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New 3-series saloon chases 60,000 sales

BMW has revealed the first official details of its new fifth generation 3-series saloon, which goes on sale in the UK next March. The carmaker expects to sell 60,000 units next year here.

The present coupe and convertible cars will continue to be sold until they are replaced in 2006.

There will be three engines available from launch: 3.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre petrol and diesel.

All are based on the units from the previous range but with more power and improved, or matched, economy. A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard across the range –a six-speed automatic is an option.

The new model is bigger than its predecessor in every dimension, with rear seat passengers benefiting most from the extra space.

Active Steering (speed sensitive power steering), will be available as an option on six-cylinder models. With an enhanced traction control system called DSC+, the steering will automatically correct oversteer slides. Run-flat tyres are standard on all models.

Customers opting for satellite navigation will also get BMW’s controversial iDrive controller, the screen sitting centrally in the dashboard as in the 5 and 7-series.

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