direct injection or common rail technology, which has seen diesel take on a new lease of life in the race for a clean fuel of the future.
Nearly two years after its announcement, the 320d is here, BMW citing overwhelming demand for other 3-series models for the lateness of its arrival. BMW joins the Volkswagen Group in eschewing common-rail diesel technology in favour of high-pressure direct injection, and the 320d's 2-litre turbodiesel develops 136bhp with 49.6mpg on the combined cycle - an 11% improvement over the old 318tds.
This is the same basic engine as in the 113bhp Rover 75 CDT, though - confusingly - in this guise the Rover does use common-rail, which seems to reinforce BMW's argument that it is difficult to extract high power from common-rail installations. Later this year, those looking for more power will be able to choose the bigger-engined 330d, which uses the 184bhp six-cylinder common-rail engine fitted to the 530d, with prices starting at ú26,995 on the road for the 330d SE saloon entry model, rising to over ú29,000 for the 330d SE Touring auto.
The 320d, however, will make up the bulk of BMW's 3-series diesel volume. Available in both four-door saloon and five-door Touring estate guises, the 320d starts at ú21,345 on-the-road for the standard saloon, and rises to ú23,545 for the 320d SE Touring. Tested here is the 320d SE saloon, at ú22,645 on the road.