Long-term test: BMW 318d Sport Gran Turismo

HAVING a good idea is only half the battle – possibly even less than half. The difficult bit tends to be convincing others that you’re not completely cracked.

The 318d Sport Gran Turismo

And so it was with the 3 GT. Because BMW has for many decades now fashioned its position as a creator of fabulous saloons, estates and coupes, there appears to be something of a mental block for anything that doesn’t fit into the template.

I must admit that before it arrived, I wasn’t sure whether I would gel with the Gran Turismo’s looks. But in the flesh, and with the Sport pack including 19-inch wheels, it looked the business to these eyes at least, particularly because the 3 Series saloon is pretty much everywhere and a little individuality goes a long way.

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Better still, the differing look is for a purpose, namely the extra space on the inside. It’s significantly longer than the saloon and Touring, with more length in the wheelbase, although to look at you wouldn’t think it was significantly bigger. The payoff is in the back seats though, where there is limo-like space. True, it wasn’t often that anyone taller than the kids travelled in the back, but as any parent knows, the more space, the better.

The same goes for the boot too. There’s more space than the 3 Series Touring, with seats up or down. Over the six months in my care, the 3’s boot swallowed everything from a jet washer to a rabbit hutch and never batted an eyelid. The standard electric hatch and rear-mounted release for the rear seats came in exceptionally handy too.

“My” 3 had the most humble of the diesel offerings, offering up a modest 143bhp but a very healthy 235lb ft of torque. As diesels do, it loosened up as the miles rolled by and the performance was always more than enough. It was thrifty with it too, although the biggest hurdle with achieving good fuel economy was the driver. Over the six months it averaged 48mpg, and that was with me generally not behaving myself. On the rare occasions I gave it the full eco approach it would hit 70 or even 80 miles per gallon on a long run – I’m just always running late…

The other thing was that the 3 GT was great fun to drive. It steered and handled with the kind of precision that you don’t expect from a family car, and that just made it all the harder to behave myself. In truth, it spent plenty of time trudging up and down motorways, and the comfortable seats and good driving position made short work of that too.

No, the biggest problem with the 3 GT is that people think they need a Touring or a saloon instead. Well, by all means go right ahead, but given that the GT beats both for space, offers a better ride and is subtly different from all the other 3 Series out there, it’s worth seriously considering this first.

PRICE £31,575 (£41,945 as tested)

ENGINE 2l diesel, 4 cyl, 143bhp, 236 lb ft

PERFORMANCE Max speed 130mph; 0-62mph 9.6s

ECONOMY 48.1mpg average