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-Benz C-Class. Resale values are predicted to be quite strong by class standards, so if you're buying privately, you can expect your 3 Series to have retained a greater chunk of its value than most competitors after three years.
The cheapest version for company car drivers is the 330e hybrid, which emits just 39g/km of CO2 to keep it in the lower tax bands. The 318d will feature on many company car lists, as will the 320d, but both incur a 4% diesel surcharge. The 320d is very economical in real-world driving, averaging 47.2 mpg in our True MPG tests. To get the best economy out of the 330e’s you need to keep the battery charged, because otherwise you’re basically running on a 2.0-litre petrol engine.
Equipment, options and extras
Mid-range Sport trim is our favourite trim. As well as coming with sportier bumpers and 18in alloy wheels, it also brings those all-important leather seats that are heated in the front. These are added to the usual 3 Series equipment, which includes three-zone climate control (with a separate controller for rear passengers), cruise control, heated front seats, power-folding door mirrors and automatic lights and wipers. Add the aforementioned infotainment features and visibility aids and you have a 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 endorse this, because it doesn’t give you a whole lot more than added style for your money, but if this is your thing, we'd recommend driving before you buy. To reiterate what we said earlier, its ride is firm, so it's wise to think about replacing the default M Sport suspension for the optional adaptive M suspension, even though that's part of the pricey M Sport Plus Package.
We can’t give you any detail on how reliable the current 3 Series is likely to be, because it’s simply too new, but we can give you a heads-up on BMW’s overall reliability performance. In the 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW finished pretty much mid-table, above Jaguar, Mercedes and Audi but below many non-premium brands like Skoda.
As a back-up, BMW provides a three-year warranty with no mileage cap that you can extend for an extra cost if you intend to keep the car longer.
Safety and security
Because it currently has no Euro NCAP rating, the 3 Series can't be awarded our top five-star mark score for safety, but all versions come with a good baseline of active safety systems that are designed to prevent you having a bump and passive ones to protect you if you do.
The list includes automatic emergency braking that looks out for pedestrians as well as cars, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and a bunch of airbags. We’d recommend adding the optional Driving Assistant Plus pack, though, because this further reduces your chances of an incident with the addition of lane-keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, which warns if you’re about to pull out of a side junction into the path of an oncoming car.
As part of this package, you also get adaptive cruise control with steering assistance and a stop-start function to take the stress out of traffic jams.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here