Used BMW 320i review: 2009-2010

Jack Gallagher is considering buying a used BMW. He wants a four-cylinder automatic sedan or hatch and has a budget of $25,000. He’s a senior living in the country and his needs are ease of driving and parking, comfort, and low running and repair costs.


The 320i was the entry-level model in the 2009 3-Series range, but that’s not to suggest it was lacking in comparison to its more expensive siblings.

Like all BMWs the 320i is built around the driving experience and boasts responsive handling and a sensible cockpit layout to make the driver’s task a breeze.

The 320i was available in sedan and wagon versions, the sedan offering superior security, the wagon greater flexibility. Their compact dimensions made them easy to drive and park, but that’s not to suggest they were lacking in cabin comfort.

There’s plenty of room for everyone, in the front seats or rear, with good head, leg and elbow space. The boot is also of a generous size, aided by the absence of a spare wheel. The 320i uses run-flat tyres, which negates the need to carry a spare, but at the expense of ride comfort and cost.

While BMW is best known for its silky smooth six-cylinder engines the 320i has a four-cylinder engine. Compared to the six the 320i’s engine is a little coarse and doesn’t have the same punch, but with 115 kW and 200 Nm on tap it has sufficient urge for regular round town or highway driving.

BMW claims it would do 8.0L/100 km on average, and while that’s a lab-test number it appears to be a reasonably accurate reflection of real life. The transmission BMW offered with the 320i was a six-speed automatic, which was smooth and well tuned to the four-cylinder’s performance.

Not surprisingly the list of standard features is quite long, with auto climate-controlled air, cruise, leather upholstery, steering wheel controls, power front seats and parking distance sensors. The list of safety features was equally impressive, with front, side and head airbags, ABS braking, traction control, and dynamic stability control.


BMW is a well-respected brand and its cars have become popular for those aspiring to a better badge, but like all cars they can and do breakdown at times.

Look for a credible service record in your chosen car’s service book. Servicing is crucial to having a reliable run in any car. It’s not crucial that the servicing is done by a BMW dealer, but if it’s not it is best that a BMW specialist with intimate knowledge of the brand has done it.

BMWs are not cheap to maintain, servicing and parts can be expensive when supplied by a dealer. Finding a good independent, specialist mechanic can save heaps of money without compromising on the quality of the work or the parts used.

Smart mechanics have tuned in to the Internet and many are now sourcing their parts internationally. They have found that they can independently import parts, including genuine factory parts, for much less than BMW can supply them locally. The 320i’s major components, like engine, transmission and rear axle are sound and rarely give trouble.

Things that can give trouble over time are the plastic components used on the engine, things like the radiator tank, hose fittings, and drive belt pulleys. Leakage from the water pump can also be a problem. Suspension bushes can wear and eventually need replacing, and the dash electrics can melt down in time.

It’s worth having a mechanic with experience of BMWs check over any car you’re thinking of buying before you hand over your cash.

Some regard run-flat tyres as a negative. The absence of a spare makes the boot larger, but they’re expensive to replace and they make the ride harsher and noisier. BMW recommends running the 320i on the more expensive Premium unleaded fuel, but like all post-1986 BMWs it will handle E10 fuel.