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BMW 3 Series interior, tech and practicality

Comfort and visibility

Masterfully blending the traditional with the modern, the BMW 3 Series has a very nice interior. All versions get a big infotainment screen and some cars get a fully digital instrument cluster, too, but there are plenty of buttons for the climate control and BMW’s familiar programmable shortcut buttons. The infotainment system can even be controlled by a handy rotary dial to save you prodding at the touchscreen with your best tongue-out concentrating face.

However, in the face of fresher, tech-heavy rivals, the 3 Series’ cabin was starting to look a bit conservative. Facelifted 3 Series cars, built from mid-2022, have a sleeker-looking screen setup with two ultrawide displays. The climate control functions are now integrated into the touchscreen but shouldn’t be too difficult to use – especially as the rotary controller is retained.

3 Series buyers expect a quality feel, and it certainly lives up to those expectations. The vast majority of cars get leather trimming on the seats, door panels, steering wheel and more. The dashboard includes glossy black trim, slashes of cool metal and high-quality plastics. What’s more, everything is fantastically well put together, and you’ll have no complaints about build quality.

Standard equipment

The entry-level 3 Series trim is SE, which offers 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, three-zone climate control, ambient lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control.

Sport sits on 18-inch alloys and gets heated front sports seats with leather upholstery throughout, and has a slightly different bumper and trim design.

M Sport is popular with UK buyers, and its racier looks and M badges can improve residual values – making it appealing on PCP finance.

Look out for cars with option packs included, as these add desirable extras. The Comfort Pack adds keyless entry, extra storage and a heated steering wheel, with the Comfort Plus Pack also including electrically adjustable front seats.

Cars with the Technology Pack get a Harman/Kardon audio system, a head-up display and wireless phone charging. Tech Plus also adds a dashcam and parking assistance.

Meanwhile, the M Sport Pro gets upgraded headlights, black exterior trim, high-beam assist, adaptive suspension, coloured brake calipers and striped seatbelts. Ooh la la.

Infotainment and audio

BMW’s iDrive system has been regularly honed and updated over the years, and the 3 Series gets some of the most modern versions. With so many tweaks, it’s pretty easy to use, with tiled widgets on the home screen to easily get you to the display you want.

The main screens are easy to find, but some of the submenus are a little confusing and require a few taps of the screen. We also found that the sat nav display can look and feel quite busy – but iPhone users can get around this by using Apple CarPlay. And, once you’ve had a play with the iDrive system, it’s very easy to live with.

It helps that the touchscreen can also be controlled by a dial, which puts the 3 Series above the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class and Tesla Model 3 for usability. You can scroll, press and tilt the dial, a bit like a PlayStation joystick.

Up until mid-2022, digital dials only came as standard on M Sport cars, but all cars produced since then get them fitted as standard. In fact, the whole infotainment system got a massive update, with the new screens seemingly merging into one single panel and the cowling over the binnacle being put in the bin. It now looks just as modern as any of its rivals, and we’re pleased to report that new cars retain the nifty iDrive rotary controller.

Rear seat space

Compared to the last-generation 3 Series, the new one has an extra 4cm between the front and rear wheels, which has improved rear-seat space. It’s perhaps not quite as spacious as a Model 3 back there, but legroom is still really good and there’s enough headroom for all but the tallest passengers. Get the estate if you’re regularly going to be carrying tall adults in the back seats, as the roof doesn’t slope down so you get more headroom.

Elbow room is really generous, and two adults will feel very comfortable. There’s enough space for three adults to sit side-by-side, although the chunky transmission tunnel doesn’t give the middle-seat occupant much legroom.

BMW even says you can fit three child seats across the 3 Series’ rear bench. Only the outer rear seats have Isofix points, mind you, and the transmission tunnel would also prevent you from installing a child seat with a trailing leg. Fortunately the two sets of Isofix points are very easy to locate and use. Slightly wider doors than previous 3 Series generations should also make it a doddle to get kids in and out.

Boot space

The 3 Series has a really decent boot, as long as you can accept the shape of the boot opening. Petrol and diesel versions offer 480 litres and the space itself is very long, quite wide and pretty much flat. You’ll be able to fit plenty of shopping or suitcases into the boot, but bulky items could pose a challenge.

On paper, the 3 Series Touring estate only offers 20 litres more space, but that’s measured to the parcel shelf – you’ll have a lot more space available if you’re happy to fill to the roofline. The tailgate is also bigger and more versatile, letting you load furniture or baby clutter with ease. Want to quickly chuck something in the boot? Handily, the Touring’s rear window can open independently of the rest of the boot.

Plug-in hybrid 330e versions offer 375 litres of space (410 for the estate) because the battery is mounted under the boot floor.

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