To me, conformity is almost a sin and, in most instances, I tend to steer away from anything characterized by peer pressure or group action. In my life, this becomes most apparent when looking at my favourite cars.

If it’s weird looking, odds are I would love it regardless of all its other obvious impairments. Many people believe that is why I like modern day BMWs. While others would like to create a flame surface on Chris Bangle’s [BMW’s automobile designer] body, I’ve always loved his designs. Except for the 3-series, that is.

However, the human mind is a strange and wonderful thing, for after spending seven days behind the wheel of a Le Mans blue 330i with M sports package I am actually beginning to like the 3-series. To me, the 3-series’ design has always been a cop-out on Bangle’s side: Because it’s the car they sell the most, it can’t be too weird-looking.

Ugly cars equate to lower sales, which equates to less profit, which equates to less money to build bigger, bolder, weirder-looking masterpieces. But really, a BMW that looks like an early-90’s Nissan Primera from the back? I think not.

But let’s first get the facts out of the way. The 330i is fitted with BMW’s renowned 3.0-litre, 6-cylinder engine. It delivers maximum power of 200 kW at 6 650 r/min, with maximum torque of 315 Nm available between 2 500 and 4 000 r/min. The 330i goes from 0 to 100km/h in just over 6 seconds, and is electronically limited to 250km/h.

While I wasn’t instantly comfortable with the gearbox, the power was immediate and gratifying. Whether in the city or cruising on the open road, the 330i was always willing to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I averaged a decent 9.7-litres/100km consumption.

The interior is up to typical BMW standards, which is generally a good place to be. Everything is high quality; especially the seats impressed me with the amount of support they provided. I was however quite irritated with the fact that they have to be adjusted manually – especially at this price. I was also not impressed with the iDrive system, and honestly prefer Audi’s MMI. Really BMW, just go the touch screen route and save everyone the trouble!

I spent seven days with the 330i and really enjoyed it. As such, I cannot honestly fault the BMW 330i, or even the 3-series as a range. It’s conventionally good to look at – even though my neighbour and his cousin own one; it’s dynamically sound, well-specced and well priced at R392 500 for the standard model.

The additional R15 000 you have to dish out for the M sports package is, in my opinion, definitely worth it, as it really does make the 3 look better, especially if, like me, you prefer a sportier look and feel. It also makes it less conformist. If you’re buying in this financial segment, odds are that personal preference would be the key determining factor.

To me, the 330i is a solid buy in every respect; like most Toyotas. But, at the end of the day, it’s exactly that which makes it average, and being average is simply just too close to being a conformist. In a few weeks time, however, I hope to put its M3 sibling through its paces. There’s always hope!


At the end of May, in a wet and windy Cape, BMW launched the latest derivative of the 1-series, in the form of a convertible. When it comes to premium convertibles in the compact vehicle segment, you probably won’t go wrong getting yourself one.

The convertible is the fourth model in the 1-series line-up, and serves as an authentic entry-point into the world of BMW convertibles. Its youthful and elegant design, like the Coupe, is a million times better looking than the 1-series hatch; its entire body appearing to be more in proportion than the hatch ever could.

Like the Audi TT (and unlike the latest 3-series Convertible), the 1 Convertible comes with an electro-hydraulically operated soft top that opens and closes within 22 seconds (up to speeds of 40km/h). Considering the winter winds hammering the Western Cape coastline on our route from Muizenberg to Kleinmond, I was rather impressed with the low levels of wind noise.

Also, like in Audi’s TT, the 1 Convertible doesn’t have a claustrophobic cabin when the roof is up. The entire cabin is well-designed with high perceptual quality and a surprising amount of space. The leather options include BMW’s sun-reflective technology that has the effect of greatly reducing the heating up of surfaces when the roof is down.

Three high-performance petrol engines are on offer, ranging from 115kW (120i) to 225kW (135i). I spent most of the time behind the wheel of a 125i and was sufficiently impressed with the willing engine, agile performance and easy handling. In fact, unless you have hooligan tendencies and/or a need for recognition, the 135i would be a waste.

The 3.0-litre, in-line six cylinder engine delivers a more than satisfactory 160kW of power at 6100 r/min, and 270Nm of torque between 2 500 and 4 850 r/min. Acceleration to 100km/h takes only 6.9 seconds before topping out at a top speed of 237 km/h.

The 1 Convertible employs BMW’s revolutionary EfficientDynamics package, inclusive of electronic power steering, needs-orientated control of ancillary units, lightweight construction, innovative use of alternative materials and tyres with reduced rolling resistance. This package helps the 1 Convertible to achieve an average fuel consumption figure of a mere 9.1-litres/ 100km.

With prices for the 120i, 125i and 135i being R308 500, R354 500 and R432 500 respectively, the 1 Convertible makes a lot of sense in my opinion. In fact, I can’t think of anything in that price range quite as enticing… Will Audi’s forthcoming A3 Convertible steal BMW’s thunder? Only time will tell!

BMW South Africa paid for Christo’s flights to and from Cape Town.

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