BMW 3 Series
We named the BMW 3 Series our favourite compact executive car in the 2014 Carbuyer Car of the Year Awards. It blends first-class performance with impressive economy and a luxurious, comfortable interior.
It's available as a four-door saloon, practical Touring estate or five-door GT hatchback version, so there really is a BMW 3 Series for everyone. However, unlike before, the sleeker coupe and convertible versions are now badged as 4 Series, to differentiate between the sporty and more practical models.
If you’re looking for a smart, fun-to-drive and cheap-to-run executive car with enough room for the family, then we believe no car does it better than the BMW 3 Series.
- More practical than the saloon
- Comfortable but fun
- Economical engines
- More expensive than estate
- Styling not to all tastes
- Not as good to drive as the saloon
Available with a similar range of petrol and diesel engines, the BMW 3 GT has been designed as a more practical and more comfortable alternative to the 3 Series saloon. There's a huge 520-litre boot, loads of rear legroom and a high-quality interior, while it's still lots of fun to drive. It costs around £1,300 more than the equivalent BMW 3 Series Touring estate, but strikes a great balance between driving enjoyment and practicality. Style may not be to everyone's tastes, but if exclusivity is key, the new BMW 3 GT is well worth a look.
- Fun to drive
- Supercar performance
- Practical saloon body
- Doesn't sound as sporty as the old M3
- Not as agile as a Porsche 911
- Expensive to run
The BMW M3 offers the same relentless performance as the BMW M4 coupe, but is as practical as a regular BMW 3 Series saloon. Unlike any M3 before it, the new version has a turbocharged six-cylinder engine for improved fuel economy. It's very powerful, but doens't sound as sporty as the old V8-engined car. The M3 is hugely quick in a straight line, however it can't match the cornering grip of dedicated sports cars such as the Porsche 911.
- Good performance and economy
- Top-notch build quality
- Excellent practicality
- High list price
- Expensive options stack up fast
- Cheaper rivals offer more space
The BMW 3 Series Touring is a more practical version of the saloon, offering a 495-litre boot that expands to 1,500 litres when all rear seats are folded flat. It features an opening rear windscreen and a powered tailgate, which is useful when your hands are full. There is a huge choice of engines ranging from the base 316i petrol through to turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol and diesel options. There are a range of specifications, too, including SE, Sport, M Sport, Modern and Luxury, with all models offering the top-notch build quality you'd expect from a BMW. The estate version is as fun to drive as its predecessor, even though the luggage area is almost 10 per cent larger.
- Great to drive
- Upmarket image
- Low running costs
- High list prices
- Expensive options
- Firm suspension on M Sport models
The BMW 3 Series saloon really is the best of its kind. Many rivals have tried, but none – including the new Mercedes C-Class – have managed to replicate the BMW's blend of driving fun and low running costs.
There's a big enough boot for all that family (or work) gear, plus space in the back for two full-sized adults. Up front, the well laid-out dashboard, chunky steering wheel and clear dials make the 3 Series a comfortable place to spend time.
Company-car drivers will like the low-tax diesel engines, while private buyers will appreciate the excellent fuel economy and generous standard equipment. The mid-range SE spec includes most of the equipment many buyers will want, but the top-spec M Sport models add sporty looks to match the fun driving experience.
Overall, very few cars can match the BMW 3 Series for fuel economy, CO2 emissions, equipment and performance. In fact, some superminis fall short of this saloon car's rock-bottom running costs.