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BMW 3 Series Review

9 / 10
3 January 2024
BMW 3 Series driving

The BMW 3 Series handles like a sports car, comforts like a limousine and entertains like a Netflix thriller.

It’s no wonder the 3 Series is one of the kings of the small executive car class, and it still sells in huge numbers. But electric newcomers like the Tesla Model 3 have started tempting customers away from BMW.

What we like:
  • Top all-rounder
  • Great to drive
  • Premium feel
What we don't like:
  • Slightly firm ride
  • Looks conservative against some rivals
  • Average warranty

Should I buy a BMW 3 Series?

Yes, you should. The BMW 3 Series has been on British roads a long time and the latest one is phenomenally capable. Whatever you’re looking for in a car, whether that’s fun handling, motorway cushiness or even self-parking tech, the 3 Series has it all covered.

For years, it’s been a darling of company-car schemes, which has helped it become one of the UK’s best-selling cars. There’s still a whiff of office car park about the 3 Series, but that’s no bad thing – it’s smart looking and posh-feeling, and you don’t have to wear a tie to work to appreciate that.

The 3 Series has always faced off against the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, and the BMW has always been better to drive than both of them. Now, though, the 3 Series faces additional competition from fully electric rivals, such as the Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2 and Hyundai Ioniq 6, all of which have a seriously futuristic feel.

Interior and technology

For now at least, BMW has resisted following Mercedes’ and Tesla’s ‘kill-all-buttons’ interior philosophy. While the C-Class and Model 3 look clean and modern inside, the 3 Series’ mix of digital and physical makes more sense in the real world. The climate control and drive modes are easy to fathom, and can be adjusted without taking your eyes off the road for long periods of time.

The 3 Series’ interior certainly feels familiar, but it still features all the modern infotainment functions and connectivity that you’d expect. A 10.25-inch touchscreen sits next to a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, both of which can give you plenty of information. With the touchscreen being quite wide and short, it can sometimes feel like the info is displayed in a busy, confusing way, but it’s still pretty easy to find your way around the screens. The screen can be prodded or can be controlled by the dial and shortcut buttons next to the gear lever.

Leather upholstery, sturdy-feeling buttons and patterned aluminium trim make the 3 Series’ interior feel premium, and more luxurious than a Tesla Model 3. Build quality is several leagues better than in the Tesla, too.


The latest 3 Series is the same size as a 5 Series from 20 years ago, and the result is plenty of passenger space. You can even fit three adults side-by-side in the back seats relatively comfortably. With just the outer rear seats filled, two adults have space to stretch their legs and elbows. Headroom is good, although tall adults may find their hair brushing the headliner.

Its classic saloon body style limits what you can fit in the boot a little, but it’s a spacious area once you’ve got your luggage in. In petrol and diesel models it measures 480 litres while, in 330e plug-in hybrid versions, it’s 375 litres as the battery is positioned under the boot floor. Of course, if you need a larger boot with a proper tailgate, there’s the 3 Series Touring estate – perfect for a pram or a pooch.

Engines and performance

Petrol and diesel engines make up the majority of the 3 Series lineup, or there’s the plug-in hybrid 330e if you want petrol and electric power. For a fully electric option to rival the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2, you’ll want to check out the BMW i4.

Used buyers will find a choice of three main 2.0-litre petrol engines – the 318i, 320i and 330i, although the middle option is the most widely available. Likewise, most diesel 3 Series are the 320d, and now that’s the only diesel option if you’re ordering a new model.

There’s plenty of choice if you’re after some red-hot performance, too. Beneath the range-topping M3, there are M340i and M340d versions that still reach 0-62mph in under five seconds.

Driving and comfort

The 3 Series is still the best-driving saloon car. It’s not the fastest-accelerating – a Model 3’s instant acceleration will leave a 3 Series in the rearview mirror – but it’s a fully talented all-rounder. Whether your commute to the office involves miles of motorways or a twirly, curly backroad, the 3 Series is superb.

While the popular M Sport trim has sporty suspension and a firm edge, the 3 Series is still very comfortable over the majority of surfaces. It’s a hard act to balance comfort and sportiness like this, but the 3 Series delivers and impresses.

Four-wheel drive is available on many versions – simply look for cars with the xDrive badge if you want a little extra traction in wintry weather.

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