BMW fills another teeny niche with its upcoming hatchback 3, blogs 
Road Test Editor Howard Walker.

 BMW these days seemingly has more niche models in its lineup than Whole Foods has cheese choices in its deli. And now, coming to a BMW showroom near you this summer is the latest answer to a question no one has really asked – the 3-Series Gran Turismo!

So, how to describe it? Maybe a higher-riding hatchback version of the 3-Series sedan? Or maybe a less practical version of the not-for-the-US 3-Series wagon? Or a closer-to-the-ground BMW X3 crossover? Or, all of the above!

Remember, BMW introduced the Gran Turismo concept with the 5- Series GT; a car that has been universally likened to the Quasimodo of the auto world. A car, incidentally, that has had the runaway sales success of Microsoft’s Zune wannabe iPod. But adding the ultimate insult to this new 3-Series Gran Turismo months before its U.S. arrival; many critics are likening its truncated rear end to that of Honda’s universally panned Crosstour tall hatchback. Yikes.

As a lover of all things 3-Series – the upcoming new 4-Series coupe is just drop-dead gorgeous – I certainly want to wait till I see this new GT out on the street to give my own humble styling verdict.But with over 18 cubic feet of luggage space, rear seats that are split 40/20/40 for added flexibility, and a giant tailgate that reaches skywards, this 3 GT should be a versatile little runabout for the retail therapy set!

In keeping with the 3-Series lineup, engine options will include the always-superb 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo Four that’ll power the 328i GT, and the 300-horse 3.5-liter inline Six for the 335i version. Both will come standard with an eight-speed automatic. Trim options will run to Sport, Luxury, Modern and M Sport.

But with America’s traditional dislike of hatchback cars and it’s love affair with tall-riding crossovers, I’m struggling to understand why someone would buy a 3-Series GT in favor
of the terrific, go-anywhere X3, or even the slightly smaller, but equally versatile X1?

Then again, I don’t hear too many complaints about there being too many Goudas or Cheddars at Whole Foods! For more information about the latest from BMW, please visit http://www.bmwusa.com/default.aspx