BMW 3 Series review

Category: Executive car

Section: Costs & verdict

Available fuel types:hybrid, diesel, petrol
Available colours:
BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 infotainment RHD
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  • BMW 3 Series 2020 awards
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 rear tracking RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 dashboard RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 rear seats RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 infotainment RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 front seats RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 wide front tracking shot RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 static front right studio RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 left studio RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 rear left studio RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 boot open RHD
  • BMW 3 Series 2020 awards
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 rear tracking RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 dashboard RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 rear seats RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 infotainment RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 front seats RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 wide front tracking shot RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 static front right studio RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 left studio RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 rear left studio RHD
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 boot open RHD
RRP £31,110What Car? Target Price from£27,786

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 or Jaguar XE.

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 5hr 42min to charge from empty if you plug into a regular domestic three-pin socket, which falls to 3hr 24min if you plug in to a proper electric car charging point using the optional type 2 lead.

The 318d will feature on many company car lists, as will the 320d, and neither incurs the 4% diesel surcharge because they're RDE2 compliant. In fact, with both occupying the same BIK tax bracket, upgrading to a 320d looks all the more tempting. The 320d is particularly efficient because it has mild hybrid assistance. That means it's also very economical in real-world driving, as it proved to be in our True MPG tests

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.

BMW 3 Series Saloon 2019 infotainment RHD

Reliability

In the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW as a brand finished in the bottom third of the table, above Jaguar and Mercedes but below Audi and many non-premium brands, such as Skoda. The latest 3 Series was too new to be included.

BMW provides a three-year warranty with no mileage cap – relatively impressive for the class, because many rivals have a mileage limit. You can also extend the 3 Series’ warranty for an extra cost if you intend to keep the car for longer. The 330e plug-in hybrid has cover for the battery extended to six years (capped at 60,000 miles between years three and six).

Safety and security

The 3 Series landed a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP and achieved highly impressive scores in each specific area that was tested. The organisation has made its tests more stringent recently and the A4 and C-Class were tested too long ago to compare directly against the 3 Series, but it outscored the Volvo S60.

All versions of the 3 Series come with a healthy roster of active safety systems that are designed to prevent you from having a bump, along with passive ones to protect you if you do. The list includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) that looks out for pedestrians as well as cars, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition.

The optional Driving Assistant Professional pack further reduces your chances of an incident with the addition of lane-keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring and cross-traffic alert; the latter warns if you’re about to pull out of a side junction into the path of an oncoming car.

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Overview

The BMW 3 Series leads the charge in the premium executive class. Its primary appeal is in the way it drives, but its engines, standard equipment list and infotainment system are first rate as well. The firm ride on M Sport models is just about the only thing we can grumble about in this near-flawless executive car.

  • Brilliant fun to drive
  • Class-leading infotainment system
  • Great range of engines
  • Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
  • Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
  • Adjustable lumbar support costs extra

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