Costs & verdict
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Broadly speaking, the 3 Series is priced between the slightly cheaper equivalent Audi A4 and the slightly more expensive Mercedes C-Class. Resale values are predicted to be strong by class standards, so, if you're buying privately, after three years you can expect a 3 Series to have retained a big chunk more of its value than a C-Class and a reasonable slice more compared with an A4.
The cheapest version for company car drivers (and our favourite version) is the 330e plug-in hybrid; its low CO2 emissions keep it in the lower benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bands. To get the best economy out of the 330e you need to keep the battery charged – otherwise you’re basically running on its 2.0-litre petrol engine alone. The battery takes 6 hours to charge from empty if you plug into a regular domestic three-pin socket, which falling to an official 3hrs 36min if you plug into a proper electric car charging point using the optional type 2 lead.
Equipment, options and extras
Mid-range Sport trim is our favourite. As well as coming with sportier bumpers and 18in alloy wheels, it also brings the sumptuousness of leather seats that are heated in the front. These are added to the standard 3 Series' equipment, which includes three-zone climate control (with a separate controller for rear passengers), cruise control, power-folding door mirrors and automatic lights and wipers. Factor in the aforementioned infotainment features and visibility aids and you have a very well equipped car.
However, people clearly appreciate sporty looks: most BMW buyers opt for the even more aggressive-looking M Sport trim. We wouldn’t necessarily endorse this, because it doesn’t give you a whole lot more than added style for your money, and if this is your thing, we'd recommend a drive before you buy. To reiterate what we said earlier, M Sport models have rather a firm ride, so you might want to consider replacing the default M Sport suspension with the optional adaptive M suspension. It comes as part of a pricey M Sport Plus Package – although it’s standard on the range-topping M340i and M340d.