BMW 3 Series interior
The BMW 3 Series has one of the most high-tech interiors of any saloon but its design isn’t particularly eye-catching and some flashy features cost extra.
The BMW 3 Series comes with a posh-feeling cabin which has plenty of high-tech equipment.
Sure it doesn’t look quite as eye-catching as the stylish interiors you get in the Mercedes C-Class and even the Volvo S60, but it has the rather humdrum Audi A4 beaten in the design stakes. This is thanks to its more dramatic swooping dashboard design and raised centre console which makes you feel cocooned like you’re sitting in a low-slung sports car.
Just like the bigger 5 Series, every BMW 3 Series comes with plenty of cool brushed metal-effect trims on the dashboard which link the air vents beside the doors to the climate control buttons on the centre console.
Speaking of buttons, all the BMW 3 Series’ switches are laid out neatly and in sensible groups – one for the climate control, another for the stereo and a third for the infotainment system shortcuts.
Surrounding the latter is a glossy piano-black plastic trim, but you can choose to swap this out for some varnished ash wood, unpolished oak or aluminium effect trims instead.
You can also replace the standard fabric seats in SE cars for some black man-made leather items, or pick a Sport or M Sport model where you get leather sports seats as standard.
These come in a range of colours including black, brown, cream and blue with your choice of contrasting grey, cream, blue and orange stitching. Clearly, some combinations are more tasteful than others…
The BMW 3 Series’ personal assistant feature isn’t a gimmick like the voice controls in some cars, this one genuinely works and can understand a host of requests in plain English.
When it comes to infotainment, few can match the amount of tech packed into the BMW 3 Series. Unfortunately, lots of it costs extra if you don’t pick a high-spec car.
Unlike the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, every model comes with a pair of screens as standard, a 9-inch unit on the dashboard and a 6-inch display which replaces some of the functions of conventional analogue dials. The former is controlled using the touchscreen or the rotary iDrive controller on the centre console while the latter has its own dedicated buttons on the steering wheel.
It’s all very intuitive to use and you can program the standard satellite navigation more easily than in the Mercedes C-Class thanks to the BMW’s logical menus and more responsive touchscreen.
To unlock all the BMW 3 Series’ bells and whistles, however, you’ll want to pick an M Sport model with the upgraded Live Cockpit Professional system. This packs a much larger 12-inch instrument display and a beefier 10-inch central touchscreen with plenty of flashy passenger-impressing features, including the BMW Personal Assistant.
This feature lets you operate loads of the system’s features just by talking to it. Say ‘Hey BMW’ followed by a command and you can set the sat-nav, change the cabin temperature adjust the mood lighting, make phone calls and change the volume of the stereo. It understands plain English rather than just the robotic phrases favoured by many simpler systems, so saying ‘I’m hot’ will automatically change the climate control to a lower setting. In fact, it’s so smart it can tell whether the driver or passenger is speaking and adjust the temperature on their side of the car accordingly.
Unlike the similar ‘Hey Mercedes’ system in the new A-Class, you can change the BMW’s activation word to give your car a pet name, too. Just don’t tell your friends how to do this unless you fancy yelling out ‘Dave is a legend’ every time you need to tweak the climate control settings.
This system doesn’t work in conjunction with the 3 Series’ smartphone mirroring feature, however, but BMW’s own system is so good you needn’t bother connecting your phone to play music or access navigation apps. Good thing too, because it isn’t compatible with Android phones and the standard Apple CarPlay compatibility is only free for a year. Boo!
Wireless charging also costs extra, as does the upgraded Harman Kardon stereo system. The standard stereo sounds pretty good but this upgraded system packs an extra punch thanks to its beefier speakers and more powerful amplifier.