BMW's 3-series gets classier and more high-tech and has better driving dynamics
Improved bestseller The seventh-generation BMW 3-series is lighter yet bigger than its predecessor, more powerful and has a novel Reversing Assistant feature, which allows for hands-free reversing. PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH

Since its inception in 1975, the BMW 3-series has been snapped up more than 15.5 million times, making it the German marque's bestseller.

The new seventh-generation car is up to 55kg lighter, yet bigger. It has grown most noticeably length-wise, by 76mm, to 4,709mm.

It has wider tracks (the front is up by 58mm to 1,589mm, the rear by 32mm to 1,604mm). Together with a 41mm increase in wheelbase to 2,851mm, they convey a more planted stance.

BMW's signature twin-kidney grille is now a wider and more prominent single-frame rendition.

Full-LED headlamps take on a new look, with lower-flank styling curvatures paying homage to the fourth-generation 3-series.

Slim L-shaped 3D rear LED lights complete the leaner, sharper look.

The car has innovative passive shock absorber technology.

To minimise front lift and rear squat, the dampers now incorporate two-stage bumper stops to cushion bumps, ruts and every road blemish in between.

Even on the firmer, 10mm-lowered M Sport suspension, the resulting ride is never jittery.

At the heart of the 330i is a 2-litre turbo engine mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. Power-wise, it has been tweaked for 258hp (an extra 6hp) and 400Nm (an extra 50Nm). The gearbox gets its first three gear ratios shortened, for livelier standing starts and better overall driveability.

As for driving dynamics, the new 3-series still reigns supreme in the premium sedan segment. But its improved comfort and refinement make the car stand out from its predecessor.

With communicative, variable sport steering, the car tackles twisty stretches neutrally.

The car's body rigidity has increased by up to 50 per cent, cutting down noise, vibration and harshness levels. Together with a double-glazed windscreen, sound-absorbing A-pillar foam and optional acoustic glass front door windows, wind noise at highway speeds is well subdued, as is tyre roar.

The cabin now looks more premium and modern, sharing design elements and tech from the upcoming X5, 8-series and Z4.

Looking rather futuristic is a large 12.3-inch HD-digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch control display that can be operated via touch, iDrive controller, steering wheel buttons and gestures.

Like its German counterparts, BMW now offers voice actuation as well. Just say, "Hey BMW, I feel tired", and the system will adjust the mood lighting, climate control and music volume for three minutes to wake you up before reverting to the previous settings.

The 330i's Parking Assistant now includes a novel Reversing Assistant. It allows the car to memorise the last 50m of forward travel, such as into a tight parking area. When activated, it reverses out the same pathway.

The car comes with wireless phone-charging and four USB ports. If you own a Samsung Galaxy S7 or newer phone, it can be programmed to unlock/lock the car, and start/stop the engine.

The new 330i will arrive in Singapore in the second quarter of next year, to be followed by other variants.