You could buy an Acura TSX an Audi A4 or even a Mercedes C-class. There's one car however that manages to stay on top of the crowd and tha'ts the BMW 3-series. It's the best BMW you can buy in the range. It's the most reliable and the most entertaining BMW of the group. So with this new redesign has BMW managed to keep the 3-series recipe in tip top shape? Or has it gone a bit too soft like the 5-series? Let's find out.
Performance: There are several engines to choose from. The base 320 offers a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 180hp. 328 trim adds 240hp from the same 2-liter engine. 328d trim adds a turbo-diesel engine with similar output to the 320 trim. 335 trim which is top of the 3-series sedan range offers a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 300hp. Picking between the trims depends on the debths of your wallet. If you stick with either the 320 or 328 trim you'll get a reasonably priced 3-series, only if you stay away from the options list on both trims. We only suggest you opting for the diesel engine if you do tons of highway driving and need the fuel economy advantage. The six-cylinder is fast but also the most expensive of the range. We only suggest opting for this if you want the performance advantage of all other trims. Otherwise sticking with the 328 seems like the smarter choice.
On the road: It's rather disappointing that the standard 3-series doesn't feel as sharp as a BMW should unless you option for the adaptive suspension. This allows the 3-series to handle and drive the way a BMW should. This is a expensive option but well worth the extra money. Steering in the adaptive suspension option is sharper and well weighed. This is why we only suggest a 3-series in this configuration. The 3-series does a good job at isolating you from wind and road noise. The turbo-four-cylinders don't sound very appealing at idle. There's a consistant clatter noise that makes them sound like diesel engines. Even in the diesel configuration there is some clatter that can be heard at idle.
Behind the wheel: There's plenty of space five passengers. The steering offers plenty of adjustments along with the driver's seat. The controls on the dash are easy to reach from the driver's seat with many functions operated through standard iDrive infotainment system. The system has been drastically improved and is now much easier to navigate through. There's plenty of space for two in the front and three can easily fit in the back. Although the middleman may not feel so comfortable. The boot offers generous amouns of space also.
Equipment: Entry level 30series gets climate control, alloy wheels and Bluetooh. Each trim offers all-wheel-drive optional as well as Xenon headlamps and parking sensors. You can also option for an M-sport package which gives the 3-series the looks of an M-sport car without the go. The sports suspension that's offered with the M-package has an overly firm ride. We prefer the adaptive suspension.
Buying & Owning: The 3-series seems a bit more expensive compared to its keen rivals. But the turbocharged four-cylinders and even the top of the range turbocharged six-cylinder offers superb fuel economy benefits. Stop/start technology is standard as well to help reduce running costs. Resale value is ultra competitive and should hold up very well when it comes to selling.
Quality & Safety: The materials used inside the cabin are typical BMW classy. It's not as classy as an Audi A4 or Volvo S60 however. Fit and finish is just as good as its keen rivals. Reliability is reasonable but questionable after the warranty is over. Optioning for an extended warranty is highly recommended. All 3-series come standard with six airbags, stability control and dynamic brake control. Traction control comes standard as well as anti-lock brakes. Active lane departure warning is optional as well as an alarm system.
The 3-series seems to be the king of the compact sports sedan segment. Even with rivals such as the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-class. If you stay clear of the options list you can get a decently equipped 3-series well worth the money. However, the only downside is the adaptive suspension is an expensive option. It helps the 3-series drive and handle the way a BMW should. Without this configuration the 3-series is disappointing to drive. Plus its hard to justify the premium of the diesel or hybrid models unless you do tons of highway driving to justify the steep price. If you can overlook these few little negatives, the 3-series is worth considering.
Likes: Strong performance from turbo engines. Good fuel economy. Steering and handling are excellent. Luxurious and spacious cabin.
Dislikes: Without the adaptive suspension the 3-series doesn't handle like it should. The turbo four-cylinders sound like diesel engines at idle. The options send the price into 5-series territory.
Performance: All engines give strong performance. ****
Ride & handling: Handling is sharp with expensive option. ***
Refinement: Some wind noise can get annoying. ***
Reliability: Reasonable but not still questionable. ***
Safety: It's good all round. ****
Behind the wheel: Plenty of room with luxurious interior. ****
Equipment: Decent kit but desirable options you'll have to pay for. ***