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 75% 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

Why is the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid zero road tax?
"How is it that the new BMW 330e plug-in hybrid variant can be zero tax rated when after 25 miles it has to run on its petrol engine when my BMW i3 can do up to 140 miles on its battery and only then starts its little petrol generator to charge the battery for up to another 60 miles to get it to a charging station? The petrol powered generator does not drive the car just charges the battery. This is totally irrational and surely cannot be justified."
The road tax VED system before 2017 was based on tailpipe CO2 emission levels. This was designed to lower the UK's CO2 output. As a result, millions of diesel and hybrid cars registered before this cut off date qualify for free VED if their CO2 level is lower than 100g/km. The road tax system was changed in 2017 as the higher diesel car take-up results in dangerously poor air quality in the UK's towns and cities. That means only pure electric cars registered from 2017 onwards qualify for free VED, with hybrids and plug-in hybrids paying an annual fee:
Answered by Dan Powell
What are the most common faults on the BMW 3 Series?
"What are the most common faults on a used 2010 BMW 3 Series 320d? I am thinking of buying one and would value your opinion on this model. "
This car uses the problematic BMW N47 engine, which has a poor record for reliability. Most issues envelop the timing chain, which is at the rear of the engine instead of at the front. The tensioners are prone to wearing and wrecking the engine. Personally, I'd steer clear of any BMW with the N47 engine.
Answered by Dan Powell
Do I have to stick with run flat tyres?
"I have a BMW 335d GT 2017 plate, which came out of the factory with run flat tyres fitted. If I wanted to fit non-run flat tyres onto the car would this be allowed and would it have any effect on my insurance in any way? "
There is no law or rule that says if your car comes fitted with run flat tyres you must replace them with run flats. In fact, many owners remove run flats as they find they don't perform as well as regular tyres, with higher noise levels, a firmer ride and worse grip. Of course, the only thing to bear in mind is you'll then have to rely on a can of foam sealant to get you home, or stick a spare in the boot.
Answered by Lawrence Allan
Why is my car not compliant with the London ULEZ?
"My car is a BMW 318d on a 14 plate. I did a check on a couple of websites and it came back as not acceptable for the London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Yet I tried another car, a year older and it was acceptable. This was also a diesel, same model, but older. I also noticed a Mazda RX8, which was 16 years old and I believe quite high on emissions, and again this was acceptable for ULEZ. My question is why is mine not acceptable, yet older cars are OK? It doesn't seem fair at all. Clean air zones will become the norm in towns and cities fairly soon, so I will have to consider selling it after only owning it for a year."
ULEZ compliance is determined by total tailpipe emissions. It isn't decided on the age of the vehicle or its engine's Euro rating. Petrol cars emit less harmful emissions (particulate matter and nitrogen oxides) which means a 16-year-old Euro4 can qualify whereas a 7 or 8-year-old Euro5 may not. For more information on the London ULEZ, see:
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions

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