Evolution of the 3 series
09:32 26 January 2016
BMW’s 3 Series has defined the premium sport saloon class for 40 years with gradual evolution the secret to its success, says motoring editor Andy Russell
Spot the difference
Talk about spot the difference. It’s hard to spot the latest BMW 3 Series unless you know what to look for.
The front and back styling has been tweaked to make it look broader, emphasised by new lights, and inside there are new materials and glossy highlights and brightwork accents to give the user-friendly fascia – one of the best in the business, along with the driving position – a lift.
Under the bonnet
New and uprated three, four or six-cylinder lightweight engines are engineered for smooth performance throughout the rev range.
The 190hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel in the 320d offers a fine blend of performance and economy. The optional £1,550 eight-manual paddle shifters adds to the driving pleasure and very slightly improves economy, emissions and performance.
The 3 Series has long been the class benchmark for driveability and slightly stiffer suspension, retuned damper settings and thicker roll bars raise the bar again.
Even the M Sport with firmer adaptive suspension and optional bigger 19ins wheels rides well – older models could shake the fillings from your teeth.
Anyone who says rear-wheel drive BMWs aren’t good in slippery conditions should try the new xDrive all-wheel drive which was unfazed by wet leaves, muddy roads and a heavy right foot. And with even more traction on dry roads, the 3 Series is unwavering through fast corners. It’s well worth considering for £1,500.
Space and comfort
The old gripe about rear legroom is also long gone and four adults can travel in comfort. The saloon’s 480-litre boot has a wide, deep aperture while optional 40/20/40 split fold rear seat backs create a decent opening and a flat floor for added versatility.
BMW gets it right every time with the 3 Series, changing it for the better not for the sake of it, to keep it right on the pace in the popularity stakes.
Price: BMW 320d M Sport xDrive automatic saloon £33,585 (saloon £24,975 to £40,330; Touring £26,405 to £41,665)
Engine: 1,995cc, 190hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol
Performance: 0-62mph 7.3 seconds; top speed
MPG: 60.1 combined.
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22pc
Insurance group: 28 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,624mm; width (including door mirrors) 1,811mm; height 1,429mm