What must it be like to always have the weight of expectation bearing down on you? If you want to know, ask an engineer who has worked on the BMW 3 Series. This a car that always has hefty anticipation heaped upon its roof rack, being the brand’s longest-running and most popular model. Indeed, it accounts for nearly a third of BMW's annual sales.
For that reason, BMW's reluctance to stray too far from its successful formula is entirely understandable. Since 1975, the theme of a well-packaged, sporty, rear-wheel-drive saloon remains front and centre of the 3 Series' ethos, and that’s still intact for this seventh-generation model.
However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be added to. These days, you also get the option of four-wheel-drive 'xDrive' versions, along with a broad range of petrol and diesel and hybrid engines and a choice of three trim levels, to suit most tastes and budgets. That keeps it broadly in line with the rest of BMW's range, from the 1 Series family hatchback to the larger 5 Series luxury saloon.
But the big questions hanging over the 3 Series are: is it as good, or even better than, its two chief executive adversaries, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4; and has it reclaimed its ‘sportiest saloon’ crown from the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE?
We'll answer those questions of over the next few pages. And if you decide you want to buy a 3 Series, or indeed any other new car, find out how much money we could save you on the list price by checking out our New Car Buying section.