Words by Gugu Masuku

March 2019, the golden boy for the BMW stable is due for an update, so off I went to get some one-on-one time with the new and refreshed 3 Series, in arguably one of the most picturesque places in the world—Cape Town. Here, the roads are carved out to perfection, ideal for sampling a German instrument. With the highest sales figures in BMW’s arsenal, the 3 Series also holds the number one spot on units sold in its segment, racking up a tally of over 15 million units globally. The real question must be asked: has the new G20 done enough to remain at the throne?


It’s in the eyes and the rump


The 7th generation 3 Series has matured not just physically but intellectually as well, and it’s always wonderful to witness such growth. Aesthetically, it’s still very much as charming and athletic as we’ve come to know BMWs to be. The 3 Series has gained more definition through sharper lines and more pronounced edges, but it’s in the eyes and the rump where you see major changes. A bigger and bolder kidney grille finished in gloss black is flanked by a set of standard LED headlamps similar to that of the 5 Series, but with a fresh glint and edge to them. The rear is also the recipient of a complete makeover, bringing it up to date with BMW’s current design cue of slim, streamlined taillights.




The interior has been completely redesigned to match the new exterior


As to be expected with any successor, the interior has been completely redesigned to match the new exterior, but not in a way that will leave current BMW owners feeling out of place. A new digital instrument cluster is in place to dazzle you with its many features and configurations, depending on what information you’d like to see; be it your dials, map, media or a combination of these options. A second screen has been moulded into a freshly designed dash, handling the infotainment side of things. This monitor is a tad smarter than your average monitor and will respond to both touch input as well as hand gestures—a first in the 3 Series. Also on debut in the G20 is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, a digital character you can prompt by saying “Hey BMW”. You can interact with this “lady” and request information on the vehicle’s status or get directions to the nearest fuel station. The BMW team was quite eager for us to get chatting with their version of Siri, but I quickly learned that good manners are not her strong suit. This new character is the epitome of keeping an ear to the ground, and maybe both ears in this instance. BMW is constantly eavesdropping on conversations in the vehicle. Driving with a fellow journalist, we could barely hold a conversation without being interrupted by the system. One moment, the radio is on and the next it’s off or switches itself to a different channel—all this was in response to a conversation not involving the vehicle. The same behaviours were noted with the gesture control; any innocent sweep of the hands while talking can cause the system to react. These innovations are great, and kudos to BMW for introducing them to the 3 Series, but some work still needs to be done before they become functional elements of the driving experience.



The complete G20 lineup will consist of two four-cylinder petrol engines: a 135kW and a 190kW derivative (320i and 330i). A pair of diesel engines will also be available in the form of a 320d and 330d, the latter boasting six-cylinders in a straight-line configuration. With that said, currently only two of the above options are on offer, the 320d and 330i respectively. We had the pleasure of putting them to the test through the mountainous winding roads of Cape Town, and although both are quite capable of holding their own through Chapman’s Peak, the 330i just felt more composed through the bends. Improvements have been made to the 320d, it now feels a lot lighter and has a briskness to it, and it is more refined than its predecessor.

Leave a Reply