Fleet News

BMW 320d Sport - 2,357 miles



DOESN'T time fly when you're having fun? Life in the fleet jungle is such a non-stop whirl of launches, leasing and lunches that I couldn't believe that it had been nearly 18 months since I had last sat behind the wheel of a BMW 3-series.

For a motoring journalist this is very poor form, and I admonished myself with a good thrashing. Of the car, that is. If testing cars is your job, the 3-series is one of those benchmark cars by which all others in the sector should be assessed, like the Ford Focus, the outgoing 5-series and Mercedes-Benz S-class, and that means you should keep their attributes fresh in your mind by driving them regularly.

And while I knew the 320d was a very fine car, in my mind its glossy brilliance had been dulled over time.

So getting in the 320d after this prolonged absence served to remind me of the superlative build quality and feeling of distinction, probably helped in no small part by the expensive leather seats we have optioned.

Driving home from work for the first time was a revelation. It felt so alive, so perfectly in tune with the driver, with steering more communicative than my next-door neighbour, who could talk at Olympic level for Britain.

I have only got two moans. One is the very snatchy clutch pedal, whose firm spring takes some getting used to.

The second gripe is the boot. As I am getting older, I have recently taken up golf and the 3-series' boot is poor by the standards of more recent additions to this sector. Because of the short overhangs the rear wheelarches intrude heavily. My driver and three wood struggle to fit widthways across, which is very rare in cars these days. Even Ferraris are designed to accommodate sets of golf clubs. Saying that, I can't use my driver anyway, so I don't know why I carry it.

There has also been a steady rise in fuel consumption. Leaden-footed Julian Kirk only managed to get the 320d up to 34.8mpg, while after my tenure it had leapt to 37.6, meaning it had done 41mpg for the period, which I am quite proud of.

Whether it will keep ticking towards the claimed 49.6mpg remains to be seen, but the amount of time the mpg needle is stuck over 50mpg, despite the fantastically torquey engine getting quite a work out, suggests the figure will keep heading up.

I'll be keeping an eye on the car mats as well. Our lovely beige interior has nice beige carpets (I am getting old if beige is becoming acceptable), and the light-coloured mats are looking sullied already.

Company car tax bill 2003/04 (40% tax-payer): £151 per month

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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