BMW's latest 3 Series has received welcome updates to the engines and some trim and detail improvements. It still satisfies the driving enthusiast and is packed with Germanic efficiency. The notable 320d Efficient Dynamics model emits just 99g/km of CO2.
- Engines smooth and torquey
- Low emissions of the ED model
- Precise handling
- Firm ride, especially with M-Sport option
- Dated system menus/no touch screen
- Expensive options
The 3 Series has been considered the benchmark, the aspirational saloon, particularly in the fleet sector and has evolved to meet the needs of those demanding low emissions while also satisfying the performance enthusiasts. The latest version with its subtle revisions to lights, bumpers and trim also adds new four- and six-cylinder engines and of special note is the 320d Efficient Dynamics (ED) model nursing its CO2 figure down to 99g/km with a (quoted) 72 mpg.
The new lights - with their lenses pushed toward the outer edges of the car - give the new 3 Series a broader and more slender appearance from the front. The more deeply sculpted air intakes integral to the front valance also add to the car's purposeful presence.
Focussing on the 320d ED - predicted to be the largest seller - like all diesel engines in the 3 Series, it is fitted with a twin turbocharger, providing boost across the rev range. It is effective too, with a sub 8 second 0-62mph sprint. We drove the 320d ED in M-Sport specification and enjoyed the sensible equipment levels. The M-Sport does have a stiffer suspension setup and this significantly compromises the ride quality with little real world benefit.
BMW has made its xDrive option available across the range, and tested on a 320d (without the M-Sport suspension) it delivered power, grip and all-round sure-footedness very welcome on wet roads. The suppler ride gave the car a considerably more relaxed feel and the combination of ride plus grip makes it a great choice for covering the miles. The models tested, fitted with BMW's eight-speed Steptronic gearbox made light work of shifting gears and is in fact what pulls the CO2 emissions down to just below the 100g/km for the ED model. While easy to override fully, merely flicking between normal and sport modes allowed us to keep the revs on the boil when needed. With or without the xDrive option, the 3 Series is a finely balanced car, perfectly able to cope with the more powerful engine choices available.
Inside, the 3 Series remains quintessentially BMW - effective, functional and with harder surfaces, leaning more toward being a driver's car than sumptuous lounge. Of note is the 320d ED Plus model, which includes heated leather seats and that almost essential option, the sat-nav, particularly targeted at fleet drivers. The driver's main interface via the iDrive system is one of the less intuitive on the market; regular users find it straightforward; casual BMW drivers less so. Many non-premium manufacturers offer slick touch-screen interfaces, which makes the BMW's system feel more cumbersome.
The 3 Series remains a desirable car but is surpassed in the luxury interior stakes by a number of rivals. In terms of options, the exceptionally good head up display is one worth considering; anything specified with M-Sport suspension is not, unless you are blessed with perfectly smooth tarmac.
Need To Know
Best Models: 320d ED Plus
Quality & Reliability
Value for Money