The BMW 3 Series defines the class it’s in, but doesn’t head it as comprehensively as it once did.
BMW claims it invented the compact executive class with the 3 Series. Certainly it has dominated the segment, where it and its rivals have decimated the sales of mainstream saloon cars, but the competition has caught up, so the 3 Series is not quite as far ahead as it once was.
What is it?
The car that defines its segment, the BMW 3 Series is the compact executive saloon that everyone knows. Its core competition is the German duo of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, though other pretenders to the 3’s throne include Jaguar’s XE and the Lexus IS. The 3 Series and its ilk have also hit the mainstream saloon marketplace hard, with competitive ownership costs thanks to high residual values and superb economy and emissions thanks to excellent diesel engines.
What is it like?
Still sharp to drive, with a chassis that’s sporty and fun. BMW’s real trick is mixing that engaging drive with impressive economy. Forget the range-topping M3 and other petrol models, as the 3 Series is all about its entry-level diesel offerings, the 316d, 318d and 320d - all of which all fall under 120g/km of CO2 (xDrive 4x4 models excepted) and offer 4.4 litres/100km or better consumption.
Carzone verdict: 4.5/5
Buy one and you’ll not be disappointed, as the combination of economy and driving enjoyment is compelling, which does make up for a somewhat cramped cabin and small-ish boot, too, certainly in comparison to mass-market saloons. The brand new A4 and C-Class are closer than they’ve ever been, but that the 3 Series is still right up there, underlining its excellence. The economy champion 320d EfficientDynamics Plus saloon is all the compact executive you could ever want or need, and costs surprisingly little to run.