In fact, BMW appears positively lethargic in getting one if its most popular engines into a two-door coupe. Peugeot has done it with the 406 Coupe and Mercedes-Benz has had one in the CLK and Sports Coupe for a while. Audi even put a diesel in the A4 Cabriolet, so it's good to see the punchy 2.0-litre diesel finally getting a turn in the engine bay of the Coupe.
There are actually very few competitors for the Coupe in terms of the practicality it provides at this price point, and the diesel engine should ensure BMW has this niche even more to itself.
It's the best engine at the lower end of the 3-series line-up and suits the Coupe very well indeed. That's because it has a really beefy push to it, particularly as it has the six-speed gearbox which makes the most of any torque available at most speeds. A 2.0-litre petrol version wouldn't stand a chance against this for mid-range acceleration.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine has lost none of its potency in being cleaned up to Euro IV emission standards, which means the 3% diesel benefit-in-kind diesel surcharge has been lifted. It has an excellent CO2 level of 153g/km, which when you mix with 239lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm and 150bhp, provides a pretty potent engine all round. BMW claims a combined fuel economy figure of 49.6mpg for this car, although you would be lucky to reach this if our experience of BMW diesels is anything to go by. It takes a girder-strength resolve not to use all of the engine's thrust to surge you forward at every opportunity.
The six speeds also mean that while the 320Cd has plenty of go, at a cruise the engine is barely ticking over. At 60mph in sixth gear, it is running at just over 1,500rpm, which should ensure some good fuel consumption rates on the motorway.
Generally though, the gearing is on the short side, which means corners or roundabouts that should be taken in second are taken in third, and so on. There's still plenty of shove, even though you're a gear higher than usual.
The clutch has lost none of its mischievous spring, so you have to have a well-trained left leg to ensure regular smooth getaways, but other than that, the driving experience is as it always has been.
The Coupe's suspension is lowered and stiffened, and there is plenty of feel. The optional 17-inch wheels provide a decent compromise of ride and handling, but if your drivers really like to feel the road come alive though the steering wheel, the 18-inch options are the wheels to go for.
I have had a sneaking feeling for a while that the 3-series saloon is starting to show its age, but its handling and interior qualities are keeping it at the forefront of the sector. I'd never thought it about the Coupe until now, and the reason is recent over-exposure to Chris Bangle's new designs: the 6-series, 5-series and Z4.
All of a sudden the Coupe looks conservative, straight-edged and a bit lightweight when compared to the powerful lines of the new cars.
That's not saying that the 320Cd isn't appealing, but it's on the home straight of its run.
Despite the widespread criticism he has taken over the new cars, he's on to something, this Bangle chap.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £24,150
CO2 emissions (g/km): 153
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 16%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 49.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £9,625/40% Depreciation (24.20 pence per mile x 60,000): £14,520
Maintenance (3.83 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,298
Fuel (7.80 pence per mile x 60,000): £4,680
Wholelife cost (35.83 pence per mile x 60,000): £21,498
Typical contract hire rate: £449 per month
Three rivals to consider
The Peugeot is the most expensive here but, in terms of kit, you get what you pay for. It is the only car to have satellite navigation, six-disc CD changer, rain-sensing wipers and electrically-adjustable heated leather memory seats. We have included the 320Ci here to compare petrol and diesel versions of the same model. The only Mercedes-Benz coupes that come close to the 320Cd are the Sports Coupes (our test car includes the Panorama glass roof) – the CLK starts at about £30,000.
BMW 320Ci £23,580
BMW 320Cd £24,150
BMW'S free servicing and maintenance deal means the 320Cd trounces its rivals. It is valid for five years or 60,000 miles and BMW GB claims it had extended the deal for the 'forseeable future'. It's a deal that's too good to miss, covering oil, inspection, brake pads, discs and fluid, wiper blades and labour. It's also transferable and would save a fleet almost £1,000 over the Mercedes-Benz during the same period of ownership.
BMW 320Cd 2.18ppm
BMW 320Ci 4.20ppm
It is no surprise that the petrol BMW is miles off the pace in fuel terms, but what is surprising is how far ahead the 320Cd is over the other diesel coupes. Over three years and 60,000 miles, the 320Ci would cost £7,224 in fuel if it runs at its official combined rate of 31.7mpg. The diesel BMW would cost more than £2,500 less due to a combined figure of 49.6mpg and will cost £336 less than the Sports Coupe and £588 less than the Peugeot 406 Coupe.
BMW 320Cd 7.80ppm
BMW 320Ci 12.04ppm
Pity the Peugeot. It doesn't stand a chance against the Might of Munich and Star of Stuttgart. Despite its graceful lines, there's no hiding the French car's age (it's been around since 1997). The BMW 3-series Coupe is no spring chicken either but is still desirable, as is the Sports Coupe, despite the suspicion that it's a poor man's Merc. The petrol BMW 320 holds its value slightly better than its oil burning brother, suggesting that the diesel coupe concept has yet to achieve parity in used buyers' minds.
BMW 320Ci 23.55ppm
BMW 320Cd 24.20ppm
The 320Cd is the best car here on wholelife costs, thanks to the best pence-per-mile fuel and SMR rates, although there is a hint of artificiality in the servicing figure. Our advice is to get in while the going's good and take advantage of the free SMR deal. The petrol BMW struggles because of the fuel cost, while the 406 Coupe takes a big hit in depreciation, meaning it would cost more than £4,000 more to run over three years/60,000 miles than the 320Cd.
BMW 320Cd 34.18ppm
BMW 320Ci 39.79ppm
Emissions and BIK tax rates
The 320Cd is the best on benefit-in-kind by a distance, costing a 40% tax-payer £1,642 a year. It's Euro IV engine ensures there is no 3% supplement putting it in the 16% tax band for 2004/2005. The diesel BMW works out £300 cheaper a year in tax than the next best, the Sports Coupe, and a massive £1,000 a year better than its petrol equivalent. The 406 Coupe does not fare too badly, proving that from a tax point of view, diesel is the only option here.
BMW 320Cd 153g/km/16%
BMW 320Ci 213g/km/28%
For a driver that wants a car with a luxurious specification, the 406 Coupe is a good choice. The Sports Coupe does nothing the BMW doesn't already do and the 320Ci can't cut it in cost terms. The 320Cd is a great move for BMW, not only from the point of view that it's the best 'small' engine the firm has and a great handling car, but from a running costs perspective as well. It's cheap on tax and fuel, holds its value and has an excellent servicing package. It wins by a mile.
At a glance