The BMW 3 Series seems to have been around forever, with every generation getting roomier, cleaner and greener. Despite these gains purists complain that each new 3 is a departure from the fly-weight straight-sixes of the early generations.
The new BMW 328i for example now runs on a four-cylinder turbocharged engine which is not only faster (245bhp and 0-62 in 5.9 seconds) but more economical than its straight six predecessor.
In fact BMW now has 24 versions of its 3 Series under 120g/km of CO2.
Several factors seem to have prompted BMW to adopt this green stance so enthusiastically. Firstly, a combination of ever more stringent emissions restrictions and punitive fuel prices has put fuel consumption and tax breaks right to the front of the public agenda.
And secondly BMW has one eye on its profile as sponsor at the London Olympics 2012. The company will look to foreground its green credentials at the games.
At the front of its efforts will be the new BMW Active Hybrid 3. Whilst figures for the EV element of the car will disappoint some – the car will only do 2.5 miles in pure electric mode – the stated 300bhp will mollify most.
And for a car which at the Olympics at least will spend a lot of time in traffic, the 2.5 electric miles may well prove more useful than the 300bhp.
Athletes and dignitaries will also benefit from a bigger boot in this, the sixth generation 3 Series: space is up by 20 litres to 480.
But away from the showcase real-world drivers may find themselves investigating the range of diesel 3 Series – equally economical and significantly cheaper - before they consider the hybrid version.