The most important car this year

It's simple. The new BMW 3 Series is the most important car to be released this year – and details are out tomorrow.

From 318ds to 335is, just think how many BMW 3s you see hogging the outside lane of the motorway, sitting a perfectly measured four inches away from your rear bumper.Whether you're a sales rep or a family going on holiday, the 3 Series will take anything you care to chuck at it in its stride.

It's a brilliant cruiser, has a big boot and will seat four in comfort and five easily for a short journey. It has a properly capable chassis too and is more than agile enough to thread down a twisty ribbon of British B-road. Then there's that all-important badge. To some that's worth the asking price alone.

So how is BMW going to improve on the current 3 Series if it's already so good? Well expect plenty of new high-tech kit in the latest incarnation of the Bavarina firm's small saloon.

It's rumoured that more expensive features from the 5 and 7 Series range will filter their way down to the next 3 Series, so don't rule out electronics such as adaptive cruise control and a head-up display.

It's thought that safety equipment will be uprated for the next 3 too with a lane-departure warning system (that might stop 3 Series man stradling the white line in a filter lane) and a pop-up bonnet to help cusion the impact of any unsuspecting pedestrians that care to get in the way.

With economy and emissions the automotive hot potato at the minute, we reckon BMW will be going to town with its EfficientDynamics in a bid to eek every last drop of hydrocarbons from your tank.

A range of engines made up of entirely turbocharged units? That's the general consensus for the new 3 Series. And BMW is also expected to add a few three-pots to the 3 Series range. Well they say three is a magic number don't they?

With the recent announcement of the Active Hybrid 5 (BMW's petrol/electric 5 Series-based hybrid) don't bet against there being a hybrid version of the new 3 Series either.

It'll be difficult for BMW to better the current car but you'd be a fool to bet against them doing so – the outgoing version unsurprisingly scored a maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests so expect the incoming model to be safe too.

Prices haven't been announced yet but expect numbers to come tomorrow. The 3 Series saloon will hit UK shores early next year while a Touring version is set for a mid-2012 launch.
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