The BMW 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over the years and the sixth generation launched in Australia in February 2012 is noticeably larger than the models it superseded.
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.
It’s sold as a four-door sedan, five-door hatch and five-door wagon. The latter is named the Gran Tourismo or GT.
All BMWs come with 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-, four- and six- cylinder petrols. There are also four- and six-cylinder turbo-diesels.
Petrol V8s were sold in the 3 Series, but were superseded by the powerful straight-six turbo-petrol units in the generations reviewed here.
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. Every powerplant 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.
The hybrid 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.
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.
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.
Insurance can be expensive because keen drivers (who often don’t have talent they think they possess) tend crash at times. As always with insurance, 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.
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.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
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 has made several revisions.
CAR BUYING TIP
Beware cars once owned by drivers who had less skill behind the wheel than they think.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: www.productsafety.gov.au/products/transport/cars/