Fleet News

BMW 320d SE



With editor John Maslen’s need of a load-lugging estate for a family holiday I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse: ‘my’ Vectra estate for ‘his’ BMW 320d SE. Fair swap. But this short-term arrangement has now become long-term.

In his recent update (Fleet News, September 2) John reported on the 320d’s visit to Sycamore BMW in Peterborough to investigate and rectify the engine’s rough running and occasional stalling.

To recap: a fault with the engine management unit was diagnosed. A new one was ordered and fitted but the fault persisted, but refuelling with BP Ultimate diesel seemed to cure the problem.

On taking over the 320d it was suggested I run the fuel tank low, then brim with supermarket diesel and wait for the fault to reappear, thinking the type of fuel used may have made a difference. It never did, and in the intervening 1,640 miles the BMW hasn’t so much as missed a single beat, which points to the problem being fuel, rather than an engine/software-related fault. So the BMW keeps an unblemished record.

My early days with the BMW hinted at a potential thriftiness. And after an initial low of 44.1mpg (down 0.1 mpg on editor Maslen’s last report) the 320d has been posting ever-improving economy figures, with the last-but-one fill-up returning 47.9mpg.

But even that figure has since been eclipsed. On a none-too-leisurely family visit to Edinburgh – a round trip of 628 miles – the BMW averaged an unbelievable 52.5mpg, giving it a potential tank range in excess of 700 miles. Not bad for a sporting 2.0-litre 163bhp diesel.

If it wasn’t for the rev counter’s tell-tale lowish 4,700rpm red line it would be easy to forget our 320 is diesel-powered. There’s no hint of start-up rattle, no ‘off-the-boil’ lethargy from the turbocharger and absolutely no neck-snapping engine speed governor finally calling an end to playtime in the lower gears. What you do get is healthy dollops of engine torque from as low down as 1,200rpm and an engine oozing mechanical refinement.

Superlatives aren’t just reserved for under the bonnet. Overall – its drab rear end excluded – the Adrian Van Hooydonk-designed car is an absolute peach. Then there’s BMW’s impeccable build quality and well-balanced road manners.

On the drive north, near Granthouse in the Borders region of Scotland, there is one of the few unadulterated (non-dualled) sections of A1. Road safety cameras festoon the verges, but not even they detract from the pleasure of piloting the BMW through its smooth-topped and varied fast curves.

But for all that praise there is one minor irritation: the run flat tyres fitted on our test car. Because they have stiffer sidewalls than normal tyres, the 320d’s suspension has been softened a little to compensate for this. The result is that the ride can become agitated on all but the smoothest of tarmac.

That apart, the 320d may be a little costlier than some rivals – but can you honestly put a price on the ‘feel-good’ factor?

BMW 320d SE factfile:

Model: BMW 320d SE
Price (OTR): £24,390 (£27,185 as tested)
Mileage: 12,292
CO2 emissions (g/km): 153
Company car tax bill (2005/6): 40% tax-payer £137 a month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 49.6
Test mpg: 47.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £11,400/46%
Typical contract hire rate: £471
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles

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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