The 3-Series' popularity underlines how demanding motorists have become. It's expensive, but it's the top compact executive choice. Prestige, impeccable engineering, driving pleasure and upmarket image all matter here.
- Strong image, excellent quality, keenly coveted
- Smooth, potent six-cylinder engines; sporty responses
- Very well built, well equipped and reliable
- Sales success means exclusivity has been compromised
- Rivals have roomier rear seats and more boot space
- Extras push up prices rapidly
3-Series is now commonplace but its enduring desirability marks it out as a car that's special. It's not just about the badge, although BMW's marketing campaigns have always played up its quality and driver appeal. It's simply that 3-Series does everything well.
3-Series owners are keen on driving and proud to own a fine car. Many rivals are roomier (rear accommodation is not that generous for adults); all except C Class cost less to buy; but few offer the performance and handling that sets 3-Series apart from the crowd.
Apart from the merely adequate 1.8-litre 316i, engines are smoothly potent. The six cylinder units are outstanding; the 2.2-litre 320i is the best bet for performance tempered by economy; the 330d embodies diesel excellence.
Ride and handling have a sporty edge but refinement is good. Equipment is good and the options list is huge. Slow depreciation offsets above-average running costs.
Need To Know
NCAP: 4 Stars
Best Models: 320i SE & 325i SE; convertibles
Worst Models: 316i without air con or alloy wheels
Quality & Reliability
Value for Money