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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For The 3 Series convertible drives superbly and there’s hardly any body shake

Against The extra body stiffening adds a considerable amount of weight, restricting the performance

Verdict It's good to drive, desirable, roomy, comfortable and loses value slowly

Go for… 320Ci SE

Avoid… 318 Ci SE

BMW 3 Series Convertible
  • 1. Tracking on Sport models is sensitive and easily knocks out of true
  • 2. Go for a model with a six-cylinder petrol engine, a 320i, 325i or 330i
  • 3. The driving position is spot-on and the positioning of the controls is A1, too
  • 4. The rear seats are strictly for two, rather than three people
  • 5. The boot space is reduced once you've dropped the electrically operated roof
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BMW 3 Series Convertible full review with expert trade views

Totally classy, whichever model you choose and no matter how old it is. The cabin and dash are just like those in any 3 Series - well-made and efficient, if sombre. The driving position is spot-on and the positioning of the controls is A1, too, although the stereo switches are fiddly.

The cabin is spacious, but strictly for four (not five) and the boot space is reduced once you've dropped the electrically operated roof.

Driving with the roof down is a serene experience, although rear seat passengers are a little exposed to the wind at speed. Put the hood up, and it's so quiet you could almost kid yourself you were in a 3 Series coupe, the Convertible's closest tin-topped relation.

Step into one straight from a coupe, though, and you'll notice that the extra bracing fitted to limit the body shake also adds enough weight to obviously limit the car's performance. Press on, and you will also be able to feel the body flexing through the steering. It's only slight, admittedly, but it's there, and that might put off some people.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Image strong but values no longer bullet proof. Late 320d is most desirable

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

If you can, go for a model with a six-cylinder petrol engine, a 320i, 325i or 330i.

Which you buy will depend on your wallet, but we prefer the 320i because it has enough power to make for an enjoyable drive, is affordable and there are plenty for sale.

Other petrol engines include the high-performance M3 and the four-cylinder 318i; the first is a great car, if costly, the second not cheap enough to make it a value buy.

There are also 320 and 330 diesels, which can return 45mpg. Manual or auto gearboxes are available throughout.

Choose between SE and M Sport trim. All have alloy wheels, climate control, powered driver's seat adjusters, electric windows and a CD player. M Sport lowers and hardens the suspension, but we prefer the softer ride of the SE. Buy from main dealers for best choice and aftercare.

Trade view

James Ruppert

318Ci Sport easy to retail, or pre-03 face-lift 325Ci Sport

James Ruppert
Used car guru

It'll cost a fair whack more to buy and run than a 3 Series saloon, but it makes a lot more sense when you compare it to other posh-brand drop tops.

Prices are high and demand higher, so act quickly once you've found what you want - and don't think that you'll score a bargain by buying in the depths of winter, because prices dip little with the seasons. Its popularity, though, means that you'll see a good price come resale time.

Main dealer servicing is expensive, although prices drop for cars past their fourth birthday, and insurance is costly, too: most models fall in at least group 15. The M3, which sits in group 20, will be the most expensive, while the 318 is cheapest because it falls in group 13.

The 320 diesel promises up to 45mpg and the 318i 36mpg, but the others will rarely touch 30mpg, while the M3 dips below 15mpg in town.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Image strong but values no longer bullet proof. Late 320d is most desirable

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The biggest risk you face is buying a car that has been previously stolen or crashed.

A data check with a proper company is a must, and do it yourself rather than take a dealer's word – that way you are compensated if the info you get is duff.

That aside, watch out for personal imports with less kit than UK cars – these will be hard to resell later for a good price.

A full service history with a main dealer or recognised specialist is essential for a good, fuss-free buy. And, while big mileages also hammer down future values, they can be a useful tool when you're negotiating a lower purchase price.

3 Series are durable and cover big mileages without needing much work. They've rated well in successive JD Power customer surveys and also on the What Car? Reliability Index.

Tracking on Sport models is sensitive and easily knocks out of true, ruining handling and wearing tyres fast. SO, be sure to give any Sport model a thorough test drive.

Trade view

James Ruppert

318Ci Sport easy to retail, or pre-03 face-lift 325Ci Sport

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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