The exterior of a blue BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series review

Fun to drive and practical, the BMW 3 Series is one of the best compact executive saloons. It rides comfortably but handles sharply and has plenty of space.

Pros

  • Nimble handling and a comfortable ride
  • Well equipped and luxurious cabin
  • Engine choices offer performance and economy

Cons

  • More expensive than some rivals
  • Rear view visibility isn't great
  • Rear-wheel drive can struggle on ice

Summary

“Great fun to drive, more practical than ever and it looks good. No wonder it’s still such an aspirational choice.”

The new BMW 3 Series went on sale in the UK in March 2019. It’s bigger and more advanced than the sixth-generation car it replaced. Either of these versions will be a great value used buy.

As well as nimble rear-wheel drive handling, BMW has always been renowned for the quality and performance of its engines. Whether you choose a diesel or petrol, the 3 Series will give you comfortable, reliable and economical motoring.

The four-door body remains the most popular choice and the latest version will accommodate two people comfortably in the back seats. If you want to maximise practicality, look for the sporty estate model.

The 3 Series trim levels are SE, Sport and M Sport, but even the basic SE trim levels are lavish, with a big touchscreen, standard sat nav, and Apple CarPlay.

The exterior of a blue BMW 3 Series

What’s the interior like?

“A stylish and sporty design, comfortable seats and good levels of kit.”

The BMW 3 Series has extremely supportive seats, a light, airy interior and a clear dashboard. The latest models have an 8.8-inch touchscreen as a minimum – you can opt for up to 10.3-inches – but keep the iDrive control wheel on the centre console, as it’s much easier to use on the move. The latest screens offer pin-sharp images and intuitive menus which make accessing functions easy.

Although you sit quite low, it’s easy to see out of thanks to relatively slim screen pillars. The parking sensors are useful when it comes to reversing as the rear view isn't the best.

The back seats are easy to get into and space is on a par with the Audi A4 – which makes it roomier than the Mercedes C-Class. The boot is reasonably sized at 480 litres which is big enough for three large suitcases.

The interior of a BMW 3 Series with steering wheel and dashboard in shot

What’s it like to drive?

“The BMW 3 Series is one of the most agile saloon cars around. It also rides smoothly.”

BMW pitches all its models as ‘drivers’ cars’, which means potent engines, quick and responsive steering and a supple ride over uneven road surfaces.

BMW engines have always been sophisticated, smooth and powerful. There’s also plenty of choice. With most cars being sold to corporate users, there are lots of diesels around – the 2.0-litre 320d being especially popular.

The latest range topping M340i has four-wheel drive and provides genuine performance.

The exterior of a blue BMW 3 Series

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“Pick a diesel for great performance and mpg, but insurance and repair costs will be high – especially from BMW main dealers.”

There are some 320d models in the ‘Efficient Dynamics’ trim with excellent mpg figures of up to 75. These have 99g/km of CO2 so are free to tax.

As you rise through the range, models become more expensive and any 320d registered after 2017 will cost £140 a year to tax. Cars with an original list price of over £40,000, registered since April 2017, will be hit by the £310 luxury road tax supplement.

An efficient three-cylinder entry level petrol 318i was available on pre-2019 cars which will be low cost to tax, insure and fuel. Alternatively the 330e plug-in hybrid combines petrol and electric power for some impressive official figures.

Servicing costs at BMW main dealers aren’t cheap and neither are parts. Insurance can also be high, thanks to both the cost of repairs and performance figures of some versions.

The exterior of a blue BMW 3 Series

How reliable and safe is it?

“Safety is a given, with excellent Euro NCAP crash test results.”

The 3 Series is very well built and you’re unlikely to have many issues with it. However, BMW doesn’t score as well as Japanese makes such as Lexus in customer surveys.

The BMW 3 Series is a very safe car and was given a five-star rating by Euro NCAP. It has a typically comprehensive array of driver and passenger protection technology, including standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection on the latest models.

Gear stick shot of the BMW 3 Series

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 330e Sport Pro

Best for family - 320i SE Auto

Best for fun - M340i xDrive

The current entry-level 320i petrol engine will be more than adequate for everyday use, especially with its smooth changing automatic gears. The SE trim level is also great, although if you can find a Sport model, the extra luxury and comfort of the leather-upholstered seats make it worth considering.

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