BMW 330i M Sport sedan road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 26 January 2020

Tim Nicholson road tests the sporty new BMW 330i M Sport sedan.

  • Thumbs up

    One of the world’s best driver’s cars just got better. New tech and improved interior are the cherries on the top. 

  • Thumbs down

    Some options, like heated seats, should be standard. Lane-keeping aid still needs work.

  • Perfect for

    A long and spirited drive through the Victorian high country.

  • Verdict

    The sharp looks of the 330i are matched by equally sharp dynamics and a brilliant powertrain.

Blue BMW 330i M Sport parked on country road


Few automotive nameplates are as iconic as the BMW 3 Series. After more than 40 years and across six generations, the 3 Series has built a reputation as the world’s best executive sedan, thanks to an appealing evolutionary design, useful dimensions and, importantly, dynamic prowess that is unmatched in the segment.

These days the 3 Series faces more rivals than ever before, all aiming to topple the BMW as the driver’s choice. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is better than it’s ever been and the Audi A4 is a rewarding drive, but newer competitors that have put even more pressure on the 3 Series, including Jaguar’s impressive XE, the sporty Alfa Romeo Giulia, the Genesis (Hyundai’s premium arm) G70 and Volvo’s all-new S60.

BMW knows it has a target on its back, which is why it pulled out all the stops for its seventh-generation 3 Series that arrived in Australian dealerships in March 2019.

Built on BMW Group’s modular CLAR architecture that also underpins the X3, X5, Z4 and 5 Series, the ‘G20’ 3 Series has grown in every dimension over the previous model and the body is 25 per cent stiffer. The new architecture also allowed for the inclusion of the latest comfort and safety technology.

While the new 3 Series isn’t quite nudging 5 Series territory, the size increase means it’s noticeably bigger in the metal than its predecessor. Our test car with its metallic black paint and sporty blue brake callipers has a menacing look on the road. BMW now offers the sexy M Sport exterior styling package as standard, while the more traditional Luxury Line package is a no-cost option.

In Australia, the 3 Series sedan is available in five model grades – the entry-level 320i, diesel 320d, the 330i tested here, the plug-in hybrid 330e and the sporty M340i xDrive. If you prefer a wagon, your sole choice is the 330i, which adds $3000 to the price of the sedan.

The $70,900 (before on-road costs) price tag for the 330i sedan is competitive against the Audi A4 45 TFSI quattro ($70,300), Mercedes-Benz C300 ($72,700), Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce ($72,900), Genesis G70 2.0T Ultimate ($69,300) and Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE ($71,940), but the Volvo S60 T5 R-Design ($64,990) undercuts it.

Interior view of drivers seat of new BMW 330i M Sport
BMW 330i M Sport dashboard


In the past BMW has been criticised for a relatively low level of standard equipment for the price. The German car-maker – and indeed other European brands – has started to address this by adding more gear as standard, but there are still some key features missing. For example, heated seats are an option. When this is standard on mid-range Kias and Hyundais it should be standard on a $70k BMW. Aside from that, however, there is plenty on offer in the 330i. Our press car was fitted with options including a high-end Harman Kardon sound system, black alloy wheels and a ‘Visibility Package’ featuring a sunroof, metallic paint, ambient lighting and laser headlights. This increased the price as tested to $78,570.

Notably, the 3 Series includes BMW’s ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’ that allows users to dictate actions using voice recognition. Starting with the command “Hey BMW”, you can ask the system to change the temperature by saying “I’m cold” or you can search for your nearest cafe by saying “I’m hungry”. A selection of options are then either displayed on the central 10.25-inch screen or the system will ask for more voice inputs. For example, what temperature you’d like for the cabin. Mercedes-Benz and Audi have similar set-ups, but the BMW system is, so far, the most consistent.

In fact, BMW is getting a lot of the tech and connectivity stuff right lately. The iDrive operating system that houses information, audio and more is the best of its kind among the premium brands. The only quirk is if you want to charge your device on the wireless charge pad, the system will switch from Bluetooth to Apple CarPlay, and then back to Bluetooth when you remove the phone from the charger. It should just recognise one without overriding the other.

BMW has given the interior a complete makeover and the results are impressive. It’s still unmistakeably BMW, but with a cleaner, more modern look. The centre-console layout has been cleaned up and even the steering wheel controls are intuitive. We like the fact you can adjust the lane-keeping aid via the wheel.

The front seats are comfortable but the rear seats mark a big improvement. The old 3 Series had flat second-row seats and poor legroom, but there’s much more space now thanks in part to the sculpted front seat backs. There’s good bottle storage, knee-level air vents, climate controls, two USB and one 12v outlet back there.

The 330i’s 480-litre boot is sizeable, matching the capacity of the Audi A4 and exceeding the Mercedes-Benz C300 (455 litres). The rear seats are lowered via a lever in the boot. BMW uses run-flat tyres so there’s no spare wheel.

BMW 330i M Sport close up of front lights
Close up of front mag wheel on BMW 330i M Sport


In terms of active safety, the lane-keeping aid works well most of the time, keeping the car in the middle of the lane. However, on one occasion it recognised paved-over line markings as fresh markings and tried to steer the car accordingly. This technology has some way to go before it is flawless. 

The new technology and the cabin upgrades are all well and good, but it’s not a 3 Series unless it drives well. Thankfully, BMW has built on the excellent dynamic abilities of its predecessor to produce a true driver’s car that is a standout among all the new models launched in 2019. 

The 190kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is a gem. Paired with the slick-shifting eight-speed auto, the 330i delivers power and torque in a seamless manner, offering brisk performance in a straight line and exceptional overtaking ability. Flicking the drive mode from Comfort to Sport transforms the 330i into a serious performance machine, with more grunt and a louder exhaust note.

It steers with a directness that is confidence inspiring and the helm is perfectly weighted for performance, while being light enough for driving around town.

Despite being rear-wheel drive, the 330i maintained its composure even when pushed thanks to a well-calibrated stability control system. 

It carves through bends like a sports car, displaying incredible roadholding ability. The 330i is fitted with Adaptive M Suspension with electronically controlled dampers and while the performance-focused tune means the ride is slightly firm, it’s still comfortable on long-distance cruises.

If the mid-range 330i performs this well, we can’t wait to get into the hotter M340i xDrive.

BMW says the 330i consumes 6.4L/100km of premium fuel and we recorded 7.0L/100km after a week of mixed driving.

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PRICING

List price: $70,900 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $78,570 before on-road costs.

Model range: $64,900-$99,900 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.

Power: 190kW@5000-6500rpm.

Torque: 400Nm@1550-4400rpm.

Wheels: 225/40 R19 front and 255/35 R19 rear.

FUEL

95 RON, 59-litre tank.

Consumption: 7.0L/100km (RACV test), 6.4L/100km (government test).

Emissions: 147g/km CO2.

STANDARD SAFETY

Five-star ANCAP safety rating, eight airbags, reversing camera, Driving Assistant Professional suite that includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, front and rear cross-traffic alert, steering and lane-control assistant, lane-keeping assistant with side-collision warning, crossroads warning and evasion aid.

STANDARD FEATURES

Leather upholstery, head-up display, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Navigation System Professional with 10.2-inch display and voice recognition, DAB+ digital radio, 10-speaker audio system, heated and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers.  

WARRANTY/SERVICING

Three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, five-year/80,000kilometre scheduled servicing packages.