"The 3 Series Coupe remains a firm favourite for performance car drivers who don’t want to abandon practicality. The 2+2 model is easily the best car in its class to drive, plus it's very well built and clings on to its value."
It was already a competent sports car, but BMW updated its 3 Series Coupe in 2010 to see off competition from the Audi A5. Although the changes are very subtle, they include improvements to the interior quality and handling. Impressively, the Coupe is nearly as spacious as the 3 Series saloon, but it's a strict four-seater, so isn’t quite as versatile. Two trims are offered – SE and M Sport – with a wide range of engines. The line-up kicks off with the powerful and economical 320d and is topped by the M3, which is a high-performance icon.
The 3 Series Coupe's main rivals, the Mercedes E-Class Coupe and Audi A5, are newer, but neither is quite as entertaining to drive. The driving position is superb, with low-set, supportive seats, a steering wheel with lots of adjustment, well placed pedals and a gearlever that's easy to reach. The combination of accurate steering and a strong range of engines means the 3 Series Coupe is a joy to drive.
The 3 Series Coupe is often criticised for a harsh ride that picks up bumps on the road and allows them to shake the car about. But while the ride is firm, it's far from unbearable, and in every other respect the 3 Series Coupe is comfortable. Up front, it has lots of head and legroom, plus supportive seats and a great driving position. Even those in the rear are well catered for. The rear bench is snug, but two adults can ride in relative comfort.
BMW's products are famously well engineered, and the 3 Series is no exception. Electrical niggles aren’t unknown though - particularly with the hi-tech iDrive cabin control system - but there have been no major issues even with this. BMW's trademarked traction control system, or DSC as it's known, is very effective but can be manually switched off for those looking to explore the limits of the car's handling.
The 3 Series Coupe offers nearly all of the cabin space of the saloon, and a boot that's very nearly as big. The loading lip is high, however, which can make bulky items hard to lift in and out. That said, for a sporty two-door car, the 3 Series Coupe is highly practical, with a spacious feel to the cabin and enough luggage room for a family of four. The main compromise is behind the front passengers: the 3 Series Coupe has only two rear seats – there's a divider between them and no third seatbelt – while the sloping roofline means adults over six-foot tall will be craning their necks.
Value for money
With a high starting price and an expensive and tempting options list, the 3 Series Coupe isn’t cheap. However, that's counterbalanced by excellent residual values and running costs, while the 2010 update made leather upholstery standard across the range. Satellite-navigation is a particularly costly option on all models, as is the popular M Sport trim, which adds an aggressive styling kit. BMW often runs free equipment upgrade promotions, though.
The 3 Series Coupe proves that a sporty car doesn’t need to be expensive to run, and the diesel versions in particular are impressively economical. Models with 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines come with stop-start, and the base model 320d in particular boasts small-car fuel economy combined with strong acceleration. In fact, it emits CO2 at such a low level (125g/km) that the manual gearbox version avoids first-year ‘showroom tax’ completely, and it sits in one of the lowest annual road tax bands.