This here is likely the most important car BMW will launch in the next few years. Codenamed the G20, the 2018 3 Series was recently spotted by our spy undergoing testing wearing a new bumper, however, the styling of the actual car is expected to be markedly different. The new 3 Series will be underpinned by BMW’s advanced CLAR platform, which debuted with the latest 7 Series and features a combination of material such as carbon fibre, aluminium and steel, and this should give it an advantage over the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Audi A4 and the Jaguar XE. The next 5 Series will be built on the same platform when it arrives sometime in 2017, followed by the 3 Series a year later.

The interior details are difficult to make out from the grainy photographs, but the new 3 Series is likely to have a fully digital instrument cluster, with improved gesture control and semi-autonomous driving abilities.

A range of four-cylinder and six-cylinder turbocharged engines will be available, with some markets even getting a smaller 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine from the all-new Mini and the i8 hybrid sportscar.

Of late, the 3 Series has lost substantial ground to sharper new rivals such as the new C-Class, which for the first time ever bested the 3er in a wheels group test a couple of years ago.

The upcoming 3 Series, though, appears to be wider and lower than the current car, pointing at improved driving dynamics. Doubtless largely aided by the rigid new platform’s better engines.

Inevitably there will be various M spin-offs, including the next M3 sports saloon. The latter could ditch its petrol-powered roots and head down the hybrid path delivering a combined power output in excess of 550 horsepower. Don’t get too excited though because the next M3 isn’t expected to go on sale before 2020.