Audi A4 1.8 TFSI 2012 Review
The A4 range is Audi ’s bread and butter, making for around 20 per cent of the brand’s sales here...
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Few things will make your neighbours weep as much as parking a new BMW in your driveway. It is one of the preferred weapons of mass jealousy that is guaranteed to scorch all adjoining brickwork with the silent heat of envy.
But is it all about the badge or is the smaller BMW set worthy of praise above similar-sized - and half-priced - cars from Korea, Japan and even Australia?
Pay $62,600 for this BMW 320i Touring and drive away in a pretty German-built wagon that has less occupant and cargo room and similar performance agility as an Aussie-built $29,040 Holden Cruze Sportwagon. But technical data dismisses how the BMW feels to drive, the sensible and clinical precision of the switchgear and the way the cabin integrates with its occupants.
Standard kit includes dual-zone airconditioning, electric tailgate, trip computer with central monitor, reverse camera, 17-inch alloys and leather-look upholstery. It's not actually a lot for the bucks - see Hyundai i40 or Mazda6 - and the option list is enormous and candy to a buyer dazzled by the badge.
But don't think a BMW is expensive to own - smart buyers can opt for BMW's pre-paid three-year service plan from a fixed $1045 for three years/60,000 km up to $1569 for five years/100,000km. That's better than some Japanese models. The 320i resale is a respectable 53 per cent, equal to the Mercedes C-Class but up slightly on the equivalent Audi.
This is an impressive-looking wagon that oozes style. Few rivals can do the same and makes even the Mercedes equivalent look frumpy. It is, however, small. The boot is standard at 495-litres and with the 40:20:40 seats folded down, is 1500 litres. The Cruze, by comparison, is 686 to 1478 litres. The rear-drive layout is the culprit, intruding its mechanicals into the interior.
Until BMW's smaller models go front-wheel drive from late next year, not much here will change. Dash design is functional and BMW increasingly applies logic to the once-complex iDrive information system. It's now dead easy.
I love the electric tailgate to aid full-handed shoppers, think the materials and fabrics used are first class, acknowledge that four run-flat tyres need no spare and admire the fact that BMW makes really good cars despite knowing that most buyers miss the point and only own one for the prestige of the badge.
Apparently we're running out of petrol and cars are polluting the planet. All car makers are keen to dissolve these accusations. BMW equips the 320i with a stop-start system (for those who came in late, this turns the engine off when the car is stationary, then automatically restarts to save fuel), regenerative braking (engages the alternator/generator when braking or coasting to charge up the battery) and has an economy mode in the drivetrain's four-mode program.
The 2-litre engine is the same as in the 180kW/350Nm 328i but is dumbed down to 135kW/270Nm. Fuel economy is claimed at 6.2 L/100km, not much different to the 328i. The engine has a single, twin-scroll turbocharger and features direct-petrol injection. It's attached to a slick eight-speed auto with paddle shifters.
Pretty much standard for its class, the 320i gets a five-star crash rating, eight airbags, electronic stability and traction control, cruise control with a braking function, park sensors front and rear, LED tail lights, heated mirrors and a reverse camera. It has run-flat tyres with a tyre pressure monitor.
Yes, first impressions are that this is a small car. The seating position is more like a sports car - precisely what BMW aims to achieve - and for tall drivers, there's not a lot of room in the footwell. It certainly feels cosy and that's magnified by the small-diameter steering wheel and the body-hugging curves of the seat.
Ergonomically it's spot on. Like an iPhone 4, it's intuitive and that allows the driver to concentrate on enjoying the car. Despite electric-assist steering, it's as sharp as a Gillette through the corners. The 320i appears to be down a bit on power but the eight-speed box, paddle shifters and the strong mid-range delivery means it won't disappoint the enthusiast.
BMW is up to about generation-five for the run-flat tyres and they have matured from hard-riding rubber rings to some with decent compliance. The car rides a bit firm but no occupant should complain.
Well-appointed car that's fun to drive. But its low height makes it awkward to get in and out and at $62,600-plus, has a lot of like-size rivals with better value for money.
BMW 320i Touring
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km, roadside assist
Capped servicing: No
Service interval: 12mths/15,000km
Safety: 8 airbags, ABS, ESC, EBD, TC
Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 135kW/270Nm
Transmission: 8-spd auto; rear drive
Thirst: 6.2L/100km; 95RON; 145g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.6m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.4m (H)
Spare: Repair kit
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