What's the used BMW 3 Series saloon 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, all this 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 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 the time comes to sell.
The 3 Series is on a par with the rival Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 in terms of boot space, although even by saloon standards the opening is on the narrow side. Split-folding rear seats were also 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 transmission, make sure 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 3 Series’ dynamic repertoire. In fact, all versions handle beautifully and the steering is still superior to that of any rival. There’s also the balance you get with a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive car, but if you want to combine this with a dollop of extra stability you can always choose a four-wheel-drive version (badged 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 variants are genuinely rapid. If they’re still 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 including a three-cylinder petrol 318i and a new 2.0-litre diesel for the 320d. The following year saw the introduction of a plug-in hybrid, the 330e – a car with a pure-electric range of around 25 miles. It’s one of the best plug-in hybrids on the market and, thanks to plenty of company car buyers going for it, there are lots available used.