No longer homegrown but first look at new (2019) BMW 3 Series

Settle down, we’ve got a lot to get through here with the new 2019 BMW 3 Series saloon and first of all, it’s stolen Peugeot’s headlights. Look! Bookending the merged kidney grilles are headlights with little notches of bodywork eating into them. Very Peugeot 3008.

Fortunately, the headlines don’t stop there. Though while we’re dealing with the looks, isn’t it pleasant to have a new BMW that doesn’t make you want to wretch in the design studio’s face? Take note, X2, X3, X4, X5, iNext, 6GT…

The agreeable styling of the new BMW 3 Series is draped over a body that’s 85mm longer and 16mm wider than the last 3-series. The unhelpful bloat disguises a 41mm longer wheelbase, which liberates the most cabin space of any Three to date.

And yet, this XXL seventh-gen version is said to be 55kg lighter than the last 3 Series. A whole 15kg of that comes from fitting an aluminum bonnet and front wings. Using aluminium for the front suspension struts and engine subframe has cut 7.5kg. Meanwhile, structural rigidity is up between 25 and 50 per cent across the car. Because a stiff chassis means more ultimate driving machine, ja?

Inside, BMW’s finally stopped fiddling with its 1990s design themes and gone chasing after Audi and Mercedes modern-cool ambience. We’ve got a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that lies flush with a widescreen iDrive console. Metal buttons add a touch of class to fiddling with the air-conditioning. There’s ambient lighting, more sculpture to the shapes and surfaces, and the centre console’s been thoroughly reimagined.

Down between the seats, next to the stubby new gear lever, is the new home for the engine start button, and individual mode buttons for the different driver settings. Right next to the auto hill-hold switch, too. Good luck hitting the right toggle when you arrive on a twisty B-road and fancy indulging the trademark 50:50 weight balance and rear-drive chassis…

Oh, and this is the first BMW 3 Series to ditch a manual handbrake. Like most cars nowadays, it’s got a switch instead, freeing more space for your giant smartphone to live instead, we suppose.

The first batch of new BMW 3 Series arrives in South Africa in March 2019 but the next six months won’t stop us from speculating on a few possible engine configurations based on European spec.

Adaptive suspension is optional, as is xDrive all-wheel drive. At launch, there’s a choice of a 320d diesel with 140kW and 400Nm, good for 0-100kph in 6.8 seconds if you spec the paddleshift gearbox, or 7.1 seconds if you stick with the (all-new) six-speed manual. The 320d xDrive is slightly slower on paper, but is quicker on snow and ice, if you catch our, um, drift.

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