Erin Baker gives us a glimpse into the endless driving possibilities offered by the new BMW 3-Series
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
There’s a simple reason the BMW 3-Series has been with us for more than 40 years: it’s a very good car. Nowadays there are some juicy alternatives from Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar to name a few, but the BMW 3-Series is still the most searched-for car on Auto Trader. It is the open door into a world of sporty, premium driving which has been opened wider by the advent of personal contract monthly payments. So how does the latest version fare in this iconic family tree?
There’s a new rear end for the 3-Series, with aggressive tail lights which signal dynamic intent. Our test car (a saloon – you can have the 3-Series as a coupe, convertible or estate) was painted the company’s iridescent electric Portimao Blue which suits the in-your-face character of a 3-Series, combined with styling cues from the M-Sport trim level: a little rear spoiler, special blackened wheels and privacy glass.
Inside, it’s a different kettle of fish, with that German minimalist design: the front of the car is sparsely appointed, with black leather and dark soft plastics. The only fun stuff comprises the sporty blue and red stripes on the seatbelts and sports seats, courtesy of that M-badge styling.
Our 3-Series test car had BMW’s gesture control: if the driver waves her hand in a circular motion in the air, for example, the audio volume will rise. The technology isn’t perfect however, often missing your gestures, and you look a twit gesticulating randomly in the car.
Much better is BMW’s funky digital read-out behind the chunky steering wheel for the speed and satnav display, and the touchscreen with its split display to show two of the car’s functions at once. Our car also had the optional wireless phone charger and head-up display that projects speed and directions onto the windscreen, and which you very quickly miss if you don’t have it.
The 3-Series in standard saloon form has a very decent amount of leg space in the rear, and room for three adults across the back seats, plus a boot big enough for proper luggage.
There’s an optional old-fashioned sun roof which is nice to see again, after months of panoramic glass roofs on cars that don’t actually open.
BMWs used to have hard rides as standard, to denote that sporty nature, but these days seem a bit softer and are easily every-day usable.
A striking feature is the peace and quiet in the cabin at speed, which was always the preserve of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, but Jaguar and Volvo recently joined them with super silent cabins.
The most popular 3-Series is the 320d, but that means diesel, and that, as we now know, is the devil’s work (at least, according to the Government, and therefore your wallet). Still, it’s a lovely, silky smooth engine, producing just enough power for challenging commutes, and very decent fuel economy which should save you money at the pumps.
Our test car was the xDrive version, which means four-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive. The purists take great offence, believing all BMWs should be rear-wheel drive, which is associated with motorsport and high-performance cars. Don’t listen to them: if you’ve ever tried to drive a rear-wheel-drive car on wet grass or muddy lanes, or through a smattering of snow, you’ll know that xDrive badge is worth every penny…
BMWs have never been the bargain-bucket option: you pay for that badge. The 320d will cost you about £33,610 although with bells and whistles our car came to £47,885. There’s a lovely 330e plug-in hybrid option, if you’re willing to pay more. You’d pay similar starter money for the Jag or Volvo, however.
Still, everyone buys on a monthly payment plan: £400 a month would get you a decent 3-Series with a £6,000 deposit on a PCP deal: as ever, there are multiple online finance calculators out there: just put in your mileage, desired contract term and deposit.