BMW 320d SE

Does stop-start compromise prestige driver’s car?

Believe it or not, you can have your cake and eat it. The BMW 320d provides the premium badge and punchy performance you would expect from a diesel compact executive model – and it also features the firm’s EfficientDynamics stop-start fuel-efficiency hardware.

From the outside there’s nothing to set it apart from rival prestige saloons. You won’t find any obvious aerodynamic devices to smooth the flow of air over its sleek outline, and the interior is typically well assembled and stylish.

What you do get is standard-fit stop-start with brake energy regeneration to help limit the load on the diesel unit. Low-friction fluids are used in the engine, and a gearshift indicator helps you drive economically.

On our early morning rush-hour test the stop-start element took a while to kick in, as the motor needed to warm through. Once it was working, the system proved to be one of the best on test. When you come to a halt at a red traffic light, select neutral and take your foot off the clutch. The power is cut quietly, and you’re left to wait in vibration-free silence.

You don’t need to second guess the green light because the moment you press the clutch to select first, the engine fires up. This is accompanied by a familiar initial vibration through the gearlever, but it is less obtrusive than in the Passat BlueMotion.

The system is excellent on the road and doesn’t detract from the agile handling and punchy performance that we’ve now come to expect from the 320d. But it’s even more convincing at the fuel pumps. Overall, the BMW returned an excellent 45.8mpg in our test – close to the Passat’s 46.8mpg.

What makes this so impressive is the BMW’s punchy performance. In our hands, it sprinted from 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds – that’s 3.1 seconds faster than the Passat. Plus, its low CO2 output also matches that of the VW.

Details

WHY: A premium badge is no barrier to environmental friendliness. Compact exec goes up against smaller rivals

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