Priced from just under $51,000, the 316i is the latest salvo in the prestige pricing war that last week saw Mercedes-Benz announce their new CLA four door coupe for a similar sticker price.
The least expensive 3 Series since the '90s also has the smallest capacity engine, running the 1.6-litre turbo petrol four from the smaller 118i and the Mini Cooper. It's good for 5.9L/100km through a standard eight-speed automatic and a 0-100km/h stroll time of 9.2 seconds.
BMW says it is visually all but indistinguishable from the rest of the range save for 16-inch alloys and man-made leather upholstery. The standard kit runs to rear park assistance, Bluetooth and a 6.5 inch multi-media screen. There is not satellite navigation, nor will the entrant take M-Sports suspension.
Although the 2 Series range of compact coupes is not here until next year, BMW spokesman Scott Croaker denies the cut price 3 Series is a holding action against the CLA.
"It's a bit early for any immediate reaction or price fight,'' he says. "It's been looked at for some time. But what's happening in the competitive field at this price point is obviously very important and this is a good opportunity to take focus from some of the competition.''