BMW 3 Series front quarter driving

BMW 3 Series review

Cost & verdict
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In this review

Cost & verdict

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

BMW 3 Series saloon running costs

Broadly speaking, the 3 Series is priced between the slightly cheaper equivalent A4 and the mildly more expensive C-Class. At the time of writing, no discounts were available on the 3 Series, but expect that to change quickly once BMW unleashes cars at full capacity towards its dealers. At present, resale values are predicted to be strong, so expect it to have retained a greater chunk of its value than its competitors in three years’ time.

If you’re a company car driver, you’ll be pleased by the 320d automatic’s 112g/km of CO2 emissions, which puts it in a lower benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bracket than its rivals. Our experience is that the 320d is also very economical in the real world, averaging just under 50mpg with relative ease.

BMW 3 Series saloon equipment

We’ve already listed elsewhere the numerous infotainment features and visibility aids, such as standard LED headlights and parking sensors, but the 3 Series is well equipped in other areas as well.

SE is the entry-level trim and comes with pretty much all that you might expect and need, including 17in alloy wheels, tri-zone climate control (including a separate controller for the rear passengers), cruise control, heated front seats, power-folding door mirrors and automatic lights and wipers. This makes it our choice.

Sport trim is worth looking at if you prefer a racier look, because it comes with sportier bumpers and larger 18in alloy wheels, or if you want leather seats, which is the really significant feature upgrade.

Clearly people do like a sporty look, because most BMW buyers opt for the even more aggressive M Sport models. We wouldn’t necessarily endorse this, because you’re not getting a whole lot more than the added style for your money, but if this is your thing, please drive before you buy. To reiterate what we said earlier, the ride is firm, so think about deselecting the default M Sport suspension or adding optional adaptive M Sport suspension, which should help ameliorate this.

BMW 3 Series iDrive controller

BMW 3 Series saloon reliability

We can’t give you any details on how reliable the current 3 Series is, because it’s too new, but we can give you a heads-up on BMW’s overall reliability performance. The answer, according to our latest Reliability Survey, is okay but not outstanding: it came 16th out of 31 manufacturers. To be fair, that’s above Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, but then below many of what are perceived to be less premium brands.

As a back-up, you get a three-year manufacturer's warranty with no mileage cap, which you can extend for an extra cost if you intend to keep the car longer.

BMW 3 Series saloon safety and security

Because it has no Euro NCAP rating yet, the 3 Series can't get our top five-star mark, but all versions come with a good baseline of active safety features that are designed to prevent you having a bump and passive ones to cushion 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 brace 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 a 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.

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Verdict

The BMW 3 Series leads the charge in the premium executive class. Its primary appeal is chassis dynamism, with handling that’s guaranteed to please enthusiastic drivers but also makes this an intuitive car to drive, which non-petrol heads alike will love. It’s also efficient in 320d specification and well equipped next to its rivals, including the best infotainment system in the class that bristles with the latest tech. It’s roomy, too, for the premium sector at least (there are bigger cars in the class, such as the Skoda Superb if space is your priority), and the only real criticism is an abrupt edge to its ride in some conditions.

  • Incisive steering and body control
  • Superb infotainment system
  • Excellent driving position
  • 320d is relatively cheap to run
  • Ride can feel jarring at times
  • Not as well finished as an Audi A4
Trims
There are 5 trims available for the 3 Series saloon. Click to see details.See all versions
OUR PICK
SE
SE is your entry-level trim and comes with pretty much all that you might expect and ne...View trim
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Sport
Sport trim is worth looking at if you prefer a racier look with sportier bumpers and la...View trim
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£34,500
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M Sport
Brings an even more aggressive look, although you’re not getting a whole lot more than...View trim
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Sport
Sport trim is worth looking at if you prefer a racier look with sportier bumpers and la...View trim
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M Sport
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