What's the used BMW 3 Series hatchback like?
For some people, three is not a magic number. Cars come in so many different shapes and sizes now, the humble saloon and estate just don’t seem to cut it anymore. But, instead of potential 3 Series customers having to resort to a full-blown SUV, there is this, the 3 GT.
What is a 3 GT? Well, it’s an extension of the 3 Series range that is 20cm longer and 8cm taller than a 3 Series Touring. This equates to more rear passenger legroom, a slightly bigger boot (even with the sloping roofline) and a marginally elevated driving position.
However, just being bigger inside would not be enough to justify the 3 GT. So, while it might be a bit more accommodating inside, it is the way it uses that extra space that is more important. For starters, the rear seats not only fold flat with the flick of a lever in the boot, they also recline for rear passenger comfort. Once in the back, you’ll notice it’s much more roomy than a normal 3 Series, which is useful if you have older children or you regularly have to transport adults around.
The downside of the 3 GT is that it isn’t as good to drive as the regular 3 Series. Even if the vehicle is fitted with optional adaptive dampers - which allow you to vary the stiffness of the shock absorbers - the 3 GT rolls more in corners due to its higher centre of gravity, and it isn’t as happy at dealing with quick changes of direction.
The high-speed ride with adaptive dampers is impressive if you put the car in comfort mode but, there’s a considerable amount of road noise over course surfaces in whichever mode you choose. Wind noise can also be a little annoying because it can be heard whistling past the door mirrors at motorway speeds. When trundling around town, speed bumps and potholes can start to thump into the interior. The ride quality on standard suspension without adaptive dampers can be a bit too firm at times and M Sport suspension is even worse.
Compared with the regular 3 Series, you don’t get quite the same engine options with the 3 GT, since this is meant to be a premium product. Diesels make up the vast majority of 3 GTs on sale, with the excellent 320d covering all bases. If you need ultimate economy, the 318d is exceptionally cheap to run, or if you can afford it, the 330d and 335d are exceptional long-distance cruisers with smooth six-cylinder engines. If you don’t do that many miles, then the petrols are worth consideration. Even the base 320i can be had with either rear or all-wheel drive, while the 335i and 340i are seriously rapid.
What used BMW 3 Series hatchback will I get for my budget?
Prices for an early 2013 3 GT with 100,000 miles or more start at £10,000. If you spend over £13,500, you’ll find plenty of petrol or diesel 3 GTs with 40,000 miles or less on the clock.
Four-wheel drive xDrive versions can be found for £13,000 for a 320i petrol with average mileage.
If you want something with six-cylinders, then prices start at £17,000 for a 2013 330d with 70,000 miles.
If you fancy something a bit younger, a year old 318d SE with less than 10,000 miles could be yours for £21,500
How much does it cost to run a BMW 3 Series hatchback?
Running costs for the base diesel are pleasingly good value. A combined average of 62.8mpg and £30 road tax are really good for this type of car; as is the 320d with its 57.6mpg figure and £115 tax (the 2016 update improved this to 60.1mpg and £115). The 325d manages 54.3mpg and £135 tax, which is the same as the 330d.
The four-wheel-drive xDrive system is available on the 320d and 330d, and comes as standard on the 335d. You can also find it on the 320i petrol. Models equipped with it either get similar or a few miles per gallon fewer compared with models without. It’s worth finding one with it if you live in rural areas where it is guaranteed to snow in cold weather.
Petrols aren’t quite as efficient as the diesels are, but the majority have smaller, four-cylinder engines and use turbocharging to improve performance. The range kicks off with the 320i. It has an average fuel consumption figure of 45.6mpg and £150 tax without xDrive, and 40.4mpg and £190 tax with it. If you want a bit more power, the 328i gets 42.2mpg and £190 tax. After the facelift in 2016, the 330i became available, which manages to better even the base petrol on fuel consumption, with 47.1mpg and £135 tax.
Top of the range petrols are the six-cylinder 335i and 340i, and these are rather thirsty. The earlier 335i gets 34.9mpg and costs a whopping £280 tax, while the updated 340i is a little cheaper to run at 40.4mpg and £190 tax.
If you are looking to purchase a 3 GT that was registered after 1 April 2017, then you will be charged under the new flat-rate fee of £140.
You can get a five-year fixed-price servicing package on new BMW car, so check whether the car you are looking at still has some coverage. Even if it doesn’t have any services left, BMW Servicing isn’t the priciest around.
Which used BMW 3 Series hatchback should I buy?
The standard SE version gets 18in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, a USB socket, rear parking sensors and a 6.5in colour screen with iDrive controller. In the summer of 2016, the specification was upgraded to include LED headlights and tail lights, sat nav and DAB radio. SE offers the best value for money and that’s why it’s our recommended spec.
Sport adds, surprisingly, sports front seats, ambient lighting, and some other chrome and gloss black detailing. Modern is more of a styling package; Luxury adds additional chrome to the outside bodywork along with wood and leather inside. Finally, M Sport gets unique 18in ‘M Star’ alloy wheels, various M Sport interior highlights and M Sport suspension.
If you don’t do many miles or you only drive in town, then the 320i is more than up to the job of propelling the 3 GT around. But, for the most part, the 320d is the best all round engine. It’s smooth and efficient, and rather quick too. If you want ultimate refinement, then the six-cylinder 330d is worth looking at, but you will have to pay a hefty premium for it, which is difficult to justify.
Our favourite BMW 3 Series GT: 2.0d SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used BMW 3 Series hatchback?
The Audi A5 Sportback is a similar to the 3 GT in that it comes with a practical hatchback boot, yet it has coupé inspired styling with a low roofline and sleek lines. It won’t have the same amount of space inside as the 3 GT, but it will corner better with less body roll.
If you want something with a bit more flair, then the bold styling of the Citroen DS5 could appeal. It has the additional height as per the 3 GT, plus, road and wind noise is well contained at speed. Its unforgiving, rock-hard ride doesn’t do it any favours though.
Then, there is the more conventional alternative, the 3 Series Touring. The Touring is better to drive than the 3 GT, it’s even more efficient and quieter at speed. It’s not as accommodating for those in the back, however.