Review: BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019)
Great to drive yet has a forgiving ride. More space in the back than before. xDrive four-wheel drive available. 320d Efficient Dynamics averages a claimed 68.9mpg.
Interior starting to feel dated alongside rivals like the Audi A4 Avant.
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BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019): At A Glance
- New prices start from £27,800, brokers can source from £21,754
- Contract hire deals from £263.51 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 18–43
- On average it achieves 76% of the official MPG figure
The sixth generation BMW 3 Series saloon is more polished, honed and able than ever. Considering the competition the BMW is up against, the fact it also regularly comes out on top is a huge credit to the Bavarian.
BMW has kept the same basic formula for the 3 Series as always, with an engine at the front driving the rear wheels. However, for the first time for UK buyers, you can also order the 3 Series with xDrive four-wheel drive and it’s proving popular, with one in 10 buyers opting for all-wheel drive.
Four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, the 3 Series has always been a benchmark for driving dynamics and the latest generation is no different. It steers with enjoyable accuracy and sashays over lumps and bumps with much better control and suppleness than its predecessor thanks to a longer wheelbase and more rigid body shell.
The extra length also goes a long way to addressing one of the 3 Series few flaws by offering much more rear legroom than any previous generation. While not limo-like, at least a couple of adults can travel in decent comfort now, while the boot is large and practically shaped.
To tailor the 3 Series more to modern buyers, BMW now offers it in no less than five trim levels, from entry point ES all the way to M Sport. There is also a more comfort oriented strand to the trim levels with the SE and Luxury versions.
As it’s a BMW, the 3 Series also has a broad spread of engines, comprising four and six-cylinder petrols and turbodiesels. All offer fine performance, while the 320d provides 68.9mpg and 109g/km to be a huge hit with company and private buyers alike.
What does a BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) cost?
BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019): What's It Like Inside?
This latest generation of the BMW 3 Series saloon is the most spacious and comfortable yet. Where previous 3 Series models have been criticised for a shortage of rear legroom, this model lays that accusation to rest.
Admittedly, you will be pushed to fit three adults into the back seat of the BMW, but it will happily accommodate two without the need for front seat passengers to compromise on their space or comfort.
The boot of the saloon comes in at 480 litres, which is much the same as it competitors’. It’s a well shaped rectangular box with no interruptions. There are extra storage pockets in the side walls of the boot and, as an option, you can order split and tip rear seats to add to the load space.
Much of this 3 Series much improved boot space comes from the car being 93mm longer than its predecessor. Some of this additional space is also given over to rear occupants’ leg room to the tune of 15mm. Not a huge amount, but still welcome all the same, as is the extra 8mm rear headroom over the last 3 series.
In the front, the driver has no concerns about head, leg and shoulder space. The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach, while the seat base also moves for distance and height. However, it’s wise to choose the electric seat adjustment option as the standard manually operated levers can be a faff to use, especially the seat height adjustment that often requires the driver to haul themselves up by using the steering wheel as a grab handle.
Once you have achieved the right driving position, the 3 Series’ seats are very comfortable and supportive. The driving position also gives a good view out, with only some limited vision caused by the thickness and slope of the rear window pillars.
The dash is just as easy to cast your eyes over as BMW has grouped the stereo and ventilation controls logically and clearly. It’s the same with the main dials in the binnacle, which shun fancy graphics in favour of simple, precise white on black clocks plus a small digital display.
BMW has not forgotten high tech controls in the 3 Series, however, and its iDrive ranks as one of the easiest of its breed to use. A small rotary control in behind the gear lever works a series of menus in easy to follow steps so you can set up the car and its functions to your preferences. The screen, mounted in the centre of the dash top, is easy to rear and free from glare.
All 3 Series have this control, whether you choose the ES, SE, Sport, Luxury or M Sport trim. BMW’s EfficientDynamics is only offered with the 320d and there are some trims not offered with every engine option. However, all 3 Series models come with air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth connection and a multifunction steering wheel. To gain standard leather upholstery, you need to go for the Luxury model, while the M Sport has sports suspension included as standard but this can be deleted at no extra cost if you want a more cosseting ride.
Child seats that fit a BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019) like to drive?
It’s telling that there are more diesel engines in the BMW 3 Series saloon range than petrols. This is a car aimed squarely at company car drivers in the UK and it hits its target with unerring accuracy.
While the 316d might seem like the most appropriate choice for cost-conscious buyers, it’s the 320d that scores the bullseye. With 163PS on offer from the 2.0-litre engine and more than enough low- and mid-rev oomph for swift acceleration, the 320d in EfficientDynamics form also musters the same 68.9mpg combined economy as the 316d. Emissions of 109g/km mean free road tax and low company car tax rates too.
EfficientDynamics is BMW’s fuel and CO2-saving kit that includes low rolling resistance tyres, regenerative braking to top up the battery’s charge as the car slows, automatic stop-start and a slightly lower ride height to improve aerodynamics. Altogether, the 320d EfficientDynamics model registers carbon dioxide emissions 10g/km lower than the standard 320d and is 6.1mpg more frugal.
For those who want diesel power but more performance, BMW offers its 325d, 330d and storming 335d models. The 325d uses a 218PS version of the same 2.0-litre engine in the 320d but it covers 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds versus the 320d EfficientDynamics’ still respectable 8.0 seconds.
If you still crave more power and performance, the six-cylinder 330d and 335d provide 258PS and 313PS respectively to see off 0-62mph in 5.6- and 4.8 seconds. The 335d is only available with xDrive four-wheel drive and its performance puts it in the same territory as the mighty M3 yet it can also return 52.3mpg and 143g/km CO2 emissions.
Not even the most powerful of the non-M versions of the 3 Series saloon can match the pace of the diesel-powered 335d. Closest is the sweet-revving 335i that manages 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, 35.8mpg and 186g/km. You could also choose the ActiveHybrid model with 3.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor that gives 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, 47.9mpg and 139g/km emissions, though its considerable price tag puts off most buyers.
There are also four-cylinder 328i and 320i models, both using versions of the same 2.0-litre twin-turbo motor. The 316i has its own 1.6-litre engine with 136PS to deliver 47.9mpg, 149g/km CO2 output and 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds.
Whichever 3 Series you choose, they all drive brilliantly whether you stick with the six-speed manual gearbox or supremely smooth eight-speed auto. Even with xDrive all-wheel traction, the bias is towards the rear wheels to maintain that trademark BMW feel on the road.
The 3 Series enjoys a deft control in corners missing from the Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class. BMW has set up the steering to give superb feel without any untoward jolts, while the ride quality also serves up the same fine balance between sporting fun and calm comfort.
In all 3 Series, the driver can choose between Comfort, Sport and ECO Pro modes with the Drive Performance Control. In Sport models, there is a standard fourth setting of Sport+, which sharpens responses further and this is an option for non-Sport versions. You can also add Adaptive M Sport suspension, though the standard set-up is very good to begin with.
Another common thread with all 3 Series saloon is excellent refinement. Whether it’s road, wind or engine noise, they are all kept out of the cabin with ease, making the 3 Series perfect for any journey and at any speed.
|316d||60–63 mpg||10.7–10.9 s||109–118 g/km|
|316d Automatic||61–64 mpg||10.6–10.8 s||109–117 g/km|
|316i||48 mpg||8.9 s||138 g/km|
|316i Automatic||48 mpg||9.2 s||138 g/km|
|318d||61–64 mpg||8.6–9.0 s||111–122 g/km|
|318d Automatic||61–64 mpg||8.4–8.9 s||111–118 g/km|
|318i||46 mpg||8.9 s||124 g/km|
|318i Automatic||47 mpg||9.1 s||122 g/km|
|320d||59–64 mpg||7.3–8.6 s||111–120 g/km|
|320d Automatic||60–64 mpg||7.2–8.4 s||111–118 g/km|
|320d EfficientDynamics||63–69 mpg||7.9–8.0 s||102–109 g/km|
|320d EfficientDynamics Automatic||61–69 mpg||7.8–8.1 s||99–109 g/km|
|320d xDrive||58–63 mpg||7.3–7.5 s||116–128 g/km|
|320d xDrive Automatic||54–60 mpg||7.2–7.4 s||116–125 g/km|
|320i||44–48 mpg||7.2–7.3 s||134–151 g/km|
|320i Automatic||47–49 mpg||7.3 s||129–141 g/km|
|320i EfficientDynamics||53 mpg||7.6 s||124 g/km|
|320i EfficientDynamics Automatic||52 mpg||7.6 s||127 g/km|
|320i xDrive||42–43 mpg||7.4–7.5 s||154–162 g/km|
|320i xDrive Automatic||44–46 mpg||7.5–7.6 s||137–152 g/km|
|325d||58 mpg||6.8 s||129 g/km|
|325d Automatic||61 mpg||6.6 s||122 g/km|
|328i||44 mpg||5.9 s||149–151 g/km|
|328i Automatic||45 mpg||5.9 s||147 g/km|
|330d||58 mpg||5.6 s||129–131 g/km|
|330d Automatic||51–57 mpg||5.6 s||131 g/km|
|330d xDrive||54 mpg||5.3 s||137–139 g/km|
|330d xDrive Automatic||49–53 mpg||5.3 s||139 g/km|
|330e||-||6.1 s||49 g/km|
|330i||44 mpg||5.9 s||151 g/km|
|330i Automatic||46–49 mpg||5.8 s||136 g/km|
|335d||52 mpg||4.8 s||145 g/km|
|335d xDrive Automatic||46 mpg||4.8 s||145 g/km|
|335i||36 mpg||5.5 s||186–188 g/km|
|335i Automatic||39 mpg||5.2–5.3 s||169 g/km|
|340i||37 mpg||5.2 s||179 g/km|
|340i Automatic||38 mpg||5.1 s||159 g/km|
|ActiveHybrid||47–48 mpg||5.3 s||139 g/km|
|ActiveHybrid 3||48 mpg||5.3 s||139–141 g/km|
Real MPG average for a BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the BMW 3 Series (2012 – 2019)?
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