BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) Review

BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The BMW 3 Series does it all, reliably and efficiently, offering cut-above motoring to the everyday motorist. It still has a driver-pleasing edge, though, with superb handling and an enthusiastic nature. Some things, fortunately, never change…

+Brilliant to drive, powerful and fuel-efficient engines, good interior space and practicality.

-Interior quality lags behind Audi, early models get a basic infotainment system, folding rear seats were optional.

Insurance Groups are between 18–43
On average it achieves 74% of the official MPG figure

The BMW 3 Series is a benchmark premium executive saloon car. These days, it easily outsells more traditional family cars such as the Ford Mondeo, and sometimes even appears in the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars list. Over the years, BMW has refined the 3 Series, curing complaints about the early 1980s cars such as cramped interiors and thirsty engines. 

As with every previous model, this sixth generation of the BMW 3 Series (codenamed F30 by the company) was, at launch in 2012, the best yet. A core model in the BMW range, and one that drives a big chunk of its profitability, tireless work by the engineers created another car that was quickly considered a sector front-runner.

The best bit with any 3 Series is how it drives, and BMW was careful not to disappoint here. Years of experience in building sporty-feeling saloons is clear from the first turn of the wheel.

The steering is firm and direct, body control is excellent and the handling is anything but soft or soggy. The fact it is rear-driven also helps the balance and purity, marking it out from something like an Audi A4. BMW also offered grippy all-wheel-drive versions, called xDrive, for better winter-weather ability.

The previous 3 Series quite a choppy ride, and could become rather uncomfortable over rough roads in the city. This was an area BMW improved – and while you’ll never mistake it for a smoother-running Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the 3 Series unquestionably delivers the best balance of ride and handling in its class. That’s particularly true of cars fitted with the optional adaptive damping system.

Engines are strong across the board. Diesel dominates, with BMW’s leadership in producing smooth and powerful, yet efficient and CO2-friendly motors leading to most being sold with a 318d or 320d diesel engine.

The standout is the 320d EfficientDynamics, which has implausibly low CO2 despite its effortless punch. This generation of 3 Series also offers a brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox alongside the engaging six-speed manual.

We have long admired BMW’s excellent infotainment systems and the 3 Series doesn’t disappoint. Even the entry-level setup is intuitive and easy to use, with early cars only missing out due to their lack of standard sat-nav. This was fixed in 2015 and, a year later, the system became even more impressive with a full overhaul. Use a BMW and you have to wonder how Mercedes-Benz makes it so complicated…

Those with long memories will remember that the BMW 3 Series used to be a byword for impracticality. Business executives on long trips would gripe about the lack of rear-seat space, with cramped knees and squeezed feet. This generation cured that once and for all, with a much more accommodating rear to complement the spacious front seats.

The boot is also pretty commodious, with up to 480 litres of space on offer, although it’s not quite as practical as it sounds due to the restrictions of the saloon body shape – and not helped by BMW’s bizarre decision to leave folding rear seats on the options list.

Today, prices are becoming very tempting and there’s plenty of choice on the market thanks to the 3 Series’ strong new sales. That it is such a well-built car, one that’s proven to be very reliable, further validates interest in this image-conscious model. One of the most popular second-hand cars on sale, it’s not hard to see why the BMW 3 Series is such a winner.

Ask Honest John

What is high mileage for a BMW 3 Series?

"Looking at possibly buying a 2014 BMW 320d with 136,000 for around £6k. Not sure if the mileage is too high?"
A 2014 car with 136,000 miles will have covered approximately 15,000 miles a year, which is above the average of 12,000 miles but is not excessive. It also does not necessarily mean this is a bad choice if it has been looked after and has a full service history. You can read our review of the BMW 3 Series here for further information: One important point to note is that BMW 2.0-litre diesel engines of this era have experienced problems with timing chains, so we would look carefully at the service history to see if rectification work has been carried out.
Answered by David Ross

I only do around 1000 miles a year - would a hybrid suit my needs?

"My current car is a BMW 320i, bought new in 2014 and has 12,800 miles on the clock. Would my usage suit a hybrid or would the battery be a problem with such low mileage?"
You don't mention how you use your current car, but assuming you have travelled only 13,000 miles in nine years this would suggest you make frequent short journeys and relatively few long trips. Hybrid vehicles are suited to shorter journeys as the frequent acceleration and braking means the battery is frequently charging and discharging. However, some hybrid owners have found that an absence of longer journeys and long periods of being parked up means the hybrid battery is rarely recharged fully, and have experienced a lack of functionality from the hybrid system. You may wish to consider a plug-in hybrid, because if you can charge at home you can keep the battery topped up and also carry out short journeys on purely electric power, which will result in lower running costs than a conventional hybrid or petrol car.
Answered by David Ross

Will changing away from runflat tyres help the ride comfort on my BMW?

"I have owned a BMW 320i XDrive from new in 2016. I have always found the ride to be noisy and hard but enjoyed the sharp steering and power response. The car has done 25000 miles and I anticipate the original tyres - Pirelli 225/ R18's- will need to be changed soon. The car's "comfort" mode makes little difference. Now I'm 75 and looking for a quieter, more comfortable ride. Will changing to pneumatic tyres help or should I consider a new car? I would look for auto transmission, petrol or petrol/hybrid and fwd or 4wd. I could allocate £10,000 plus trade in but need any new car to fit in my garage so a maximum width of 2.0 metres. What do you suggest?"
You don't mention if your BMW is an SE or an M Sport, as the latter could have sport suspension which may be contributing to the firm ride. Switching from your run-flats to conventional tyres would help the ride quality and you could also select a tyre with a slightly bigger sidewall for additional comfort. Unless your car is fitted with Adaptive M Suspension, the Comfort mode only changes the steering, engine and gearbox operation and will not alter the ride quality. If you wanted to switch to a different car, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a similar size to your 3 Series and offers good ride quality and comfort, albeit at the expense of handling, compared to the BMW.
Answered by David Ross

Why has my local garage inflated its tyre prices?

"Last week I took my 2013 BMW 328i into my local garage (which is part of a national chain) for an MOT and service. My car failed the MoT because two runflat tyres had some damage that I was unaware of. I was quoted over £470 to replace the pair. After doing some online research I found the same tyres being advertised on the company's website for £170 less. I challenged the garage on their quoted price and was told that "it was company policy to provide the higher shop retail price". I then ordered the tyres online and had them fitted by the same garage the following day. What do you think of this behaviour?"
We always recommend that people shop around in this instance, tyres can have a particularly variable cost depending on where you look. Some companies will take advantage during an MoT to charge you an inflated price for tyres hoping that for the 'convenience factor' people will just pay up rather than do some research. It's not unique to the current times but disappointing to see.
Answered by Lawrence Allan
More Questions

What does a BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) cost?