The 2019 BMW 3 Series is a posh saloon that’s great for the family but also loads of fun to drive. Shame the smart cabin’s clever infotainment can’t integrate better with your phone.
This is the latest version of the BMW 3 Series – a car that, since the 1970s, has traded on a reputation for being a stylish, well-built and practical saloon which is also fun to drive.
Does this reputation hold true with this new car? Well, in a word – ‘yes’.
Entry-level versions of the BMW 3 Series have smart styling, but if you find them a little sombre you can always have the go-faster body kit and big wheels of an M Sport car, just like the AMG Line upgrade you can get for the Mercedes C-Class.
Get inside and you’ll be greeted by BMW’s driver-focused dashboard design which has been inspired by the one in the bigger 5 Series. It points a few degrees towards you to give you a brilliant view of all the controls.
The design will be familiar if you’ve owned a BMW 3 Series or 4 Series in the past, but the large infotainment screens fitted to this new version are an obvious upgrade. They look much slicker than the Audi A4’s free-standing unit but you still don’t get Android Auto, so while Apple users can use their phone apps on the big screen, Android users cannot.
In fairness, that’s less of a problem in this new car with its improved infotainment system. It understands spoken commands just like your smartphone and can also route around traffic rather than sending you headlong into congestion like many in-built sat-navs.
Interior space has also increased making it more comfortable in the back than a Mercedes C-Class. The new BMW 3 Series is happy carrying four tall adults and, while the boot’s no bigger than the old car’s, it’s still large enough for a couple of large hard-shell suitcases. Smaller storage spaces are also abundant so it’s easy to keep the interior looking smart.
Keen drivers have always been drawn to the BMW 3 Series, but those who love luxury and technology now have more reason to choose one before an Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class
So the BMW 3 Series does most of the sensible stuff very well, but how does it drive? Well, its sharp steering lets you flick between corners and special dampers in the suspension (that absorb bumps well) stop the BMW leaning like an overloaded container ship when you turn. It’s at least a match for the Alfa Romeo Giulia when it comes to putting a smile on your face.
You get five engines to choose from. These include a 320d four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine has plenty of shove and will be very cheap to run. The 330i’s four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol is quicker and sportier, while the six-cylinder in the M340i xDrive four-wheel drive is a rocket ship – accelerating from 0-60mph in just 4.2 seconds. That’s about as quick as the old M3.
But, even if you act like a yob, the BMW 3 Series is always very well behaved. At a cruise, the cabin is as quiet as an Audi A4’s and a host of optional driving aids mean it can cruise itself down the motorway so long as you keep your hands on the wheel. You can’t get much more relaxing than that.
You can also have autonomous driving aids that help in town, such as the reversing assistant. It can drive the car for you, reversing back the way you came should you, say, get blocked in a multi-storey car pack – though, it might take a few attempts to actually work.
So it’s fair to say that the BMW 3 Series is better in every way than the car it replaces, while still maintaining the sporty character of every version that has come before. If you’re looking for a practical, premium saloon that you’ll enjoy driving – it’s the one to beat.