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Used test: BMW 3 Series vs Volkswagen Golf interiors

For decades, these two iconic cars have both been at the top of their game. But which is the better used buy, the executive BMW 3 Series or family-focused VW Golf?...

BMW 3 Series interior


Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality

The BMW 3 Series sits you fairly low with your legs outstretched in front of you. The Volkswagen Golf sits you more upright but not awkwardly or unnaturally. Both of our contenders feature plenty of adjustment in their seats and steering wheel, too, so it's easy to find the ideal driving position. 

While it isn't difficult to see out of the 3 Series, the Golf, with its larger windows, offers superior visibility all around. 

2020 Volkswagen Golf dashboard

At first glance, the interior of the Golf looks smart, clean and modern. There are even some soft-touch surfaces on the upper parts of the dashboard and the tops of the front doors. Look a little deeper and you’ll start to find lots of harder and scratchier plastics, especially in the rear. 

The 3 Series is a clear cut above, with only a few of those plastics to be found. The rest of the interior features high-quality materials and switchgear. Build quality is good, too, bettering the already well-built Golf's effort. 

BMW 3 Series infotainment

Every Golf comes with a 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system. The graphics are sharp, but some menus are confusingly arranged. The 3 Series has an even sharper 12.3in screen and it's by far the easier system to use, especially because it can be controlled by touch as well as a dial between the front seats.

Also working against the Golf is the fact that the climate controls are piled into the touchscreen, further complicating an already tricky and distracting system. The 3 Series has physical climate control buttons – huzzah! – and they're a breeze to use. Overall, as you can see, the 3 Series has a much more user-friendly interior. 

2020 Volkswagen Golf rear seats

Both cars offer sufficient passenger room up front, with the Golf offering a bit more head room for the incredibly tall. In the rear, the pair are identical on head room, but it's the 3 Series that has more leg room. Averaged-sized adults should be more than comfortable in the Golf, but six-foot individuals will appreciate the extra breathing room the 3 Series provides. 

The Golf has conventional 60/40 split-folding rear seats, although it does sport a handy ski hatch for carrying longer items. Mind you, the 3 Series also has a ski hatch, plus its rear seats fold in a more useful 40/20/40 configuration. 

BMW 3 Series rear seats

The Golf's boot is a decent size, but the 3 Series is larger, both in capacity and the number of carry-on suitcases we managed to fit below their parcel shelves: the 3 Series swallowed seven, while the Golf saw five. 

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