What's the used BMW 3 Series like?
The sixth-generation version of the ever-popular BMW 3 Series is the most spacious to date, offering enough leg room and head room in the back for a couple of adults to travel in comfort. Better still, this comes in a car that is genuinely fun to drive, very well built and stylish.
These are all reasons why the 3 Series continues to thrive more than four decades after the original model was launched, but unfortunately for the used car buyer they also keep prices fairly high. That said, it does at least mean you’ll get more money back when time comes to sell.
The 3 Series is also on a par with the rival Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 for boot space, although even by saloon car standards the opening is on the narrow side. Split-folding rear seats were also only optional, so if you need this feature, make sure it’s fitted to the car you’re planning to buy.
If you want a car with a manual gearbox rather than the excellent automatic, make sure that you like the driving position, because while there’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, the pedals are noticeably offset.
On the subject of comfort, the 3 Series also has a reasonably firm ride at low speeds, and it becomes outright harsh in M Sport versions without the optional adaptive suspension.
Stick with an ES or SE model on smaller wheels and you won’t go far wrong, though, and all without sacrificing too much of the M Sport’s dynamic repertoire. In fact, all versions of the 3 Series handle beautifully, and the steering is still superior to any rival. There’s also the balance you get with a front engined, rear-wheel-drive car, while if you want to combine this with a dollop of extra stability you can always choose a four-wheel-drive version, which are badged as xDrive.
The all-turbocharged engine line-up includes a range of petrols and a couple of hybrids (the earlier ActiveHybrid and a later 330e plug-in version), but the vast majority of used 3 Series you come across will be diesels. While there are no truly bad engines in the range, the 316d diesel and lower-powered 316i petrol do feel a little weak. Meanwhile, the mid-range 2.0-litre petrol and diesels offer a solid level of performance, while higher-spec 330 and 335 versions are genuinely rapid. And if they’re not quick enough for you, there’s always the fire-breathing M3 at the top of the range.
A facelift in 2015 resulted in slightly revised styling and a range of new modular engines that includes a three-cylinder petrol 318i and a new 2.0-litre diesel for the 320d.