Great entry level luxury cars
Engine had a minor leak - was seals, which have now been replaced.
Wheel bearing at 104k - was at a very minor stage, but I can't sleep at night if things are not perfect in my car, so I got it done.
Shifting gears at times was rough, but a software update seems to have fixed this issue.
Before I get distracted, as I recently bought a Lexus V8 (trying something different and am loving it), I thought I'd write up a review so my head is still focused on this. I have written about 4 BMW reviews here and have owned about 17 of them over the last 15 years. At times I had 2 at once. I have owned E30, E36, E46, E90, E39 and E60 models. Can't afford an F30 yet. The models I had were the 318, 320, 323, 325, 328 520, 528 and 530 from the years 1988 to 2008.
So as everyone says - you notice the real BMW when you buy a 6 cylinder version, which I tend to support, but for economy and simplicity, a basic 4 cylinder car like a 320i is a great choice. However 323 versions are actually a tempting choice for a wee bit more, but a 320i will fit in well for low end budget fine.
I have owned 2x E90 until now. The first one was a 2005, but I wanted a sunroof so bought a 2006 version, which is exactly the same car, but has a sunroof. They both drive exactly the same, and all features seem to be the same – memory seat, auto light, angel headlights etc.
Due to the 320i being the base platform like Toyota has the Corolla – these are relatively simpler to fix, lots of parts are available, and depreciation is reasonable compared to high end models, and there's a lot less things to go wrong. The chances of you picking up a decent one are high, as there are many of them around, and they are not really the type of car where people can have lots of fun trashing them, so luck is more likely to be on your side.
I do about 70-80k a year, but my company car takes the hit as they are work related, but my personal driving would be from Rotorua to Auckland every weekend, and that's where the BMW gets used.
The first logical thing to talk about when you mention about driving amount would be fuel consumption. I would rate it very well on the open road and reasonable in town. I am 30 now, but I drive maturely, which means no trashing, and do look after the car well. The best I have got was 5.9L to 100km. Otherwise between 6.8-7.5 litres per 100 on the open road. In the city it does about 10-11 litres to 100km on Auckland roads. Thumbs up from an E46 model on the economy side, especially on the open road part. I owned a E46 99 BMW NZ new back in 2006 for few years, which I am comparing it with. Higher specs like the 323, 325 or 328 do very well on the open road as well, but the difference you notice is in city driving, and the E90 320i does it quite well.
Handling is truly great. Yes it lacks power compared to its elder brothers, who have more meat, but for a 2L I think it performs well compared to many other cars I have driven (I have driven over 200 cars, if not more, and I love cars just as much I love my girlfriend, ha ha, so it's a hobby, I'm not trying to exaggerate). It's a known fact that a BMW is a driver's car, and the E90 shape has improved aerodynamics, hence it seems to sail thru comfortably compared to the E46, E36 and E30 models I have owned.
The E90 feels roomier compare to the E46. I do like the interior now, but when it was first released, I thought the E46 had more kicks to it when it was released. I feel the seats are a bit too low, so not very comfy to get in and out, but once you get in the car – you feel very comfy. A downside is the rear visibility. Having high rear seat headrests and a smaller rear windshield can be painful sometimes, hence a rear view camera or parking sensor can become handy at times. The cabin is well insulated, but I have noticed few odd squeaky noises, which I still can't figure out where they're coming from. Please bear in mind that mine is a Japanese import.
RFT (Run flat tyres) are good in theory, but wear out quick and are very expensive, hence I changed to standard (although I run the risk of not having a spare, but hey that's why I have AA membership ;) ). RFT also introduces road noise. After doing the change, I have been noticing less noise in the cabin compared to before.
2.0L engines are still a bit noisy, and I would say there is a room for improvement there. Overall it has been a good car with no major complaints. If you do plan to own one, my recommendation is:
1) Buy NZ new or non-Singapore import with service history if possible. Otherwise get it inspected before buying.
2) Flush the transmission fluid every 100k (don't get confused about BMW's mixed message – it's a must. BMW's auto gearbox and electronics are generally the weakest link of the chain).
3) Service religiously every 10k, even if they say 15k will be fine (just to be on the safe side).
4) Check for oil leaks and fix them before you start using it.
5) Most import cars seem to have old software, and updating it does make an improvement, which you will notice, and also improves fuel economy.
Now what I have said here is my personal opinion only, some of you may not agree, but all of us has different experiences based on what we owned right? So it was just my view, and I'm happy to hear what your experience has taught you. I have moved to a Lexus V8, but that doesn't mean I won't buy another BMW. Each car maker has their own taste to offer, but overall I vote BMW over Audi (yes, I have owned the B5 and B6 platform as well for few months each) for the reliability, handling and comfort factors. Looks and interior will go to Audi, and again that is my personal preference.
So in conclusion, the 320i is very reliable unless you have bought a lemon. Yes, it is not a Corolla or Civic, so do expect higher bills, but it's still cheap for an entry level luxury car.
Currently you can pick up a 2005 onwards 320i that's done under 100k for below 15k in NZ, which is a great value for a lot of car. I would recommend trying one out. Any questions – I'm happy to answer.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 27th January, 2014