Pros: Class-leading drive, evolved styling, cabin tech and quality
Cons: Superior rival comfort, expensive options
The BMW 3 Series is a longstanding leader in the fiercly-contested executive saloon class. Since it first launched to the market in the early 1980s, the 3 Series has been immensly popular and it has evolved continously in that time. Now in its seven generation, a brand new model has arrived for 2019 with revised underpinnings, new technology and updated engines at its core. But how does the new 3 Series stack up against the latest Audi A4, Jaguar XE and Mercedes-Benz C-Class? We spent a week testing this Portimao Blue 330i on Irish roads to find out.
The new G20 BMW 3 Series is a conservative evolution from its predeccesor, and it is easy to distinguish with lots of new features. The new model is more aggressive-looking up front, particularly in M Sport specification, with revised front and rear bumpers, reshaped LED front and rear lights and a closed kidney front grille. The 3 Series is notably larger in stature too. BMW offers three specifications with SE, Sport and the highest specification M Sport, which is the one we drove. Finished in striking Portimao Blue, our M Sport test car is equipped with LED fog lights, M Sport nicties and various other exterior enhancements including a black front kidney grille.
The 3 Series is wider, longer and taller than before, most notably in the rear seats where there is more leg room for passengers. It is a tight squeeze for three adults in the rear seats however due to the high transmission tunnel. This means the 3 Series is better suited to four adults on longer drives. The driving position is very comfortable with a wide range steering wheel and seat adjustment, while the upgraded sports seats in our M Sport specification test car offer lots of lower back support. Boot space remains at 480 litres, with split folding rear seats as standard for when extra space is needed. The 3 Series is suitably premium inside and it matches the latest Mercedes C-Class in this regard.
The 3 Series inherits lots of new technology to contest the latest Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class models. There is a new 8.8-inch touch screen infotainment system in SE and Sport models (10.25-inch in M-Sport) with seamless Apple CarPlay connectivity, gesture and voice control and a digital driver’s display. The system is much easier to use than before either via voice commands or through the steering wheel controls, while the iDrive controller remains for those who prefer traditional controls.
The new 3 Series is available with two petrol engines (320i and 330i) and two diesels (318d and 320d). Rear-wheel-drive is standard, while BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system is available at an extra cost. We drove the 330i, which features a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that churns out 254bhp and 400Nm of torque, so 0-100km/h is possible in 5.8 seconds while the top speed is restricyted to 250km/h. The 330i offers very impressive performance credentials, however the 320d diesel will likely be the most popular choice with Irish buyers thanks to superior running costs. Both manual and automatic transmissions are available, while additional engines will be added to the range later in the year including a plug-in hybrid 330e and high performance m340i.
The 3 Series is known for being one of the best cars to drive in its class, and this continues with the new model which utolises BMW’s new CLAR platform. It is a true driver’s car, with responsive steering, impressive road holding and great composure even in wet conditions and on less favourable road surfaces. The new 3 Series is lighter than before and ride quality has improved, even with the large alloy wheels and sports suspension fitted to our test car. That is thanks to new damper technology which is standard across the range. The suspension alters accordingly to different load levels and when passengers or items are being carried. Our test car is equipped with the default rear-wheel-drive system which is a joy on tight and twisty roads.
Prices and features:
Prices for the new BMW 3 Series Saloon start from €43,770 in base 318d SE specification. Standard specification is strong with LED headlights and rear lights, folding rear seats, LED interior lights, two USB ports with Bluetooth, acoustic glass and a suite of safety aids to include lane departure warning and collision and pedestrian warning with emergency braking. SE specification also features the new 8.8-inch digital touch screen display with voice control. Our high specification M Sport test car leaves little to be desired with upgraded leather upholstery and a suite of optional extras to the tune of €61,086. It features a technology package (heads-up display, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless smartphone charging and gesture control) and an M Sport Plus package (19-inch alloy wheels, M Sport Differential, Adaptive M Sport suspension).
Carzone verdict: 4.5/5
The new BMW 3 Series has evolved accordingly, and it’s more comfortable and refined, sharper to drive and fitted with all sorts of new technology to compete with the slick Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: BMW 330i M Sport
Prices from: €43,770
Price as tested: €61,087
Annual Motor Tax: €280
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 480 litres