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Article Highlights

  • The BMW M3 wasn’t good enough for Top Gear
  • The Hyundai i20N punches above its weight
  • How BMW can fix the new M3

BMW isn’t used to losing. From motorsports to the awards, the BMW M3 is not a loser by any means. However, it lost one fight, and boy was it a doozy. Top Gear is a huge name in the automotive industry, right up there with big-name manufacturers. Every year, the magazine crowns a champion for “Speed Week,” and this time, it was the Hyundai i20N that beat out the Beamer.

The BMW M3 is a good car, but not good enough

An Isle of Man green BMW M3 shot from the front 3/4 at sunset
The BMW M3 is more than divisive | BMW

Let’s not crap on the BMW M3 too hard. After all, the poor thing is still licking its wounds after losing out on an award to the Hyundai i20N. The M3 is, and always has been, a driver’s car. It consistently offers rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and some form of relatively engaging engine. The new car is a far cry from the coveted E46 M3, yes, but it is still a good car.

Plus, the new BMW M3 Competition also features AWD, making it an all-weather competitor in the segment previously dominated by the Audi RS4. Unfortunately, the industry finds the newest M car to be a little… digital, as Kristen Lee pointed out in her review over at The Drive. Lee says the new M car is covered in a thin veneer of electronic assistance that makes the BMW M3 capable of raking in highway miles but leaves something to be desired in the feel department.

The Hyundai i20N beats the M car

A blue Hyundai i20N shot from the front 3/4 on a city street
The Hyundai i20N is peak hot hatch | Hyundai

And that chink in the M3’s armor is exactly where the forbidden fruit Hyundai i20N strikes. This Ford Fiesta ST competitor won’t be coming Stateside, but its driving prowess was enough to dethrone one of the most legendary driver’s cars out there. It makes a (piddling in comparison) 201 hp to the M3’s 503 hp, and offers a far more engaging manual transmission experience. Hey, just because a stick shift is a rarity doesn’t mean we can’t be critical, right?

Obviously, the i20N didn’t win out because of its spec sheet (though impressive the sheet is). It won out because of the experience the little hatch offers. Just as much usability as the BMW M3 means the Hyundai i20N is not only a compelling driver’s car, but a usable one to boot. Simply put, the i20N fills the “analog driver’s machine” gap better than the M3.

Small cars just aren’t “American” enough

The rear 3/4 of an Isle of Man green BMW M3 shot at sunset on a runway
Can BMW fix the new M3? | BMW

Unfortunately, that means BMW has some thinking to do in regards to the M3. While our American appetites mean that the i20N isn’t going to make an appearance here, the M3 is still very much here. So how does BMW fix the problem? Refining the shifter seems to be a good start, as well as some changes to the controversial kidney grille. More power clearly isn’t the answer, so let’s hope that BMW takes notice and does something a little more inspiring with that inline six the next time around.


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