Reviews > Car Reviews > BMW > BMW 3 Series (1998-06) Road Test

Reviews - BMW

BMW 3 Series (1998-06)

Overall Rating

4 stars

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
Road Test

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

BMW 3 Series (1998-06)
Star Ratings


5 stars


4 stars

Quality & Reliability

5 stars


4 stars


3 stars

Running Costs

3 stars

Value for Money

4 stars

Stereo/Sat Nav

4 stars
Related Links

Have you driven this car? Want to share your opinions? Write us a user review.