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 audible 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.
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
Few manufacturers are making better cabins than BMW at the moment, and the 3 Series is right up there with the best in class. The materials are sumptuous, the fit and finish are flawless, and most of the switches (stereo volume controls aside) work with a solid, positive action. 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 room for the driver and plenty of adjustment on 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 system is the epitome of clarity; you click through the infotainment menus with a rotary controller, and you view them on a colour screen.
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, too, is a decent size, capable of taking 480 litres, but split-folding rear seats to let you extend the space cost you extra. The saloon bodystyle limits the car’s versatility, too.
Even the entry-level car gets climate control, alloys and Bluetooth. Step up to SE – the best blend of kit and cost – and you add dual-zone climate, rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers. With Sport, you get sports seats and a sports steering wheel. Modern trim has part-leather upholstery, while Luxury and M Sport models get full leather and larger alloys. M Sport also adds a unique bodykit and sports suspension. We’d prefer it if all cars had the adaptive dampers as standard.