In-depth Reviews

BMW 3 Series coupe (2006-2013)

"The BMW 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."

Carbuyer Rating

3.2 out of 5

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Owners Rating

4.3 out of 5

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Pros

  • Four-seat practicality
  • Strong and economical diesels
  • Great to drive

Cons

  • Limited rear headroom
  • Expensive options list
  • Not as comfortable as rivals

The 3 Series coupe has been a bit of star sports car, but that didn’t stop BMW taking the increased competition from the Audi A5 seriously. That’s why it updated the coupe in 2010, making subtle changes and improvements to the quality of the interior and the car’s handling to retain its pole position in the marketplace. Since then an all-new 3 Series saloon was launched in 2012, but BMW still takes the coupe, based on the older 3 Series, seriously. So much so, in fact, that when looking at the 3 Series coupe it’s definitely wise to be aware that in late 2013, it’s due to be replaced by the sportier, more equipment-loaded BMW 4 Series. Still interested? Okay, well, it’s impressive that the Coupe is nearly as spacious as the old 3 Series saloon it’s based on, but this version is a strict four-seater, so can’t match the four door’s versatility and practicality. The 3 Series coupe comes in two main specifications – entry-level SE and top-of-the-range M Sport. You also get to choose from a wide range of engines, with the line-up kicking off with the powerful and economical 320d and being topped by the M3, which is a high-performance icon.

This generation of BMW 3-series coupe has now been replaced by a new model, which we've reviewed in full.

MPG, running costs & CO2

320d is more efficient than some superminis

BMW may get some flack for its running costs, but the 3 Series Coupe certainly isn’t one of their problem models. In fact, it goes some way to proving that a sports car doesn’t have to be expensive to run. The diesel models are particularly good on fuel, with the likes of the 320d returning 60.1mpg in fuel economy and emitting 125g/km of CO2, yet still having strong acceleration that propels it from 0-62mpg in 7.5 seconds. Even the automatic gearbox version still manages to return 53.3mpg and emits 140g/km. Models with 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines come with stop-start as standard, further improving the economy.

Engines, drive & performance

The driving position is superb

The 3 Series coupe is very entertaining to drive, offering lots of feedback to the driver, with extremely sharp steering. The Coupe's main rivals, the Mercedes E-Class Coupe and Audi A5, may be newer to the marketplace, but neither is quite as much as fun. The low, supportive seats give the driver a superb driving position, with lots of adjustment in the steering wheel, an easy-to-reach gearlever and well-placed pedals. The ride is pretty firm, but that’s the price of the excellent drive, with BMW’s traction control system proving effective – but, most importantly, it can be switched off to give the driver full control. While the petrol engines have good acceleration, especially the turbocharged six-cylinder 3.0-litre 335i, the diesel engines actually offer the best performance, with the 335d going from 0-60mph in only 5.9 seconds.

Interior & comfort

The ride is firm, but it’s far from unbearable

It’s easy to criticise the 3 Series coupe for its harsh ride that transmits all manner of bumps and jolts on the road into the interior of the car – and many do – but it’s far from unbearable. Other than shaking the passengers about a bit, every other aspect of the coupe is comfortable. The front of the car offers loads of leg and headroom, along with supportive seats and a really terrific driving position. Plus, the back passengers also get a nice place to sit too, with a snug back seat that can carry two adults in relative comfort – provided they don’t mind getting to know each other a little better.

Practicality & boot space

Small boot and cramped rear seats

Surprisingly for a two-door coupe, the 3 Series Coupe has nearly as much space in its interior as the saloon model on which it’s based. Sadly, that is undermined somewhat by an average-sized boot that has an unusually high loading lip that makes loading and unloading bulky objects something of a tricky affair. However, for a sporty two-door car, the 3 Series coupe is reasonably practical, with a real sense of space inside and enough luggage room for a family of four. The primary sacrifice to its body style is the divider between the two rear seats, which – along with the total lack of a third seatbelt – means there’s no chance of squeezing a third passenger in the back. Also, the sloping roof will result in a pain in the neck for anybody riding in the back who’s six foot or over.

Reliability & safety

Electrical niggles, but no major problems

You’d be forgiven for anticipating a car manufacturer of BMW’s class and pedigree to rank higher than 15th place in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but it remains the lowest ranking of the premium carmakers. This is mainly down to poor practicality and high running costs, but that didn’t stop it from having cars ranking high in the top 100. The 3 Series coupe itself came in at a so-so 66th place, which is actually pretty amazing considering its age, and it still manages to out-do many of its newer rivals for drive and reliability. BMW's products are famously well engineered, no matter what customer polls say, and the 3 Series is no exception. Electrical niggles aren’t out of the ordinary, however - particularly with the hi-tech iDrive cabin control system - but there haven’t been any major issues, even with the iDrive.

Price, value for money & options

Options look tempting, but expensive

This is a tester of priorities. The 3 Series coupe’s prices start high, and can get even higher if you get swept away by the expensive and tempting list of optional extras. But that is balanced out somewhat by some truly excellent resale values in the used car market, where you can expect to see a healthy return on your investment when it does comes to sell the car second hand. The 2010 update decked out the coupe with leather upholstery as standard across the range, but common essentials like sat-nav prove to be particularly costly options on all models. The M Sport version remains as popular as ever, however, adding an aggressive styling kit to the exterior of the car. It’s also worth looking out for the free equipment upgrade promotions that BMW frequently run, as they can save you real money.

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