THE BMW 325d is one great big compromise. It’s not a performance model. It’s not brilliantly frugal. It has no identity of its own. It is trying to be all things to all men.
This is why: it plugs the large hole which has existed in the manufacturer’s 3-series diesel line-up since its launch a couple of years ago.
If you are looking to choose a 3-series in the mid-£20,000 price bracket, you can now choose a high-spec 320d, middle-of-the-road 325d or barren 330d.
The 325d, as its number suggests, sits slap bang between the other two in terms of price, performance, fuel economy and emissions.
In order to do so, BMW has taken the excellent, smooth 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder engine from the 330d and detuned it from 227 to 197bhp.
And the result of this great big fudge, this economic and engineering appeasement? A fantastic car.
Just everything about it oozes quality. While the competition may adorn their offerings with more equipment, or shoehorn in more horsepower, none can some close to the feeling of this car.
This engine is wonderful in full horsepower guise, but detuned in the 325d it feels smooth and flexible.
You can really enjoy revving it, as it takes a long, languid sweep towards the red line.
It doesn’t feel stressed, or deliver performance in one brief orgasmic dollop after another like some other diesels might.
The gearlever clicks with a short pivot from one ratio to the next, and in sixth you can cruise up and down motorways all day at nearly 50mpg and 40mpg overall.
That’s because there is nearly 300lb-ft of torque which means it is operating at just above tickover while cruising but has plenty of welly in reserve for acceleration.
And because it has six cylinders it does everything with velvety smoothness.
Perhaps the only complaint about the way it drives would be that at slower speeds the steering is pretty heavy, but this is the trade-off you live with for better steering and handling feel at higher speeds.
And for nearly £27,000, only rear parking sensors and cruise control are standard kit over and above the more mundane fare of cloth trim, single CD player and solid paint. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.`
But the overall feeling with the 325d is that what you are paying money for is a basic, but brilliantly engineered, car.
While drivers in competitors’ cars swan past with their multiple CD changers and leather seats, just a flick on the gearlever or a push on the throttle should evoke enough tactile or aural joy to more than make up for the lack of baubles.
Compromises simply don’t come much better than this.
P11D value: £27,112
CO2 emissions (g/km): 171
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 24%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 16
Combined mpg: 44.1
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £10,700/39%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £525
We don't like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THE six-cylinder Audi and BMW are the most powerful, offering 180 and 197bhp respectively. The four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz and Lexus offer 150 and 175bhp. The Lexus is good value and is the only one to offer electric front seats, CD changer and 18-inch alloys as standard.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
THE Mercedes-Benz offers the lowest tax charge, with a benefit-in-kind bill of £199 a month. The Audi will cost £213 a month and the BMW £216. The Lexus is way off the pace at £258 a month thanks to its high emissions due to the revised, shorter ratio gearbox in Sport trim.
TYRES make the big difference here, with the Lexus’s standard 18-inch wheels and low-profile tyres hiking up its service, maintenance and repair bill over three years/60,000 miles to more than £3,000. The rest have smaller wheels and less expensive rubber to replace.
325d: 4.15 (ppm) £2,490 (60,000 mile total)
C220: 4.37 £2,622
A4: 4.43 £2,658
IS220d: 5.51 £3,306
THE 325d and C220 CDI are both claimed to return an average of 44.1mpg, which translates into a fuel spend of around £5,700 over 60,000 miles. The Audi is next on 42.2mpg for a diesel bill of nearly £6,000. The Lexus returns 38.2mpg for a fuel cost of £6,500.
325d: 9.47 (ppm) £5,682 (60,000 mile total)
C220: 9.47 £5,682
A4: 9.90 £5,940
IS220d: 10.93 £6,558
THE Lexus reigns thanks to newness and limited supply. CAP estimates it will retain 43% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The A4, which will retain 37%, is £1,000 further back. The 325d retains 39% and the C220, which will be replaced this summer, is on 34%.
IS220d: 25.18 (ppm) £15,108 (60,000 mile total)
A4: 26.90 £16,140
325d: 27.35 £16,410
C220: 28.47 £17,082
UNUSUALLY for a BMW, the 325d doesn’t dominate the depreciation section. But with class-leading fuel and SMR costs it does enough to win, narrowly undercutting the Audi which is second. SMR costs blunt the Lexus’s challenge, while depre-ciation does for the Mercedes-Benz.
325d: 40.97 (ppm) £24,582 (60,000 mile total)
A4: 41.23 £24,738
IS220d: 41.62 £24,972
C220: 42.31 £25,386
SHALL we announce the results in reverse order? In fourth is the Mercedes-Benz. It is too expensive on running costs and is due to be replaced by an all-new model next summer. The Lexus is generously equipped but the driving experience lets it down, plus it’s nearly a penny per mile more expensive to run than the BMW. The Audi runs the 325d close on running costs and has a strong engine and decent specification level, but it lacks the sheer driving enjoyment offered by the BMW.