When BMW announced the arrival of the G20 BMW 320i Sport, the second G20 3 Series to arrive in Malaysia after the 330i M Sport, there was a load of personal expectation on the new entry-level 3 Series. Even more so after the positive and lasting impression that the G30 520i left behind – a car I still maintain is one of the most well-rounded premium executive sedans you can buy today.
If the plush and creamy G30 520i was anything to go buy, the 320i Sport should technically be the most complete 3 Series to date – with a fine balance between performance and comfort. If you’re old on the inside (and out) and have tested the G20 330i, you’d understand why – it was simply too harsh for our roads.
With 184 hp and 300 Nm, it was never going to snap your neck at hard acceleration but it isn’t what you’d call slow either. If this figure and level of performance is a turn-off, you’re looking at the wrong car to begin with.
BMW’s in general, whether it’s an entry-level 3 Series or the behemoth BMW X7, has always been about the overall driving experience. The edge they have over their rivals is how smooth and seamless the entire operation feels. It does not feel like each component has a mind of its own.
In that sense, the G20 320i lives up to every alphabet of its “Sport” name, and then some. Its steering is much sharper and more responsive to the slightest movement than the F30 equivalent it replaces. It’s also a lot more eager to drop a gear and gallop whenever your right foot loses all senses.
In terms of athleticism, the old and new could not be any more different. If the F30 320i was a 15-year old lap dog with the occasional mischief, its G20 equivalent is a hyperactive two-year old puppy that will react enthusiastically to the slightest movement.
To the sport sedan enthusiasts, it might be music to their ears and if this was your first venture into BMW 3 Series ownership, it’ll impress you more than it would disappoint. If, however, you were upgrading from the F30 320i to the G20 320i Sport, the latter could make you wonder if you made the right choice upgrading.
In more ways than one, the G20 320i Sport is a major upgrade from its predecessor. It’s loaded with more tech, more onboard equipment, along with a more aggressive and muscular exterior design. Unlike before, it doesn’t need an M Sport body kit to stand. It’s even got better-looking 18-inch wheels than the 330i, which have been unanimously disliked by most.
Yet, it has (somewhat) lost that fine balance between comfort and performance the previous 320i was praised and at the same time criticised for. With the F30 320i, it would be docile for most of the time and only reveals its “true BMW self” when you’re being playful behind the wheel. In the G20 320i Sport, it’s as if the trigger is half-pulled, all the time. At times, it feels unnecessarily wound up when you’re merely on a drive to work.
To say that the 320i Sport causes discomfort would be unfair as additional legroom and rear air controls are now on the “creature comforts list” but for a mere 320i Sport to be this precise and engaging in the way it moves, is a bit of a surprise really.
This, coupled with the 8-speed ZF automatic that never ceases to amaze with its quick shifting and reaction, the 320i Sport is entry-level BMW sedan that punches well above its weight.