BMW 3 Series long-term test review

Our Executive Car of the Year faces its toughest assignment yet: everyday life. Will it prove to be a corporate titan, or will its shine quickly begin to fade? We have six months to find out...

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Darren Moss
13 May 2019

BMW 3 Series long-term test
  • The car BMW 3 Series 320d xDrive M Sport
  • Run by Darren Moss, deputy editor
  • Why it’s here Having clinched the title of Executive Car of the Year at the 2019 What Car? Awards, the all-new 3 Series must now prove itself a champion in daily life
  • Needs to Be comfortable for long journeys and the weekday commute, offer exceptional fuel economy, and function as a mobile office when needed

Price £39,380 Price as tested £47,855 Mileage 4120 Official economy 55.4mpg (WLTP), Test economy 36.6mpg Options fitted Technology Package (£1800), Premium Package (£1700), Comfort Package (£990), M Sport Plus Package (£2200), Sensatec dashboard trim (£500), Parking Assistant Plus (£500) Contract hire £421.92 per month Insurance group 31 Typical insurance quote £835 per year

13 May 2019 – the BMW 3 Series joins our fleet

The arrival of a new BMW 3 Series is as momentous in the motoring world as the Apollo moon landings or the death of Elvis. It’s an event that resets the parameters of the executive car class, because every time a new 3 Series comes along, it usually succeeds in smashing its key rivals and becoming the car to beat. Indeed, this all-new version is our current class champion, and had it not been for the tremendous Kia e-Niro’s arrival late last year, it could well have been our Car of the Year for 2019.

Even devoid of the top honours, though, this 3 Series is special. It’s larger, lighter and safer than ever before, borrowing its underpinnings from the larger 5 and 7 Series luxury saloons. Its wheels are set farther apart, too, in a bid to improve agility while also giving the car a sporty stance. And with its Portimao Blue paintwork, M Sport body kit and 19in alloy wheels, I’d say BMW’s designers have succeeded on that last point when it comes to my new car.

What you see here is the middle management special. Yes, it’s the 320d M Sport, with the added security of BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system for extra traction on greasy roads – ideal for when you’re late for that business brunch in Slough and the weather’s a bit parky.

BMW 3 Series side

And as any high-mileage sales rep will tell you, the ability of a car to also function as a mobile marketing suite when needed is handy these days. Fortunately, the new 3 Series comes with the latest version of BMW’s market-leading iDrive infotainment system as standard, complete with Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB radio, sat-nav and digital dashboard. To that, I’ve added the Technology Pack, which includes gesture control and a head-up display, as well as wireless phone charging and a wi-fi hotspot; time will tell whether that’s £1800 well spent.

I’ve also specified the so-called Premium Package, which brings a sunroof, electric front seats and that all-important adjustable lumbar support for longer journeys. Then there’s the Comfort Package with its steering wheel heating, electric bootlid and keyless entry and start, and the M Sport Plus Package. This is the one I’m most excited about, because it brings the adaptive M Sport suspension we recommend, so I can change how the 3 Series feels to drive at the touch of a button.

I’m afraid we’re not done with options, either, because I’ve also gone for Sensatec faux leather upholstery around the instrument panel, and a system that can park the car for me. As you might imagine, this has all added a fair amount to the price, so that my 3 Series is nudging close to £48,000. For that kind of money – more than £9000 more expensive than our recommended 5 Series, the 520d SE – it had better be very good indeed.

BMW 3 Series interior

Fortunately, my first impressions have been positive. Having had two petrol-powered cars in quick succession, I’m enjoying having the easy swell of a diesel engine’s power on my morning commute once more, as well as the fuel economy benefit that comes with it. My current combined MPG figure of 46.6mpg is partly down to driving around solely in Eco Pro mode – which softens the accelerator response and makes the eight-speed automatic gearbox shift to a higher gear sooner – and the ability to see at a glance how many extra miles of range I’ve generated through my smooth driving has turned each drive into a game. So far, I’m on to save around 15 miles from my current tank of fuel – and that’s good going.

So, the 3 Series’ probation period begins right here, and over the next six months I'll be seeing if it’s the ultimate corporate titan, or if you’re better off sweet-talking your fleet manager into ordering one of the 3 Series’ rivals instead, ranging from the Audi A4 to the Mercedes C-Class or Jaguar XE. For the answer, watch this space.

Next: our full BMW 3 Series review >

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