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Car trim reviews

BMW 3 Series SE

"Apart from the single 316d ES model, SE is the entry-level trim to the BMW 3 Series range."

Owners Rating
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There’s a single budget-spec model, the 316d ES, but if you want any other engine, then the 3 Series SE is the entry point to the range. It’s available with a range of turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines fitted with automatic stop/start, offering power outputs from 115bhp in the 316d to 241bhp in the 328i and 258bhp in the 330d. All models come with a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional eight-speed automatic. Although list prices seem steep compared to rivals such as the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, the latest 3 Series is all-new and feels very well made. For basic a trim, the SE model is also very generously equipped. Standard specification includes a leather steering wheel, handbrake and gearlever, dual-zone air-conditioning, Bluetooth, a 6.5-inch colour display, rear parking sensors, cruise control and 17-inch alloy wheels. BMW is famous for building sharp handling cars and the 3 Series is great fun to drive whichever model you go for. If you choose the excellent 320d model it offers a great mix of performance and fuel efficiency.

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Good points

We rate the BMW 3 Series highly; we named it our Best Diesel Car for 2015. The 320d SE EfficientDynamics - the most fuel efficient 3 Series - returns a class-leading 68.9mpg and produces emissions of 109g/km. Company car buyers will also be pleased to hear it commands a low Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) rate of only 15%. It’s great fun to drive, with fantastic handling and impressive performance for an economy model. Inside, the interior feels very well made and there is more space in the rear than in the previous car, while the boot is bigger too. The driving position is also very comfortable, feeling low and sporty but offering plenty of adjustment. All models come well-equipped with six-airbags, stability control, tyre pressure monitors and although not yet tested, should maintain a five-star Euro NCAP crash test safety rating. Finally, if you are looking for high-performance, both the 328i and 330d offer a 0-62mph time of under 6 seconds, which is quicker than some sports cars.

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Bad points

As you’d expect with such a highly developed car, the latest BMW 3 Series has few major flaws – partly the reason why it is such a common sight on UK roads. Nevertheless, it isn’t perfect. The SE model comes without split-folding seats as standard – an option that costs around £400 extra. In the rear cabin, passengers sat in the middle seat have to straddle the large transmission tunnel due to the rear-wheel drive chassis, so the 3 Series is best suited to carrying only four people on longer journeys. The styling isn’t to everyone’s tastes, while the 320d EfficientDynamics model has small 16-inch alloy wheels, which look out of place. Last but not least, if you choose several of BMW’s tempting but expensive options or packs, the price soon rockets.

What you get

  • Alloy wheels
  • Alarm
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Tyre pressure sensors
  • Front side airbags
  • Curtain airbags
  • Front fog lights
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Height adjustable driver's seat
  • Front electric windows
  • Single CD player
  • AUX stereo input
  • Cruise control
  • Stop/Start
  • Rear electric windows
  • Bluetooth

Recommended optional extras

  • Split-folding rear seats

Our choice

"The 320d SE EfficientDynamics is very impressive, offering class-leading fuel economy and respectable performance."

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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