BMW 3 Series Review

Find out more about the BMW 3 Series in the latest Review

Average Price
Out of 5


  • Handsome exterior
  • Offers an excellent drive
  • One of the most prestigious brands on sale


  • Smaller engines need to be pushed hard
  • 3 Series specification list can be overwhelming
  • Reliability can be an issue
  • MPG

    46 - 176

  • CO2

    37 - 165 g/km


The hugely successful BMW 3 Series could be seen as the original compact saloon, having first being brought to market by the German brand in 1975. Six generations later, it still remains the benchmark by which this popular vehicle segment is measured.

The 3 Series is not without competition, however. Its rivals include the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Jaguar XE. The Lexus IS and Volkswagen Passat are worth a mention in this segment, too.

Previously, the 3 Series was offered as in saloon, estate, convertible or coupe bodystyles. With the sixth-generation F30 3 Series, BMW’s popular model is available as a saloon or an estate, as well as a five-door fastback, known as the Gran Turismo.

The coupe and convertible variants have been rebranded under the 4 Series moniker, although 3 Series drop-tops and two-doors built before 2012 will still be named as such.

BMW offers the 3 Series in a near dizzying number of trims and configurations, with a hefty number of petrol and diesel engines available. The high-performance M3 saloon crowns the range.

Latest model

The sixth-generation BMW 3 Series has been in production since 2012, although the popular compact executive car was subject to an update in 2015. This mid-life refresh introduced new four- and six-cylinder engines, revised front and rear end styling, improved economy and the addition of a plug-in hybrid variant in 2016.

At present, BMW offers the 3 Series in a number of different body styles. There’s the saloon, a more practical Touring estate, and the rather odd-looking Gran Turismo five-door hatchback.

Customers can choose from a seemingly unlimited number of engines with their 3 Series – both diesel, petrol and hybrid. While the 3 Series comes as a rear-wheel drive as standard, BMW also offers its xDrive all-wheel drive system as an option.

Performance varies from a 116bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine found in the 316d, all the way up to a 326bhp 3.0-litre straight-six in the 340i. The range-topping M3 performance saloon also utilises a 3.0-litre straight-six engine, which produces 425bhp.

Owing to the wide range in power plants, economy figures also vary greatly in the 3 Series. The most economical option in the line-up is the plug-in hybrid 330e model, which features a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 148.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 44g/km.

At the other end of the scale is the 335i, which BMW claims can achieve 34.9mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 189g/km. The M3 manages a claimed 34mpg with CO2 emissions of 194g/km.

Value for money

Next to its rivals, the BMW 3 Series offers a comparable amount of equipment as standard.

The entry-level SE specification sees the 3 Series kitted out with features such as satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and automatic lights and wipers. SE-specification 3 Series start at £25,580.

Sport models gain a more dynamic aesthetic, thanks to the addition of new bumpers and 17-inch alloys as standard. Sports seats are also included, as well as a sport multifunction steering wheel. A 3 Series in Sport trim will cost upwards of £25,880.

Moving up the model range, ED Plus models offer the same standard equipment as SE models, although with heated front seats and leather upholstery. The 17-inch-alloys are also swapped in favour of 16-inch ones with low-rolling resistance tyres in a bid to improve efficiency. Prices for ED Plus models start at £31,090.

Next in the 3 Series range are the ED Sport models. These feature the same standard equipment as ED Plus models, but boast a more aggressive look thanks to 17-inch alloys, sports seats and a sports bodykit. Unlike regular Sport models, ED Sport vehicles gain leather upholstery. ED Sport models cost from £31,590.

A 3 Series in Luxury trim will set you back at least £30,360. For your money, BMW includes more chrome brightwork inside and out, wood trim on the dash, leather seats with contrast stitching and larger 18-inch alloys for a more upmarket feel.

At the top of the BMW 3 Series range, aside from the M3, is the M Sport specification. This adds on the regular Sport specification with standard features such as even more aggressive-looking body kits, unique M Sport 18-inch alloys and a lowered ride height thanks to sports suspension. You also gain leather sports seats in the M Sport. Prices for this model begin at £30,660.

It will cost you at least £56,605 to get your hands on a BMW M3. That said, you get Merino leather sports seats, a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission, all of the features from the regular models such as sat nav, as well as that 425bhp twin-turbocharged straight-six.

Looks and image 

As far as appearances go, the BMW 3 Series isn’t exactly the most exciting looking car in its class. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is certainly the flashier of the two, while the Audi A4 looks like the sportier option.

That said, though, the current generation 3 Series is far more visually appealing than its predecessor, which was an incredibly reserved, and rather boring machine to look at.

In its current guise, the 3 Series looks far more grown up than the older model, as well as being far closer to the upmarket product it is supposed to be. While the current 3 Series is now larger in its proportions than the previous car, its new styling means it looks lower, sportier and more graceful than before.

The front end of the car bears the iconic BMW kidney grille, while the head lights are narrower and more purposeful looking. Sharp lines down the car’s flank add to the sporting look, while the back end of the car is similar to that of the larger 5 Series.

In the cabin, buyers will be treated to a properly upmarket interior. The top of the dash houses a 6.5-inch screen for the infotainment system, while lower down on the dash the controls for the climate control and CD player can be located.

The centre console is fairly minimal in terms of buttons, with the gear selector and rotary control knob for BMW’s iDrive infotainment system taking pride of place.

Space and practicality 

As you would expect from a car in this market segment, the BMW 3 Series offers plenty of room for front seat passengers. Headroom is abundant, and there are also a number of handy storage compartments. Thanks a fairly low sill and wide door apertures, getting in and out of the 3 Series is easy, too.

While the back of the 3 Series isn’t exactly cavernous, two adult passengers should be able to manage a long distance journey in relative comfort.

The middle seat is compromised due to a rather large transmission tunnel, however, meaning that sitting three abreast won’t be the most ideal seating configuration for anyone other than children.

The BMW’s boot space is commendable, offering up 480 litres in saloon form, 495 in estate guise and 520 litres as a Gran Turismo. The Touring estate and Gran Turismo are obviously the more practical of the three, and their load spaces can be increased to respective figures of 1,500 litres and 1,600 litres with the rear seats folded down.

What’s under the bonnet?

BMW offers the 3 Series with a variety of petrol and diesel engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid option.

The diesel engine line-up consists of a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit and a 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit – both of which are offered in various states of tune. The 2.0-litre engine is available with either 114bhp, 148bhp, or 187bhp. The larger 3.0-litre engine is available with 284bhp or 309bhp.

In terms of petrol engines, customers can choose between a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder power plant, and a 3.0-litre straight-six. The 1.5-litre engine produces 134bhp, while the 2.0-litre is available with either 182bhp or 249bhp. The 3.0-litre straight-six produces 325bhp in the 340i model, and 425bhp in the M3.

There is also a plug-in hybrid model available – the 330e. This pairs the 249bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor.

Running costs

As there is such a large selection of engines available with the BMW 3 Series, running costs vary greatly.

Those that seek out and out efficiency would likely want to opt for the plug-in hybrid 330e model, which BMW claims can achieve a combined fuel economy figure of 148.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 45g/km.

The diesel-powered 320d might also be a good option, as the ED Plus model can achieve a claimed fuel economy figure of 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km.

At the other end of the scale, a petrol-powered 335i M Sport can only manage a claimed 34.9mpg, while emissions stand at 189g/km. The M3 has a combined fuel economy figure of 32.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 204g/km.

Things to look out for

If you purchase a 3 Series new, you will be covered by a three-year, unlimited-mile warranty, meaning you should be covered if anything goes wrong in the short term.

A handful of owners reported that their 3 Series have become affected by a number of issues. These include electrical problems, brake shudder, as well as problems with the heater or air-conditioning – so check these things are all in working order if buying second hand.

It also pays to note that the way VED tax is calculated is about to be changed, and will affect cars purchased from April 1 2017 onwards.

This means that certain BMW models will become more expensive to tax each year than they are presently.

As an example, a BMW 320d M Sport with a manual transmission currently costs nothing to tax for the first year of ownership, and £30 each subsequent year due to its CO2 emissions figure of 116g/km.

From April 1, it will cost £160 to tax in the first year, and £140 each subsequent year, even though it is the exact same car.


The BMW 3 Series’ main rivals are the Mercedes-Benz C-ClassAudi A4 and Jaguar XE. The Lexus IS and new Alfa Romeo Giulia also occupy this segment of the market.

Next to the Audi and the Mercedes, the BMW is the cheaper of the three – with prices starting at £25,580. All are fairly comparable in terms of comfort and driving capability, so the final decision will likely come down to personal taste.

Mercedes-Benz also offers a BMW M3 rival in the shape of the C 63 AMG, and while Audi currently offers an S4, an even faster RS4 is tipped to be in development.

Depreciation warning

Buyers should expect all 3 Series models to hold their value well. As they are such popular cars, it also means that you should be able to pick up a well-specced, slightly older model for a good price as well.

Which 3 Series to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

318d SE 4dr

Most MPG

330e SE Pro 4dr Auto

Fastest Model (0-60)

M340i xDrive 4dr Step Auto

Trims Explained

The BMW 3 Series is available in seven different trim levels – including the M3. These are:


SE is the entry-level trim for the 3 Series.

It offers a good amount of standard kit for a reasonable price tag.


Sport specification does as its name suggests, giving the 3 Series a slightly sportier edge.

This comes with different body kits and wheels.


Luxury-specification models go in a more upmarket direction.

Choose this for leather upholstery and wooden paneling in the cabin.


M Sport cars gain leather sports seats and lowered suspension.

This trim also has a more aggressive-looking styling.

ED Plus

ED Plus models build on the SE specification.

This is the choice for those looking for greater fuel economy.

ED Sport

ED Sport models build on Sport specification, but place greater focus on fuel efficiency.

They gain leather sports seats, too.


The M3 is the range-topping choice.

Quite simply, it's the out-and-out performance car of the range.


  1. Fuel economy greatly varies depending on engine
  2. The BMW 3 Series comes as a saloon, an estate and a hatchback
  3. Prices start at £25,580 and move up to £56,605 for the M3
  4. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is available
  5. The BMW is slightly cheaper than rivals from Mercedes and Audi
  6. A plug-in hybrid is available in the form of the 330e
  7. A three-year, unlimited-mile warranty is standard
  8. The 3 Series holds its value well
  9. Has a snazzy interior
  10. VED will become more expensive on certain models from April 1

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