BMW 3 Series interior

The BMW 3 Series has one of the most high-tech interiors of any saloon but its design is a bit conservative and some flashy features cost extra.

Style

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 – classic BMW.

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.

Those shortcut buttons are surrounded by a glossy piano-black plastic trim, but there are several different trims that you can swap it out for, including varnished ash wood, unpolished oak or aluminium effect.

The SE cars get fabric seats as standard, but you can swap in some black man-made leather ones instead. If you get a Sport or M Sport model then 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…

All the materials in the BMW 3 Series’ cabin – from the lining of the door pockets to the lid on the glovebox – feel lovely and plush. The only hard bits are on the lower edges of the centre console and behind the front door openings.

In some cars, the voice-activated personal assist is a gimmick, but not in the BMW 3 Series. It genuinely works and can understand a range of requests in plain English.

Mat Watson
carwow expert
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Infotainment

Few cars can match the level of tech packed into the BMW 3 Series. Unfortunately, lots of it will cost extra if you don’t go for a high-spec car.

Every car gets a pair of screens as standard, which is more than you get on the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. There’s a 9-inch display on the dashboard and a 6-inch one that replaces some of the functions of conventional analogue dials in front of the driver. The main one on the dash is a touchscreen that can also be controlled using the rotary iDrive controller on the centre console, while the latter has its own dedicated buttons on the steering wheel.

You’ll find the BMW system is logically laid out and more responsive than the equivalent system in the Mercedes C-Class and it is intuitive to use and easy to program the sat nav easier, too.

All the bells and whistles come when you go for an M Sport model with the upgraded Live Cockpit Professional system. This brings a much larger 12-inch instrument display that you can configure using buttons on the steering wheel. It’s clear and sharp but it can’t display quite as much information as the similar screens you can get in a Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4.

Alongside this display, M Sport models also get 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 using gesture controls or just by talking to it. Say ‘Hey BMW’ and then tell it what you want it to do. It lets you set the sat-nav, change the cabin temperature, make phone calls, change the volume of the stereo and even adjust the mood lighting.

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 even clever enough that it will even be able to recognise whether it’s the driver or passenger speaking and adjust the temperature on their side of the car accordingly.

Unlike the similar ‘Hey Mercedes’ system, 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’ Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring features, however, which is a shame because the 3 Series’ satellite navigation isn’t quite as good at avoiding traffic some of the apps on your smartphone, like Waze. It’s still one of the best standalone systems out there, though.

Unfortunately, wireless charging to help keep your phone topped up with juice 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.

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