Paris - Looking strong and confident despite having been ‘teased’ to death in the last week, BMW’s all-new 3 Series plays it safe on the styling front, but brings a raft of new cabin tech and other general refinements.

For starters it’s up to 55kg lighter than its predecessor, despite having grown substantially in size, with length increasing by 85mm, of which 41mm goes into the wheelbase to improve occupant space, while overall width grows by 16mm and height by 1mm. It’s also somewhat more aerodynamic, with the Cd value dropping from 0.26 to 0.23 thanks in part to an almost completely sealed underbody.

On the engine front the most exciting news is the new M340i, featuring a 3-litre six-cylinder turbopetrol tuned to 275kW and 500Nm for a 4.4-second 0-100km/h sprint - that’s just 0.1s slower than the current M3! This new Deputy M3, which also features all-wheel-drive and an M Sport differential, will however only be available later in 2019.

Of the launch models, the highlight for now is an improved version of the 2-litre turbopetrol that powers the 330i, which is now good for 190kW and 400Nm (up 5kW and 50Nm), and consequently a 5.8 second 0-100km/h time.

A milder 2-litre, with 135kW and 300Nm on tap, powers the 320i, while the 320d (now also available with all-wheel-drive) soldiers on with various improvements and 140kW/400Nm, and the 330d remains the top diesel with its 195kW/580Nm 3-litre oil burner.

The cabin has been brought bang up to date with BMW’s recently-introduced seventh-generation operating system, featuring a redesigned instrument cluster measuring up to 31.2cm, and touchscreen infotainment options up to 26cm in size.

Also available is an onboard virtual butler of sorts, which responds to “Hey BMW”. Sounding similar to Merc’s MBUX system, the BMW ‘Personal Assistant’ aims to learn the driver’s habits can be personalised to a greater degree in that you can give it a name of your choice. For what it’s worth, its interactions are also said to be more “meaningful” as it’ll even respond to questions like: “Hey BMW, what’s the meaning of life?” Just don’t ask it “Why is Justin Bieber so popular,” because who's got that answer?

The long list of available gizmos includes an improved Head Up Display, Connected Navigation, Gesture Control, the semi-autonomous Driving Assistant package, the recently introduced Reversing Assistant with 50 metres of steering memory for backing out of tight spaces and BMW’s Digital Key.

Those opting for an M Sport model can also specify an adaptive M suspension with adjustable dampers, although unlike the C-Class, the new 3 doesn’t offer an air suspension option.

The new 3 Series is set to go on sale in South Africa during the first half of 2019 - the local model mix and pricing will be announced nearer to the time.

IOL Motoring