BMW 3 Series Convertible review
Fifth generation BMW 3 Series Convertible gains extra efficiency without compromising performance, style and practicality
The BMW 3 Series Convertible is ideal for drivers wanting the thrills of a cabriolet, but can’t do without the practicality of back seats and a boot. A three-panel retractable metal roof makes the Convertible into a real everyday solution and offers more noise insulation, added security and better aerodynamics than any of its soft-top competitors. The BMW can also transform from a coupe to a cabriolet in an impressive 23 seconds, making it ideal for getting the most out of the British weather. A large range of engines boasting efficiency as well as performance, delivers power without breaking the bank, and thanks to the good reputation of the 3 Series, the cabriolet should also keep up its price on the second hand market.
Our choice: BMW 330d SE
Benefitting from a mid-term facelift in 2010, the BMW 3 Series Convertible presents a broader face and more aggressive features, built around the trademark BMW kidney grille. Its lights use LED technology to accentuate the spherical bi-xenon headlights at the front and add definition with horizontal lines at the rear. Standard equipment is generous and includes leather seats (with special sun-reflective technology to keep the seats cool), 17-inch wheels, a leather steering wheel and gear selector, on-board computer and a six-speaker sound system. Metallic paint is extra however and to get bucket seats, 19-inch alloys the best finish, choose the Sport Plus spec. This also gives the M level body styling, which sees changes to the front and rear bumpers and sills.
As expected with any BMW 3 Series, the Convertible delivers in terms of power, agility and control. The turbocharged 335i version will accelerate from 0-60mphin a mere 5.4 seconds, and despite the extra body weight and softer suspension than the coupe, it's still quite responsive. The driving position is exemplary with many different seat and wheel settings available, plus visibility is excellent thanks to the two thin windscreen pillars. The controls are well arranged on the steering wheel, dashboard and centre console, although the stereo is slightly fiddly. Passengers will also enjoy a more comfortable ride thanks to increase shock absorption and reduced drive noise when the hard top is up.
BMWs are renowned for their durability and the 3 Series Convertible combines high quality materials and good engineering. Disappointingly the manufacturer only guarantees the car with a two year warranty, although the bodywork is covered for 12 and paintwork for three. Safety on the other hand is no problem, and the cabriolet boasts a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. Both the driver and passenger get front and lateral sidebags and the seatbelts feature anti-whiplash technology. For aesthetic reasons BMW convertibles no longer have visible roll bars, however in case of an emergency they all feature the Rollover Protection System, which sees bars automatically propelled from the back headrests.
For the first time since its inception in 1978, the BMW 3 Series Convertible is not entirely derived from the saloon and shares its own individual design with the Coupe. This means it’s slightly longer and narrower, but at a glance it would be hard to tell. What is noticeable though, is the lack of a fifth seat, but even without the rear is already quite cramped. The boot is on the small side too when the roof is down, however the two rear seats can be folded down and add to the loading capacity. Nets on the front seat backrests and compartments in the rear seat console, both doors, glovebox and centre console all add to the general storage capacity.
BMW’s famed EfficientDynamics hardware combined with regenerative braking and an automatic stop/start system, helps the 320d Convertible slash emissions and boost economy. It puts out only 135g/km of CO2, which isn’t bad considering it produces a healthy 184bhp. That may be slightly less efficient than the 2.0 TDI Audi A5 Cabriolet, which only emits 127g/km, but then again the Audi can only muster 175bhp. Price wise, the BMW is in line with its rivals for the base model which comes with a decent amount of equipment as standard. However, there is quite a difference in price when it comes to the top of the range 335i Sports Plus. Performance is guaranteed, but standard equipment is slightly sparse.