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Redesigned last year, the BMW 3 Series continues its long-standing role as the benchmark of compact sport-luxury motoring. For Spring 2013, BMW adds a new model to the bottom of the line, the 320i sedan, designed to deliver all the renowned quality and agility of the 3 Series plus high efficiency and a comfortable price.
At the heart of the 320i is BMW's lauded twin-turbo 2-liter four-cylinder engine. With 180 horsepower on tap, it isn't the fastest sport sedan out there, but it does lead the pack in fuel economy, achieving up to 36 mpg on the highway. Rear-drive versions can be equipped with an eight-seed automatic transmission or six-speed manual. The automatic is mandatory with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system, a relative bargain at about $2,000.
Like the rest of the 3 Series line, the 320i brings to the table near-perfect weight distribution, responsive electric steering, and a reassuringly solid feel on the road. The standard Driving Dynamics Control system allows drivers to select one of three modes (Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport) that adjust the car's performance to their tastes. Most comfort and convenience upgrades found on other models are available here too, although buyers looking for a wagon or coupe body will have to reach higher in the lineup.
Sans options, the 320i will probably appeal to BMW purists and the eco set, but the majority of buyers shopping in this league will want to add the Premium Package, which includes power seats with lumbar adjustments and driver memory, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, satellite radio, universal garage door opener, trunk accessories, and a sunroof. Heated front and rear seats are available as part the Cold Weather Package, which also adds a heated steering wheel and retractable headlamp washers. Leather seating and interior wood trim are standalone options.
For extra performance, the Sport Package offers a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport seats and steering wheel, and specific headliner material. Alas, BMW's full-boat M Sport treatment is not available on the 320i.