Even for motoring journalists European luxury cars are, well, a luxury. They are not an everyday occurrence. When the initial adulation wears off, familiarity sets in and so does a hint of nothing out of the ordinary.

Some vehicles, however, hold something in reserve to keep an automotive world-weary scribe interested. Such a car came into my possession recently. With time, the BMW 320d could quite easily have become a Euro Camry. It didn't. 

The latest iteration features sharper exterior design, the interior uses new material to create a premium impression, ergonomics have been upgraded and advances in BMW EfficientDynamics technology have led to gains in performance, efficiency and carbon emissions across range.

After 40 years, with around 14 million examples delivered to customers, the 3 Series now accounts for a quarter of BMW sales worldwide. In Australia, more than 110,000 3 Series models were sold in the past five years.

Of the seven variants, in Sedan and Touring (station wagon) forms, on offer in Australia, I had the lone diesel, the 320d Sedan. 

Design

Great attention has been paid to making the new 3 Series appear wider, hence sportier, with a front end gaining new aprons with revised air intakes. New-design headlights and striking LED daytime running lights only go to emphasise this.

New wheels, exterior colours and equipment options, round off choices for the new 3 Series

Once again, the sculpted rear apron and standard LED rear lights emphasise the car's width. New wheels, exterior colours and equipment options, round off choices for the new 3 Series buyer.

BMW continues to focus on the driver, with easy access to all the main functions. Ergonomics have been improved further and additional chrome highlights and high-gloss surfaces give the interior an even greater look of luxury.

For example, the central control panel in the centre console comes in high-gloss black and features an ambient lighting surround given by additional chrome applications. As usual, piano black gathers dust like there no tomorrow and requires cleaning off daily to maintain the great look. 

Chrome accents make the revised controls for the electric seat adjustment easier to pick out, while drink holders in the centre console now have a sliding cover. Additional storage for items such as a smartphone is positioned forward of the drink holders.

Features

ConnectedDrive is standard in the new BMW 3 Series. A SIM card built into the system gives access to a wide range of services from BMW ConnectedDrive without the need for a smartphone.

BMW TwinPower Turbo technology combines good performance with excellent fuel efficiency

Smartphone apps that have been optimised for BMW, such as Audible, GoPro and Spotify, can be used via the car's display and control concept. 

Engine

All three four- and six-cylinder petrol engines, including the four-cylinder diesel unit in our test BMW 320d are from the new modular BMW EfficientDynamics engine family and are equipped with the latest BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, which combines good performance with excellent fuel efficiency. Carbon dioxide emissions are Euro 6 rating.

The output of the new BMW 320d benefits from further improvements in internal friction and responsiveness through the use of anti-friction bearings instead of plain bearings - up from 135kW of its predecessor to 140kW at 4000rpm.

With peak torque of 400Nm, between 1750 and 2500rpm, the new BMW 320d sedan with eight-speed transmission returns a 0-100km/h time of 7.2 seconds, two tenths of a second less than the previous 320d sedan.

Safety

Intelligent Emergency Call, another standard feature, comes to the aid of the occupants if the airbags are triggered in a crash. The built-in SIM card automatically transmits details on the severity of the crash, the potential risk of injury to the occupants and the vehicle's location to the BMW ConnectedDrive Call Centre.

Sport adds some spice, while Sport+ cries out for some out-and-out track time

This information is then used to arrange emergency response while the call centre stays in contact with the occupants if desired. The manual emergency call function allows help to be summoned for other road users in emergencies.

Driving

Ride and handling are improved via the latest developments in damper technology, more rigid body shell mounting and a retuned steering set-up. 

BMW's Driving Experience Control can shift between four driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro - which alters throttle response and transmission shift points.

Comfort is designed for the day-to-day city commute, Sport adds some spice, while Sport+ cries out for some out-and-out track time. Eco Pro reduces fuel use at the expense of performance. Nothing new here. 

The standard full-colour, high-resolution head-up display shows speed, navigation instructions, music or radio list on the windscreen in the driver's field of view. 

The maker claims fuel consumption on the combined urban/highway cycle of just 4.4L/100km, which corresponds to carbon dioxide emissions of 116g/km.The test vehicle recorded 7.8L/100km in town and around 4.0L/100km on the open road.