BMW 3 SERIES 2012 – 2018

2012 BMW 3 Series

2012 BMW 3 Series

BMW’s 3 Series is an upmarket small-medium German car. Like most vehicles it has grown in size over the years and the sixth generation launched in Australia in February 2012 is noticeably larger than the models it superseded. Meaning it can be used as a genuine family car even if the kids in the back are well into their teen years.

It’s sold as a four-door sedan, five-door hatch and five-door wagon, the latter tagged as Gran Tourismo or GT. (See our notes later about other models to consider.)

The BMW 3 is very much a driver’s car because rear-wheel drive gives you throttle control that’s lovely to play with. The neutral feel through the steering is arguably the best feature of these BMWs when you talk about them to existing owners.

All BMWs come with wonderfully responsive engines. Interestingly, there are times when the stopwatch may tell you they are not as quick as your senses tells you, yet they still feel great to sit behind, and that’s what matters.

Engine choice are many and varied, with three (yes, three!), four- and six- cylinder petrols, as well as four and six-cylinder turbo-diesels.

Once upon a time there were petrol V8s in the 3 Series, these were superseded by the big-power straight-six turbo units in the generations reviewed here. Have no fear, the M3 turbo sixes go like stink.

2014 BMW 3 Series GT

2014 BMW 3 Series GT

With a profusion of 2.0-litre Twin Power four-cylinder engine choices, only the 335i features the classic in-line six-cylinder petrol engine configuration that BMW is famous for.

Every powerplant is turbocharged and drives through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

October 2015 saw the 3 Series get a facelift and tail tuck aimed at giving it a wider look. The headlights were joined to the kidney grilles by an LED light bar. A handy safety feature is that the headlights are full LED.

But the big news for the MY16 3 Series were major engine upgrades that added power and improved responsiveness while cleverly reducing fuel consumption. It’s well worth buying one of these if your budget will stretch to them.

The 3 Series 330e petrol-electric hybrid joined the company’s already very good clean-air models in May 2016. A realistic range of 28 to 32 kilometres on electric power alone is fine for many who typically commute moderate distances. It can be charged from a standard electric powerpoint in about 3.5 hours, from a dedicated BMW iWallbox in 2.25 hours, or at public charging stations.

2016 BMW 330e

2016 BMW 330e

BMW ConnectedDrive Services has a SIM card built into the car which gives access to a range of services independently of a smartphone. The Concierge Service will find points of interest for you such as restaurants and hotels and can even make a reservation. The BMW operative then sends information straight to the vehicle as a navigation destination, together with all the contact data.

Insurance can be expensive, not because the companies are out to make big profits (heaven forbid!) but because keen drivers tend to run into things more often than docile ones. Shop around if you feel you can do a better deal, but make sure you fully understand what is, and isn’t, covered by the various policies you examine.

Service and repairs can also be expensive but cleverly servicing is according to the individual car’s needs, not by according to a date on the calendar or the number of kilometres on the trip meter.

It pays to try to find a late-model BMW with a full service history. You will probably be asked to pay more, but it’s almost invariably worth the money.

A virtually all-new 3 Series, now tagged as generation-three arrived here in March 2019. At this stage it’s too soon to consider it as a used car.

You may also care to look at the BMW X3 SAV (Sports Activity Vehicles in) and 4 Series models. These are relatively recent imports and will be covered in future used-car reviews.

Check the overall external condition of a 3 Series, in particular scrapes on wheel rims, the left-front is usually the first to suffer, also look at the door edges for chips where they have been opened against other cars (tut-tut!).

Run your hand over the front tyres; more resistance in one direction than the other probably means they’ve been fanged a time or two.

The complex nature of the later models in the 3 Series range means they should be maintained only by specialised BMW technicians. Make sure to get a quote for even minor items as the repair costs can be high.

Arrange to have the engine stone cold before you start it. Be sure it kicks over within a couple of seconds and that’s there’s no hesitation under acceleration.

Do the usual checks for previous crash repairs: mismatched colours, paint overspray and ripples in the panels. A magnet will tell you if the material under the repaired area is metal or plastic filler.

Look for sun-induced fading on horizontal surfaces, a sign that a car has spent almost all their time out in the open. Unusual with BMWs, but you never know…

A few owners have told us of intermittent Bluetooth problems. Check the system is up to date as BMW made a couple of revisions.

Be sure to get a quote on all items that need work even if they appear to be trivial.

Budget on soending from $12,000 to $18,000 for a 2012 BMW 320i Lifestyle; $18,000 to $24,000 for a 2013 320d; $25,000 to $34,000 for a 2014 320i GT; $28,000 to $37,000 for a 2016 320i Sport Line; $34,000 to $44,000 for a 2013 335i Sport Line; $38,000 to $51,000 for a 2015 335i Luxury; $46,000 to $62,000 for a 2017 2340i M-Sport; and $57,000 to $76,000 for a 2018 340i Luxury Line.

RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at:

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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