Used test: BMW 3 Series vs Jaguar XE vs Volkswagen Passat - verdict

The 3 Series has been a regular favourite with used buyers, but can it fight off the challenge from the better-to-drive Jaguar XE or more spacious VW Passat?...

Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

Our Verdict

There isn’t much to split this trio, each of our three cars has at least one key strength over its rivals and none disappoints enough in any area to make us suggest you show caution before parting with your hard-earned cash. In short, these are three very good cars, and which you choose should depend largely on your priorities.

We’ve previously described the Jaguar XE as the best-handling car in this class, and we still do. The XE is also very well equipped, especially on the safety front. However, we think the non-sporting versions make even more sense, and the firmer suspension fitted to this R Sport model brings a hard ride without any major handling benefits. It is also unquestionably the worst for long term reliability, which has brought down its overall score.

If you value space, standard equipment and minimum impact on your wallet, you should go for the Passat. It might not have the posh badge many buyers in the class will consider a prerequisite, but it actually has the classiest interior of the three. In fact, if it had a quieter engine, a more comfortable ride and a smoother gearbox, it may well have embarrassed its blue-collared rivals.

The 3 Series is the best all-rounder. It’s great to drive, reasonably practical and – in post-facelift form – smarter inside than it ’s ever been. We’d recommend you avoid an example with 19in alloys and any of the optional steering systems, though. Yes, it does cost about a grand more than either the XE and Passat, but we think that price is well worth paying to get yourself one of the very finest executive saloons around and a deserving winner here.

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1st – BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series 12-19 front 3/4 studio

For Strong engine; brilliant infotainment system; intelligent gearbox; improved interior
Against Road noise; optional Servotronic steering; safety kit
Verdict Range of updates make the 3 Series better than ever
What Car? says five out of five

Read the full used BMW 3 Series review

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2nd – Volkswagen Passat

VW Passat 15-pres front 3/4 studio

For Great value; spacious, classy cabin; well equipped
Against So-so ride and handling
Verdict Big on space and value. Well worth a look
What Car? says four out of five

Read the full used Volkswagen Passat review

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3rd – Jaguar XE

Jaguar XE 15-pres front 3/4 studio

For Fine handling; lots of safety kit; low CO2 emissions
Against Firm low-speed ride; not very practical
Verdict Excellent to drive, let down by poor reliability
What Car? says three out of five

Read the full used Jaguar XE review

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BMW 3 Series 320d M Sport auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new £33,635
Price today £13,511*
188bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
0-60mph 7.4sec
Top speed 143mph
Fuel economy 64.2mpg (Official NEDC combined)
CO2 emissions 116g/km

Jaguar XE 2.0d 180 R Sport auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new £34,775
Price today £12,593*
177bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque 317lb ft @ 1750rpm
0-60mph 8.3sec
Top speed 140mph
Fuel economy 67.3mpg (Official NEDC combined)
CO2 emissions 111g/km

Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 190 R Line DSG

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new £30,490
Price today £12,593*
188bhp @ 3500rpm
Torque 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
0-60mph 8.4sec
Top speed 146mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg (Official NEDC combined)
CO2 emissions 119g/km

*Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history according to the What Car? Valuation service, correct at time of writing

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