The best alternatives to the BMW 3 Series

The ubiquitous BMW 3 Series has been with us for 40 years. Four decades of development and improvements has resulted in it being one of the best compact executive cars money can buy.

A 3 Series can be yours from around £25,000 but, while we’re sure it’ll live up to expectations, it’s worth remembering there’s a host of rivals aiming to give the BMW a run for its money.

We’ve put together a list of five worthy alternatives to the 3 Series to see if they could be for you. If you do have your heart set on a 3 Series though, our new car deals page will help you get the best deals straight from the UK’s leading BMW dealers.

Audi A4

Priced from £28,000, the Audi A4 is a thoroughly well-built car with similar dimensions and specifications to the 3 Series. The petrols and diesel engines on offer are as modern as they come, offering a mixture of refinement, economy and performance. The latest 2.0-litre petrol produces 190hp which means a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds but it’s its 58mpg efficiency that’s stealing the headlines.

Like all Audis, the interior is flawlessly put together and is arguably more interesting than the 3 Series’ more mundane affair. Some critics claim it isn’t as sporty as the 3 Series – the handling being neither as sharp nor as responsive. Overall the A4 is a good, if somewhat safe alternative to the BMW.

Use our Audi A4 configurator to see how much carwow can help you save.

Mercedes C-Class

If you want outright luxury, this is arguably the best of the three German cars on this list. The Mercedes C-Class’s classy interior matches the equally opulent bodywork. There’s a huge amount of electronic kit inside with even basic models getting Bluetooth and DAB radio.

It fairs less well when it comes to driving – the chassis and suspension is set up for comfort which it achieves magnificently. If you want the more driver-orientated car though, it’d have to be the 3 Series. The Mercedes can’t compete with the sharp-handling of the BMW. If you want the car that’ll provide the best ride quality, however, the C-Class is the one to go for. It’s priced from around £28,000.

Use our car configurator to see how much money you could save on a new C-Class.

Jaguar XE

When Jaguar launched the XE, the brand hoped it would sway buyers from the 3 Series with its fine drive and British style. In some ways, it’s succeeded – both the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel offer great power but remain frugal. Tech is good inside too, with an infotainment system, sat nav and cruise control all coming as standard.

The bold styling means you’ll certainly stand out among other saloons. One area it falls down on is space – it just isn’t as roomy as the BMW, and the boot reflects this with 30 litres less capacity than the 3 Series. Available for less than £27,000, it’s also cheaper than some other 3 Series alternatives.

You could save even more by using our Jaguar XE configurator to get the best deals from Jaguar’s dealer network.

Volvo S60

The Volvo S60 is different to some on this list – most premium cars are styled to stand out but the S60’s looks give it a dignified and understated demeanour. That isn’t to say it doesn’t feel as premium as the others though – it takes safety and comfort to another level. There’s plenty of room for passengers and luggage, and it comes with good standard specification. Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and cruise control come on every S60.

It won’t be as engaging to drive as others and the range of engines isn’t as efficient as an A4, for example. At £21,000, however, it undercuts all the other cars on this list but it’s important to remember that depreciation will be higher than its German equivalents.

If you like the understated nature of the S60, use our configurator to get you the best possible deals.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

The eagerly-awaited Giulia will go on sale later this year and represents – from what we’ve seen so far – stiff competition for the 3 Series. Like many Alfa Romeos, it’s a delightful thing to look at and would certainly be a bolder decision than the BMW. We expect it to cost around £21,000 so it’ll be cheaper, too.

The Giulia will be rear-wheel-drive so should excel when coupled to Alfa’s current 2.0 and 3.0-litre petrol and diesel engines. From what we can see, the interior is as good-looking as the exterior with a very driver-focused cabin. Time will tell us if it drives as well as it looks, but it’ll have its work cut out next to the 3 Series. It won’t hold its value as well either but, if you’re in the market for something a bit left-field, you should consider waiting for the Giulia to hit the showrooms.

You can find out more about the Giulia in our dedicated article.

What next?

Use our new car deals page car configurator to see how much you could save on any of the cars above, or check out our deals page for all the best offers from the UK’s best dealers. If you’re not taken by our selection, use our car chooser to find your perfect car amongst the 400+ new models currently on sale.

Audi A4

Accomplished executive saloon with best interior in class
8.3
£28,000 - £42,000
RRP
Read review Compare offers

Jaguar XE

One of the best small executive cars you can buy
8.8
£26,990 - £44,995
RRP
Read review Compare offers

Mercedes C-Class

Small executive saloon that's luxurious and refined
7.8
£28,545 - £48,050
RRP
Read review Compare offers
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