Home' Open Road North Shore : OR0718 Contents MEDIUM SIZE CARS are continuing to
feel the pinch in the market as our
obsession with all things SUV keeps
growing. But, within the relatively small
field for this year’s program, competition
is still fierce. Premium Euro and Japanese
brands dominate the category and
typically showcase the best of their
powertrain options and technology
portfolios, which is great news for buyers.
Over the last few years the trophy
has been a two-way battle between
Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with BMW
making it two in a row in 2018, though the
spec level has changed from Luxury Line
to the more expensive Sport Line.
The BMW continues to get the
important things right for this segment,
and in key areas of seat comfort and
build quality the 330i has few peers.
Research shows buyers in this segment
rate these attributes over low running,
repair and insurance costs.
BMWs are known for their on-road
dynamics, built around a philosophy of
close to 50/50 front-to-rear weight
distribution and, until recently, rear-wheel-
drive. That continues to pay dividends in
handling, where the BMW excels over its
rivals. A thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped
steering wheel communicates high levels
of road feel to the driver, while the chassis
balance and overall preciseness have yet
to be matched by its competitors. Nor
does sharp handling compromise the
330i’s ability to soak up bumps and it
continues to impress the judges with its
excellent marriage of ride quality and
handling. All this is achieved without
introducing road noise, so the 330i rated
highly in smoothness and quietness.
BMW’s 185kW/350Nm turbo four-
cylinder remains one of the best engines
available, with maximum torque always
at the ready courtesy of BMW’s slick
eight-speed auto. Acceleration is brisk,
and it shades the rest of the turbo four-
cylinder brigade in this class over the
0-100km/h dash. That’s not at the
expense of fuel consumption, either –
apart from the hybrid Lexus models, the
BMW leads the way in economy.
The downside to the 330i is its pricing.
It’s considerably more expensive than the
Merc C200 and Volvo S60, but a good
standard features list offsets this to some
degree and includes BMW’s intuitive
iDrive system and clear head-up display.
BMW 330i Sport Line
With indicative drive away pricing just
above the threshold for entry in the
class, you can’t question the S60’s
class-leading value for money. It’s
definitely not devoid of features,
either, with electric leather-faced front
seats, rain-sensing wipers, and a
seven-inch colour touchscreen.
Volvo and safety go hand in hand, so
it’s no surprise the S60 gets a 10 on
that score, but the overall car design is
starting to show its age. It lagged in
seat comfort and space, and Volvo’s
infotainment system and general
layout look old.
Ride and handling aren’t quite as
composed but, in general, the S60
gets more things right than wrong.
The Merc C200 remains a popular
choice in this segment, and with a
significant price advantage over the
BMW and an uncompromised features
list, it’s not hard to see why.
The C200 matches the BMW for seat
comfort and the front seats feature
electro-pneumatic lumbar adjustment,
which is ideal for longer trips.
The Merc’s all-round approach to
on-road dynamics, compared to BMW’s
focus on driver engagement, is where it
falls away from its rival. Not that the
C200 is a slouch; its 2.0 -litre engine
and nine-speed auto combination is
refined and performs well while
maintaining a reasonable fuel figure.
Another classic tussle between BMW and Mercedes-Benz
sees the 330i come out on top yet again
Best Medium Car Over $50k
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder Transmission:
eight-speed auto Power: 185kW Torqu e: 350Nm
Fuel economy: 5.8L/100km ANCAP: HHHHH
Price: $ 7 7, 4 59 (indicative drive away)
Engine: 2.0 -litre four-cylinder
Transmission: nine-speed auto Power:
135kW Torq ue: 300Nm Fuel economy:
6.5L/100km ANCAP: HHHHH Price:
$67, 6 3 3 (indicative drive away)
Engine: 2.0 -litre four-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed auto Power:
140kW Torque: 300Nm Fuel economy:
6.2L/100km ANCAP: HHHHH Price:
$55,177 (indicative drive away)
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