Review

BMW 3 Series saloon

Price  £24,975 - £40,330

BMW 3 Series saloon

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Great to drive
  • Upmarket image
  • Low running costs
Cons
  • High list prices
  • Expensive options
  • Firm suspension on M Sport models

At a glance

The greenest
320d ED Plus 4dr £30,485
The cheapest
318i SE 4dr £24,975
The fastest
335d xDrive M Sport 4dr £40,330
Top of the range
335d xDrive M Sport 4dr £40,330

"The BMW 3 Series is one of the best compact executive cars money can buy, thanks to its mix of driving fun and low running costs."

The BMW 3 Series is a compact executive saloon car that's both fantastic to drive and surprisingly cheap to run. It has a wide range of rivals, with the most obvious ones being the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. However, the 3 Series also competes with the Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50 and impressive Jaguar XE – and it's a close-run thing deciding whether the Jaguar or the BMW is better.

The 3 Series has a sporty nature that's obvious from the outset; its sleek design, large bumpers and stylish alloy wheel designs are teamed with an upmarket interior. The dashboard controls are easy to use and there's enough equipment on board to please anyone, including standard satellite navigation across the range.

There are loads of versions to choose from – perhaps too many – but that at least means there should be a 3 Series to suit every taste. The conventional saloon model can trace its roots back more than 40 years and it's consistently been a top seller. But if you need more space, there's the BMW 3 Series Touring estate or the BMW 3 Series GT hatchback. The coupe and convertible models now bear the BMW 4 Series badge – even though they share most of their components with the 3 Series.

Sharp handling and strong performance lie at the heart of the BMW's appeal. A rear-wheel-drive layout, precise steering and well weighted controls make it a joy to drive on twisting back roads, while the four and six-cylinder diesel engines are powerful yet surprisingly economical. From 2016, there’ll also be the option of a plug-in hybrid model, the 330e. This will be able to return up to 130mpg and its low CO2 emissions of just 49g/km mean it’ll escape both road tax and the London Congestion Charge.

Yet even the regular 3 Series promises low fuel and tax bills. Thanks to the BMW EfficientDynamics technology, it emits surprisingly little CO2, while fuel economy is excellent, particularly from the diesel engines.

If we had to choose one model, it'd be the BMW 320d, which offers a decent blend of performance and economy. But if out-and-out speed is more important, then the BMW 340i is definitely a contender.

There are four trim levels to choose from: SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport, with the option to add EfficientDynamics technology to each. All are reasonably well equipped, with alloy wheels, climate control, DAB digital radio, satellite navigation and a Bluetooth phone connection fitted as standard.

If the 3 Series has a weakness, it's poor interior space. Even though this latest version is an improvement on its predecessors, with more legroom for rear-seat passengers and a 480-litre boot, it can't match mainstream rivals such as the Skoda Superb or Ford Mondeo. The 3 Series Touring estate has a slightly bigger boot, while the 3 Series GT hatchback rivals the larger 5 Series for interior space – but both cost thousands of pounds more than the saloon.

Find out what we think is the best compact executive car by watching our video below.

 

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.8 / 5

The BMW 3 Series boasts an impressive range of economical petrol and diesel engines

Engines, drive & performance

5 / 5

All BMW 3 Series models are fun to drive, from the basic diesel to the range-topping petrol

Interior & comfort

4.3 / 5

The BMW 3 Series boasts a decent amount of equipment and sat nav is standard on all models

Practicality & boot space

3.9 / 5

The boot in the BMW 3 Series is the same size as what you get the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 and bigger than the Jaguar XE’s

Reliability & safety

4.2 / 5

The BMW 3 Series is safe, reliable and satisfying to own, with tried-and-tested engines from the rest of the range

What the others say

4.8 / 5
based on 3 reviews
5 / 5
"What's immediately clear is that BMW hasn’t taken any risks with the styling. Viewed in profile, the handsome newcomer shares much with its successful predecessor. The nose drops lower, but the upright windscreen and trademark Hoffmeister kink in the C-pillars are familiar design touches."
4.5 / 5
"There are four different handling modes - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, each altering ride, steering and throttle responses. In Eco Pro mode even such things as the level of air con, heated seats and mirrors are reduced to help you make that next petrol station. The six-speed manual comes as standard, but BMW's eight-speed auto is also now available across the range (for £1500)."
5 / 5
"BMW is to make a big deal of its new trim 'lines' at launch: Sport, Modern and Luxury. These sit above ES and SE and let buyers choose a 3 Series with the right colour 'mood'. Fine - but around two in three UK 3 Series are M Sport spec."
What owners say 
4.2293885601578
4.2 /5 based on 507 reviews
65%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
17 Jul 2015
Own this car? Leave your review.