It’s important that the BMW 330i is good. In fact, it’s probably even more important that the 330i is good than whether or not the M340i is. Most customers are going to buy the 330i, or other entry-level models in other markets, than the top-of-the-line M Performance model. Plus, that’s always sort of been the 3 Series’ deal; every model is great to drive and you don’t need the big engine to have fun. So when we see a comparison test, from one of the most esteemed publications in America, with the 330i and its competitors, we take notice.

This comparison test from Car and Driver pits a rear-wheel drive 330i against its newest competition; the Alfa Romeo Giulia Q4, Volvo S60 and Genesis G70. While the 3 Series’ two main competitors — the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class — are missing from this test, these four cars are arguably the best in the segment to drive. With maybe the exception of the Volvo. So while they’re not the most traditional of 3 Series-fighters, they’re probably the toughest.

In an honestly surprising result, the BMW 330i won the day against its other competitors. I won’t give up the full lineup of winners, as you should read the full comparison, but the 330i is a shockingly well-rounded car. In fact, after having driven both it and the M340i, I actually think it’s the more impressive car. Of course, the M340i is much faster and more fun to drive but that’s to be expected. What isn’t as expected is just how good the 330i, and its brilliant 2.0 liter turbo-four, really is.

Even against three genuinely excellent premium sport sedans, the BMW 330i seemed like the most complete package. It’s a masterclass in powertrain performance, refinement and calibration, while its chassis is the most composed and its suspension the most balanced. Sure, some other cars in the test do some things better — for instance, the Alfa is more playful and the Genesis steers sweeter — but none of them have the wide breadth of ability as the 3er.

So while this generation of BMW 3 Series isn’t perfect, it’s much better than it has been in years and it seems as if it’s back on top.

[Source: Car and Driver]