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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The BMW 3 Series Convertible is great to drive, easy to live with and refined with the roof down.

Against It's expensive to buy and run, the ride is firm ride, while limited rear legroom and boot space will detract from the car's appeal.

Verdict The best of both worlds; a coupe that's also a convertible – but it comes at a price.

Go for… 320d SE

Avoid… 335i M Sport

BMW 3 Series Convertible
  • 1. The handling is responsive with good feedback through the steering wheel, and there's plenty grip in corners. The ride is slightly firm, but shouldn't irritate.
  • 2. Legroom for the two rear seats is modest at best, and with the roof folded-down there's room only for a medium suitcase or a couple of holdalls.
  • 3. Petrol-powered 3 Series convertibles are cheaper on the used market, but won't hold their value as well as the diesel models.
  • 4. Insurance costs are higher than rivals, with cars ranging from group 30 through to 42.
  • 5. Check the roof works correctly, with no squeaks, groans or jerky movements when it's raised or lowered.
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BMW 3 Series Convertible full review with expert trade views

The BMW 3 Series convertible has a great party trick – it turns into a coupe at the flick of a switch. The folding metal roof means that you can have the wind in your hair when the weather's fair, but stay snug and warm when it's blowing a gale.

The handling is responsive with good feedback through the steering wheel, and there's plenty grip in corners. The ride is slightly firm, but shouldn't irritate. With the roof in place you're closeted from the elements, and there's little to disturb – but even with the roof down you're effectively shielded from wind and noise.

If there is a down side, then it's passenger and luggage space. Legroom for the two rear seats is modest at best, and with the roof folded-down there's room only for a medium suitcase or a couple of holdalls.

The entire range was face-lifted in early 2010, with revised headlights, grille, front and rear bumper, mirroring the 3 Series Coupe.

Trade view

The more powerful petrol models might tempt you with their lower prices, but they will cost a lot more to run.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

Petrol-powered 3 Series convertibles are cheaper on the used market, but won't hold their value as well as the diesel models. However, if the price is right they could be a great value buy.

The 170bhp 320i is decent enough, but the 215bhp 325i and 330i with 268bhp are refined and potent. The 306bhp twin-turbo 335i is rare and extremely fast.

The 174bhp 320d is the smartest choice, and will put a smile on your face while also keeping fuel bills in check. The 194bhp 325d is quicker, but noticeably less efficient. The 242bhp 330d is the better six-cylinder diesel.

All 3 Series drop-tops come with a healthy kit list as standard. The entry-level SE version gets alloys, climate control, electric seat adjustment, auto lights and wipers, parking sensors and MP3 player compatibility. M Sport adds badged items such as wheels, steering wheel, gearlever, as well as a different bodykit and cabin trim.

Trade view

A great blend of coupe and drop-top, that's cosy in the winter and fun when the sun shines.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The 320i manages an official average of 42.2mpg, while the 325i does 35.8mpg, the 330i 34.9mpg and the 335i 28.5mpg. The diesels come in at an average of 53.3mpg for the 320d, 46.3mpg for the 325d and 40.9mpg for the 330d.

However, owners have struggled to achieve these official figures with real-world driving.

Insurance costs are higher than rivals, with cars ranging from group 30 through to 42. Servicing costs are as you'd expect for this type of car - a bit pricey - but resale values should be strong as long as you avoid the high-powered models and don't waste money on overpriced cars loaded with options.

Trade view

The more powerful petrol models might tempt you with their lower prices, but they will cost a lot more to run.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The roof is mechanical poetry in motion, but how reliable it will prove to be in the long term is a big question. Check the roof works correctly, with no squeaks, groans or jerky movements when it's raised or lowered. Also check for signs of water leaks when the roof is in place, or water damage caused by owners accidentally leaving the roof down in the rain.

The 320i engine can suffer from crankshaft issues, and will require dealer attention, while the 320d's engine can be a little lumpy at idle. Dealers can reprogramme the ECU, but this doesn't always cure the problem.

Other issues centre on cabin squeaks and rattles – especially around the driver side rear seat, and a glitch with the automatic gearbox, which can be jerky at low speed when in manual mode. The Bluetooth phone integration is notoriously tricky to set up, so contact a dealer for advice.

Trade view

A great blend of coupe and drop-top, that's cosy in the winter and fun when the sun shines.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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