BMW 3 Series Saloon full 9 point review
We prefer the diesel engines to the petrols. The 320d is quick and effortlessly flexible, and even the lower-powered 320d Efficient Dynamics offers vibrant performance. The turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol 320i is brisk and the 328i is rapid, but they sometimes feel rather stressed. On the other hand, the 3.0-litre 335i is sweet revving and blisteringly fast. If performance really is your thing, though, the M3 is outstanding; it’ll be faster than plenty of supercars in the real world.
Ride & Handling
Stick with the standard suspension and body movements aren’t as tightly controlled as they might be, but the 3 Series is still good to drive, thanks to its precise steering. Specify the optional adaptive M Sport suspension, however, and the 3 Series becomes the sweetest-driving car in the class; the handling is agile and responsive, yet the ride is comfortable. Four-wheel-drive xDrive models offer more traction and even greater confidence, while the M3 is superb when driven hard.
Most of the engines rev smoothly, but the four-cylinder diesels are too noisy at low revs. The four-cylinder petrol engines don’t sound particularly appealing, either. You’re pretty well isolated from road and suspension noise, but there’s more wind noise than you get in other compact executive cars. There’s lots of tyre noise in the M3 at most speeds, but the boomy, slightly artificial-sounding exhaust note dies down when cruising.
Buying & Owning
Every engine returns excellent economy, but the 320d Efficient Dynamics is particularly impressive; this also has low CO2 emissions, which help make it extremely attractive to business users. Even the 335i and M3 will cost less to run than rivals, while all models have strong resale values that keep whole-life costs down. The four-wheel-drive system on xDrive models is admirably light, meaning fuel economy and CO2 emissions remain competitive.
Quality & Reliability
The 3 Series is right up there with the best in the class for cabin quality. The materials are sumptuous, fit and finish are flawless, and most of the switches (stereo volume controls aside) work with a solid, positive action. We’d like a bit more of a bespoke feel to the M3, given its price premium, but even then the interior still feels plush. BMW’s reliability record is reasonable rather than outstanding, but there shouldn’t be many unforeseen problems with this car.
Safety & Security
Standard safety equipment includes six airbags and Dynamic Stability Control, which incorporates ABS, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control and Dynamic Traction Control. All this helped the car achieve a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP. Among the options is the Active Security Package (with lane change and lane departure-warning systems), while an alarm is also standard on every model.
Behind The Wheel
There’s lots of space, plus plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel and seat, although the manual seat adjusters are annoyingly imprecise and the pedals are offset. The controls on the centre console are nicely angled towards the driver, with many functions controlled by the standard iDrive system. This infotainment system is the best in the business, with logical (if inevitably numerous) menus, clear graphics and intuitive controls.
Space & Practicality
There’s plenty of room in the front, and enough head- and legroom in the back to easily fit a couple of six-footers in comfort. The boot is also a decent size – it can take 480 litres of luggage – although the narrow boot opening means you’ll struggle to fit in bulkier items, and you have to pay extra for split-folding rear seats that let you extend the space.
Entry-level cars get climate and cruise controls, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a digital radio. Step up to SE – the best blend of kit and cost – and you also get dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers. Sport brings sports seats and sporty interior touches, while Luxury adds leather upholstery and larger wheels. M Sport has a bodykit and sports suspension, while the M3 takes this further with bespoke adaptive suspension, even sportier seats and sat-nav.