BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) Review

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BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) At A Glance

4/5
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. 

Looking for a BMW 3 Series (2012 - 2019)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

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

Oil leaking into turbo on BMW 3 Series - is this a serious problem?
"I have a BMW 3 series 1.8 diesel. Having had an oil change about 4000 miles ago, the i-drive flashed with a low oil warning and I put in one litre of oil immediately. I did this and took it to my specialist, who did the oil change and ran a few checks, There was nothing obvious, but did mention that it could be leaking into the turbo, but just keep an eye on the level for now. The car is running fine and has just covered 70,000 since 2014. But am I looking at a failing turbo? "
It isn't uncommon for any diesel turbo bearing oil seals to leak at this sort of age and mileage. But I do believe it is an early sign of turbo failure. You will eventually need to replace the unit with a new or recon turbo. You will also need to replace the oil feed pipe from the engine to the turbo and oil return pipe because they are likely to be clogged up with carbon.
Answered by Dan Powell
Are four worn tyres a warning sign when buying a used car?
"I'm negotiating with a car dealer to buy a 2018 BMW 320i. The car has 18,000 miles on the clock; however, on checking the MoT, I've discovered all four tyres have an advisory. I have spoken to the salesperson and have asked for a new MoT (it currently has eight months left). I also want four new tyres. The dealer is willing to replace the tyres, but won't commit to them all being the same make and model of tyre. Should I be concerned? "
I would be concerned on two counts. 1) If it's running on four worn tyres, I'd be worried about the rest of the car's upkeep – not replacing tyres is a sure sign other things have been neglected. That could be a bigger concern on a low mileage car like this because low miles tend to indicate a car has been used for lots of short journeys that are harder on the mechanicals. 2) I'd also have concerns about buying a car from a dealer who is willing to sell a car with advisories on all four tyres and whose solution is to offer you a set of mismatched replacements. In an ideal world, a car should have four matching tyres to ensure it handles predictably and a dealer should know this. I'd push to see the full service history (sounds like you have done this already), get four matching tyres fitted by the dealer and double check reviews of the business to gauge its after-sales support.
Answered by Russell Campbell
When should I get the transmission fluid in my car changed?
"My 2016 BMW 335D automatic has now covered 74,000 miles. Do you think its worth having the transmission fluid changed in its ZF 8-speed gearbox? "
Yes. We'd recommend a gearbox oil change every 62,000 miles or eight years (whichever comes soonest). For the longevity of the gearbox, it's worth changing the transmission oil now.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Is a used car with very low mileage cause for concern?
"I’ve seen a BMW 320i M Sport that I’m rather interested in. It’s at the main dealer. It was registered in late July 2017 but has covered only 2500 miles. Is that low mileage likely to be a problem? I tend to keep cars for 4-5 years and cover 6000-8000 miles per year (in normal times). Many thanks. "
It's a bit worrying, yes. Cars don't like being left unused for long periods. Parts seize up and there could be issues when it's pressed into regular use. If it's cheaper than similar cars and comes with a warranty, it could be worth a punt.
Answered by Andrew Brady

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