BMW 3 Series Review & Prices

The BMW 3 Series is a practical-yet-high-end family car that’s great to drive. It’s very annoying that options are expensive though

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RRP £40,220 - £59,835 Avg. Carwow saving £5,819 off RRP
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£37,097
Monthly
£437*
Used
£15,650
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wowscore
9/10
Reviewed by Carwow after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Excellent infotainment setup
  • Roomy, high-quality cabin
  • Exceptionally good to drive

What's not so good

  • Not as affordable as it appears
  • Rival cars have clearer digital screens
  • Too many options that should be standard

Find out more about the BMW 3 Series

Is the BMW 3 Series a good car?

If you haven’t heard of the BMW 3 Series, you haven’t been paying attention. Simply put, it’s one of the best all-rounders you can buy. If you are after a premium, practical family saloon and you love to drive, this is the car for you.

Like shopping at Waitrose instead of Lidl, or having Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee instead of Nescafe, it’s about paying a little extra for a much higher quality product. 

Clearly the 3 Series has some tough competition from the Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, and even Alfa Romeo Giulia. But to cut a long story short, it’s the best car in the segment, and an award-winner too — the BMW 330e picked up the Best Family Hybrid Car in the 2021 carwow Car of the Year Awards, although since then Mercedes has launched the exceptionally talented new C300e plug-in hybrid

It’s arguably not the most handsome car in the class, as the styling is a bit overdone and fussy in places. But it’s undeniably appealing, especially in the more muscular M Sport form, which comes with a sporty bodykit. The recent update has tidied things up slightly, and for the most part it’s still a decent-looking car. 

An update in 2023 introduced the big, curved digital screen first seen in the iX electric SUV, and more recently in the i4 electric four-door coupe. It’s a dramatic looking thing, and while BMW was at it, the centre console and switches were updated too. 

Group Test: Audi A4 v BMW 3 Series v DS9 v Genesis G70 v Mercedes C-Class

It’s a really well-made cabin, just nipping ahead of the likes of Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, and Genesis when it comes to interior quality. 

You’ll find there’s more than enough space in the cabin, while the boot is as good or better than alternatives thanks to its 480 litres of capacity (although if you want even more practicality, you should take a look at the handsome 3 Series Touring estate…). It’s bang on the same boot space as the C-Class, but slightly behind the Audi A4, which has a 495-litre boot. Oddly, the Jaguar XF – a bigger car overall – has a smaller boot than the 3 Series, at 459 litres. 

That’s all the sensible stuff taken care of, but the real joy of 3 Series ownership is driving it. It really nails that classic BMW feeling of precise driving, with feedback and involvement to keep a smile on your face. 

Refinement is excellent, and optional driving aids mean that it can take care of basic lane keeping and staying a safe distance from the car in front on the motorway (as long as you’re paying proper attention too, of course).

Depending on your use, the 320i petrol or 320d diesel are the best bet, while M Sport is always the best trim

Depending on your use, the 320i petrol or 320d diesel are the best bet. M Sport is always the best trim. Head to our BMW 3 Series deals page to see what you could save on one!

You can choose from a series of engines, with BMW offering a mix of efficiency and performance throughout the line-up, including some very impressive plug-in hybrid models while both its diesel engine options (yes, you can still buy a diesel, although the old 330d has been dropped too) now come with fuel-saving mild-hybrid assistance.

All up, the 3 Series is a fantastic all-rounder. It’s great to drive, practical, and feels properly posh on the inside too. If it sounds like the car for you, head on over to our 3 Series deals page to see how much money you can save when you buy through carwow. You can also get great deals on new BMWs, while you can check out used deals on BMW models.

If you want to change your car altogether, use the sell my car service. Our trusted dealers will bid on your car, and you can then choose the right offer for you.

How much is the BMW 3 Series?

The BMW 3 Series has a RRP range of £40,220 to £59,835. However, with Carwow you can save on average £5,819. Prices start at £37,097 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £437. The price of a used BMW 3 Series on Carwow starts at £15,650.

Our most popular versions of the BMW 3 Series are:

Model version Carwow price from
320i Sport 4dr Step Auto £37,097 Compare offers

The 3 Series’ prices run the gamut from fairly affordable (if you’re looking for a basic 320i or 320d) all the way up to searingly expensive (if you’re looking at an M340i or M340d — or especially the supercar-fast M3).

An entry-level 3 Series is significantly cheaper than an entry-level Mercedes C-Class, even though the C-Class’ cheapest engine option, the the 1.5-litre C200, is directly comparable to BMW’s 320i. Mind you, you could look at the likes of a slightly smaller (but still competitive) Mercedes CLA, which is significantly cheaper than a 3 Series. Sadly, the old entry-level models, 318i petrol and 318d diesel, have been dropped and the BMW’s price has gone up quite a bit as a result.

An Audi A4 is also considerably cheaper at its most basic, priced at more or less the same level as the Merc CLA, although higher up the trim lines it’s more directly competitive with the BMW. Interestingly, if you look a Jaguar, then you’ll find that the XE — comparable in size to the 3 Series — is slightly cheaper, while the XF — a bigger car, closer to a 5 Series in size — is also considerably more affordable, at its cheapest point. The Jags have less engine and trim choice in their lineups, but are certainly worth considering from a value point of view and at least now they’re back in production, having been put on hiatus due to the computer chip shortage crisis.

Watch the BMW’s options list too — items like adaptive, radar-controlled cruise control are expensive extras, even though you get it as standard on many much cheaper cars. You can always save some cash by shopping through carwow for the best discounts, of course…

Performance and drive comfort

It’s no surprise that the 3 Series remains supreme to drive and improved refinement levels have lifted it up to Mercedes levels,  but the ride can be too firm around town at times, especially in an M-Sport model

In town

In SE trim, the 3 Series’ suspension is quite soft, so it rides well around town. That said, bear in mind that M-Sport models come with stiffer, lower suspension so they ride a bit more roughly, especially on urban roads. Still, you can spec your sportier 3 Series with adaptive suspension, which when set to Comfort mode, does cope well with bumps and even in with standard M-Sport springs and dampers, it’s more firm than it is hard. Actually, it has exceptionally good suspension control, so that it recovers quickly and smoothly after hitting a bump, so even though there’s firmness, it never feels flustered. 

It’s worth remembering that the 330e plug-in hybrid gets slightly stiffer suspension again, as it has to be tightened up to cope with the extra weight of the battery and hybrid system.

The turning circle is only average, though, and the 3 Series isn’t quite as nippy in town as, say, a Mercedes C-Class. The steering is lovely — weighty but not heavy —- but the brakes can be a little snatchy until you get used to the pedal feel. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is absolutely fantastic, though. 

When parking, the standard front and rear sensors, and the rear-facing camera, make life easier, although visibility out is hindered by thick rear door pillars. Optionally, you can have a very clever Active Parking Plus system that includes a 3D surround-camera system, and steering that parks the car for you. It can even learn, and repeat, regularly used manoeuvres such as how to reverse onto your own driveway.

On the motorway

The 3 Series is truly at home on the motorway, and it’s really quite refined (although the four-cylinder diesels do get noisy when you really put your foot down).

Acceleration from 50-70mph is especially impressive in models such as the 320d and 330e, so BMW clearly knows what its customers want and need, although you need to give the eight-speed automatic gearbox a second or two to kick-down (does anyone else miss having a manual gearbox in a 3 Series?). Any 3 Series makes for a pretty effortless way to cover big miles, especially since BMW improved the car’s overall refinement, lifting it up to Mercedes-Benz levels. 

On a twisty road

Stick your 3 Series into Sport mode and you’ll get meatier steering feel, sharper gearbox and throttle responses, and if you’ve got the adaptive suspension fitted, stiffer shock absorbers - which help to reduce body roll through faster corners even more. 

With standard rear-wheel drive, the 3 Series just feels so engaging and agile, with super-sharp steering that’s very precise. You always know exactly what the 3 Series is doing, and so it builds huge amount of confidence on a twisty road.

It is genuinely good fun to drive too — BMW has really nailed it with this 3 Series. In fact, it might just be the only car you ever need.

Space and practicality

As far as saloon cars go, the 3 Series is about as practical as it gets. There’s enough space in the back, and a decent boot although it could be more versatile

There’s very good storage space in the front of the 3 Series’ cabin, starting with big door bins that have a separate section for holding a bottle of water. There’s a pair of decent cup-holders, sensibly located next to the gear selector, and they’re not too deep so if you’ve got a small cup of coffee, it’s not going to disappear down into them. That gear selector is now a small toggle switch, instead of the old ‘big sticking up thumb’ gear lever that you got before. It doesn’t open up any more storage space, but it makes the cabin in general feel more open and spacious. 

Another small storage tray can be found in front of the cupholders, as well as a big lid that covers that whole section up. You’ve got a decent storage box under the front-seat armrest, and another lidded cubby down by your right knee for ‘secret storage.’ The glove box is a bit mediocre though, as it’s quite shallow. 

Space in the back seats

Getting in and out of the back seats is easy, thanks to doors that open up nice and wide, and it’s a nice touch that the seat padding extends all the way out to cover the wheel arch so you’re not bumping against hard metal. 

Space is very good for a car of this size, with impressive knee room and a place for your feet under the front seats. The rear seat bases are quite long, too, so the backs of your legs are better-supported on a long journey. 

Headroom is fine, but if you need to sit three people across the back seat, there’s a massive transmission tunnel to work around. The middle rear seat is actually reasonably roomy, aside from that though. 

For child seats, there are ISOFIX points in the back, with neat flip-up covers for the anchor points, and there’s enough space to get a bulky rear-facing seat in without having to move the front passenger seat forward. 

The windows are a little on the high side, so the view out for kids isn’t that great, but they do get two USB-C sockets and a 12-volt connection. There are helpful seat-back nets for more storage, and cupholders in the flip-down armrest. 

Boot space

In terms of boot space, the 3 Series is on par with any other four-door saloon of similar size. It actually has 480 litres of space, which is the same as an Audi A4, and quite a lot more than the 455 litres of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s more spacious than a Jaguar XE or Volvo S60, too. It’s also way ahead of the 330 litres you get from the Genesis G70. 

The rear seats split-fold in a 40:20:40 ratio, so you can just fold down the narrow centre bit if you need to carry something long. The boot opening is a good size, but there is a bit of a load lip if you need to get something heavy in or out. 

There are helpful storage nets at the side of the boot though, as well as tie-down hooks and a 12-volt socket. There’s an optional electric bootlid, which seems spectacularly pointless on a saloon. Just lift it up yourself… 

There are levers in the boot to unlock the back seats for folding, but they’re annoyingly not sprung, so you have to lean into the boot to push them down. They fold almost (but not quite entirely) flat, and there’s enough room to fit in a mountain bike, with wheel attached, when they’re folded. There’s also a folding centre-section of the rear seat to allow you to fit long, narrow stuff even when you’ve got people sitting in the back. With the seats up, there’s enough room for two large and two medium suitcases, AND a set of golf clubs or a baby buggy, which is very decent.

Interior style, infotainment and accessories

The inside of the 3 Series really is what you might call classic BMW — even with the big new screens, it still feels logical and sensible, although it’s not quite as simple to use as it was

You could argue that the arrival of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with its high-tech cabin, has spurred BMW into upgrading the digital layout of the 3 Series. To be honest, it was probably already in the pipeline before the C-Class arrived, but the upshot is that the 3 Series now gets the same big, curved screen that we’ve already seen in the likes of the iX and the i4, which sits on top of the dashboard, doing away with the old separate instrument binnacle and centre touchscreen.

It’s a very high-tech setup, with all-new graphics that thankfully do away with the old, slightly dark, BMW digital instrument panel. It’s a bit of a shame that you can’t customise the instrument panel layout as much as you can in the C-Class, and that some of the graphics look a bit ‘PlayStation’ at times, but for the most part it’s an impressive addition to the 3 Series’ cabin.

There are actually two screens — one for the instruments and another for the infotainment. The infotainment has fairly sensible menu layouts, and you’ll find your way around it easily enough but it can be a little confusing at times. It’s also annoying that BMW has taken away the simple and easy-to-use physical buttons for the air conditioning system and put them on the screen, where you have to press a ‘button’ to get to a separate menu to adjust things. It’s a bit of a faff.

You can control the infotainment system by touch, by voice, by using the old-style iDrive click-wheel controller down on the centre console, or by using the buttons on the steering wheel. It can get a bit bewildering at times. 

Up front, there’s a USB-B socket and a 12-volt connection in with the cupholders, and an optional wireless phone charger too. There’s a USB-C socket under the front-seat armrest. 

The overall layout of the controls is really good, with all of your driving controls grouped on the centre console next to the gear selector, but the movement of more and more controls to the big screen makes this new 3 Series slightly more frustrating to use than the old one. 

The driving position is good, and you can get the seat nice and low for a sporty feel, but there’s enough height adjustment that smaller drivers can still see out properly. The steering wheel has plenty of adjustment too, but the pedals are set annoyingly off to the right a bit — it feels like your feet are in the front wheel arch.

MPG, emissions and tax

In theory, the champion of fuel economy in the 3 Series lineup is the plug-in hybrid 330e. With its ability to run on electric power alone, it can return some spectacular economy figures (as much as 201mpg according to efficiency tests) but to do that you’ll have to plug it in and charge it a lot, as its electric-only range is just 36 miles, compared to the whopping 68 miles claimed by the new Mercedes C 300e plug-in hybrid. 

On a longer journey, a 330e will return more like 40mpg — not bad, but at the same time not as good as the 60mpg you’ll get from a carefully-driven 320d. Even a six-cylinder 330d is better on a long run, and is easily capable of 50mpg and a 320i petrol can easily top 40mpg in mixed driving. Go for the 374hp M340i and you’ll be lucky to get much better than 35mpg out of it…

The 330e is unquestionably the emissions champ though, with CO2 emissions of just 30g/km for the rear-wheel drive version, or up to 38g/km for the four-wheel drive model. The next best is the 127g/km for an automatic 320d, depending on which alloy wheels you’ve fitted. 

A 320i has 145g/km emissions, while a 330i does surprisingly well at 149g/km. For the M340d it’s 159g/km and 182g/km for the M340i. 

The 330e will cost nothing for the first year of tax for a private buyer, and £145 a year thereafter, while a 320d will set you back a reasonable £230 for the first year, but because its basic price has crept above £40,000 you’ll also have to pay the ‘pricey-car-surcharge’ of £355.

A 320i and 330i will be in the £230 bracket, but, again, don’t forget the £335 annual levy for cars costing more than £40,000 although a basic 320i still juuuust slips under that barrier. For company car users paying the 20 per cent tax rate, a 330e will set you back as little as £90 a month, while it’ll be at least £208 a month for a 320d. For a 320i it’ll be more like £219 per month. An M340i? That’ll be £351 per month…

All 3 Series models conform to the latest Euro 6 emissions and RDE2 standards, so you’ll not get hit with ULEZ charges nor the first-year tax supplement.

Safety & security

The 3 Series has a full five-star safety and crash test rating from the independent experts at Euro NCAP, with a 97 per cent score for adult occupants, and an 87 per cent score for both child occupants and vulnerable road users. 

As standard, all models get Active Guard Plus, which is an emergency automated braking system that can detect cyclists and pedestrians, and the bonnet pops up to cushion an impact if you were ever to hit someone. Plus, you get adaptive LED headlights, stability control, traction control, and tyre pressure monitors. 

The dynamic brake lights also light up brighter under heavy braking to warn drivers behind you. You get front driver and passenger airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, and front and rear side head airbags. Only the front seats get pelvis and chest airbags, though. 

For extra security, there are ISOFIX points in the rear seats, an airbag cutoff switch for the front passenger seat, plus built-in emergency calling if you have an accident. You can also specify high-intensity ‘Laser’ headlights that automatically dim for oncoming traffic, a head-up display that projects driving data onto the windscreen, and a Driving Assistant Professional, which helps to keep you in lane and a safe distance from the cars around you on the motorway. 

There’s also the option of a BMW ‘CarEye’ built-in dash camera which automatically records what happened in the event of an accident, and there’s the option of a built-in vehicle tracker. 

Reliability and problems

All BMWs come with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, and there are cost-options for extending that out beyond three years and up to 100,000 miles. There’s also an inclusive service plan for the 3 Series, which costs £836 up front, and which covers all your standard servicing costs for the first five years of ownership, or 62,000 miles. You can also get an inclusive service package for £25 per month. 

BMW also offers its own roadside assistance programme (which costs £69 per year), and also offers a specific insurance plan to cover cosmetic damage. 

Generally speaking, BMWs are well made, and the current 3 Series has been in production long enough for most bugs to be ironed out, but there have been reports of niggles — especially with the infotainment system — will the new big screen layout be more reliable?

The current 3 Series has had a few recalls, primarily for small items such as poor battery cable designs, and sensor connections, but there have been more serious items covered, such as fragile track-rod ends (part of the steering system) and even the potential for fires caused by the plug-in hybrid 330e’s battery.

Buy or lease the BMW 3 Series at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £40,220 - £59,835 Avg. Carwow saving £5,819 off RRP
Carwow price from
Cash
£37,097
Monthly
£437*
Used
£15,650
Ready to see prices tailored to you?
Compare new offers Compare used deals
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