Introduced 4 decades ago, the BMW 3 Series is one of the most well-known of the Bavarian company’s line-up (excluding the animalistic M Series). This is the series that cemented BMW as the ‘ultimate driving machine’ and became the benchmark for all to follow. The review unit is the BMW 330i M Sport from the 6th generation 3 Series, codenamed F30.
What About It?
The 330i M Sport sits atop the regular 3 Series sport sedan range in Malaysia; the recently launched 330e plug-in hybrid takes its place below the 330i. The model currently sold is a facelift version with subtle but important tweaks, like the LED headlights reminiscent of the 4 Series, with a redefined LED corona ring and eyebrow indicators. The tail light cluster too has been updated with a full LED number.
The 18″ Ferric Grey M double-spoke style alloy wheels and M Sport kit round off the car, which has an overall distinct and classy look sans flamboyance. The face of this facelifted 330i is one of the best iterations I’ve seen and is my favorite thus far.
Once seated inside, you can immediately tell this is a car for the driver as the center stack is angled to the driver. The all-black interior is broken up by a strip of blue, which extends all the way to the rear door cards, and bits of silver trim on the dashboard and center console.
The dashboard design seems outdated in comparison to its rivals but there is still a sense of classiness to the 330i. The use of blue and silver is a nice match even though red is almost a default color to represent sportiness, and I’m glad BMW chose blue. Within the front armrest is a wireless charger for your phone, as well as a USB and auxiliary port.
The leather seats are supportive and comfortable; the front seats hug the occupants well and features extendable thigh support. However, the high center tunnel, the protrusion of the rear of the center console which houses the air vents and the slight hump on the rear seat bench make it a little uncomfortable for the middle rear passenger, and making that space more suited to younger and/or smaller passengers.
Boot space is an acceptable 480 liters, and nothing more as the rear seats don’t fold down.
The BMW 330i gets its grunt from a 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (that’s right, gone are the 6 cylinders). But you shouldn’t despair as this engine produces 252 hp and 350 Nm of torque; enough to send it from stationary to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds. Helping put power to the rear wheels is a ZF 8-speed gearbox which you can manipulate with the paddle shifters.
Official average fuel consumption is 6.1 l / 100 km but I averaged a best of 9.6 l / 100 km because, come on, would you prioritize fuel economy over driving pleasure with a car like the 330i?
What’s It Like?
Now here’s the thing… BMWs have this ‘bad boy’ image that’s hard to shake off. Some people even throw scorn at BMWs on the road, just because it’s a BMW. So even when you behave well behind the wheel of a BMW, the perception of you may not be such. Which of course, leads you to become another bad boy in a BMW.
The 330i is not the kind of car you want to nurse gingerly from Point A to Point B. It’s the kind of car that wants you to take it by the neck and swing it around. The throttle response is addictive (unless you’re in fuel-sipping Eco Pro mode). Yes, there is a slight turbo lag as expected, but get past that and the car just surges forward and turns you into a bad influence, no thanks to the smooth ZF gearbox.
As with many modern cars of this caliber, the 330i comes with drive modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Eco Pro mode is the most retarded of all i.e. it retards throttle response and gearshifts. But its saving grace is the coast function which allows you to coast up to speeds of 160 km/h without throttle input to help improve fuel economy. Sport mode turns up the heat with the engine and gearbox, the variable sport steering feels heavier and the Adaptive M suspension gets stiffer but not uncomfortable. Sport+ is extreme, holding engine revs at redline and activating stability control much later than usual.
As a rear-wheel driven car, the 330i gains points in the handling department with decisive direction changes at the flick of the steering wheel, and little roll of the body. Even in Comfort mode, the car’s handling is composed in tight corners. When I first collected the car, I expected a sporty ride like this to feel a little bumpy but I was pleasantly surprised that my tender behind was sufficiently cushioned from the road imperfections, while still allowing me to be ‘in touch’ with the road. The stiffer suspension on Sport mode did not significantly reduce ride comfort, which added to the overall pleasantness of the car.
The head-up display which shows your speed, telephone and navigation directions helps to keep your eyes on the road.
Any Interesting Features?
The BMW 330i comes with automatic start/stop, electric power steering and brake energy regeneration system which turns energy from braking or coasting into electricity. These features aim to save you fuel as the latter system allows the alternator to work less in charging the car’s battery.
The iDrive controller located on the center console is surrounded by menu buttons to keep things close to the driver. BMW’s ConnectedDrive services allow you to purchase and load apps such as Spotify, GoPro or BMW M Laptimer. Also available is Concierge Service which acts as your personal assistant while on the go; a Call Center staff will assist you with your needs e.g. looking for the nearest dry cleaner, ATM or nasi lemak joint, making a reservation etc.
Overhead, an SOS button connects you to a BMW Call Center should you have an emergency (looking for a toilet doesn’t constitute an emergency in this case). In the event an airbag or seat belt tensioner is activated, the car will automatically connect to the Call Center via the car’s built-in SIM, to provide emergency assistance.
Other features include cruise control, park distance control and electric roller blind for the rear.
Who Is It For?
The 3 Series has it tough in this premium segment, with rivals that are bringing just as much, if not more, to the table. But it’s also difficult to toss this car aside because it drives so well, has enough edge to its style and is practical and comfortable. Those who enjoy sheer driving pleasure shouldn’t give this a miss.
The locally assembled BMW 330i M Sport comes at a price of RM 297,800, lower than its initial retail price due to incentives from its EEV (energy efficient vehicle) status. This price also gives you for 5 years unlimited mileage warranty and free service, plus a 24-month BMW tyre warranty.