What's the used BMW 3 Series saloon like?
Cars and religion don’t normally mix, but finding a used BMW 3 Series is almost as easy as opening a hotel drawer and finding a copy of the Bible. Whether you’re charging down the M1, going to a shopping centre or parking up at work, you’ll find a 3 Series somewhere in the mix. And while that’s not good if you want to stand out, it’s great for used car buyers because they’ll have lots of choice.
To suit the varied needs of customers, there are four diesel, four petrol and one plug-in hybrid options to choose from. The base, 148bhp 318d is fine, but the 187bhp 320d is a better bet that's almost as economical. Neither has quite the pulling power of the 261bhp, six-cylinder 330d or might of the M340d, which with 335bhp is the most powerful diesel-engined 3 Series.
Kicking off the petrol range is the 154bhp 318i, followed by a 181bhp 320i, 254bhp 330i and finishing with the 369bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder M340i which sounds great and goes like stink. If you fancy indulging in a bit of EV driving, the 288bhp 330e uses the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as the majority of the petrol range, but it has an additional battery and electric motor for a certain amount of electric-only driving.
Entry-level SE gets automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, LED headlights, three-zone climate control, a DAB radio and 17in alloy wheels. Mid-range Sport adds leather trim and heated front sports seats; top spec M Sport models have M Sport suspension and brakes, along with an upgraded 'professional connected package' for the infotainment system.
Speaking of packages, there were many on the options list. The main one to look out for is the premium pack, for lumbar support and electric front seats with memory. If you like your tech, the technology pack has an upgraded Harmon Kardon sound system, wireless charging and a head-up display. There was even something called Laserlight in the visibility pack; it's a lighting system that provides twice the high beam headlight range of an LED headlight system.
The unique selling point of the 3 Series has always been the way it drives, and this version continues to be the best of its type to drive. It doesn’t have the quick steering of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, or quite the damping control of a Jaguar XE over a particularly rough country road, but it fulfils a wider remit than either of those two in everyday life to give it the edge. Wind and road noise are very low, and as long as you avoid the overly firm M Sport suspension, the ride is very well controlled.
The interior of the 3 Series does has a good mix of high-tech screens for the infotainment system and instrument cluster, and physical buttons for the air con system and iDrive infotainment interface. This setup is easier to use on the move than the post-facelift Audi A4, which has two touchscreens to control everything.
Space inside the 3 Series is also a step up on rivals. True, there’s little difference between the A4, 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class up front, but in the back, you’ll get a bit more leg and shoulder room in the BMW. Plus, the rear bench is reclined a bit more for greater comfort. The boot is a decent size, too, with 40:20:40 split folding rear seats if you need to load longer items.
The 3 Series was awarded a full five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP, scoring better for front seat adult and rear seat child occupant protection than C-Class, and is also better than the A4 for older people upfront. Rear cross traffic alert and blindspot monitoring were all part of a pricey 'driving assistant professional package' when new.
If you're interested in finding a used 3 Series, or any of the other executive cars mentioned here, head over to the Used Car Buying pages to find lots of cars listed for sale at a great price.
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