BMW 3 Series GT review

Our Rating: 
5
5.0/5.0
2013 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The BMW 3 Series GT is a more practical version of the 3 Series and rivals the Audi A5 Sportback

For: 
Loads of space, comfortable ride, efficient engines
Against: 
Price premium, slightly awkward styling

Following in the footsteps of its big brother the 5 Series Gran Turismo, this 3 Series based hatchback shares many of its practical advantages including a huge load capacity and spacious cabin. But the 3 Series GT benefits too, from a more compact footprint and sleeker styling that makes it appreciably prettier than the bloated 5 GT. At least from many angles.

Handling is not quite as agile as the 3 Series saloon, but it’s not far off and the GT is still fun to drive. With a great engine line-up that offers strong performance and great economy, there’s little left to criticise.

Our Choice: 
320d GT SE

The BMW 3 Series GT – or 3 Series Gran Turismo in full - promises to mix much of the practicality of the Touring estate version with all the sporty, fun driving dynamics of the 3 Series saloon.

The GT is essentially a swoopy five-door hatchback version of the popular saloon, but that doesn’t mean it’s a down-market or budget option. Rather the opposite, because you sit 59mm higher than in the standard 3 Series and rear passengers have an extra 70mm of knee room, meaning the GT is on a par with the larger 5 Series for spaciousness.

The 3 GT also has a boot that's 25 litres larger than the 3 Series Touring with the seats up and a further 100 litres larger with them folded flat.

As a result of this extra space it’s also more expensive than its 3 Series sister models, but it's a difficult car to pigeonhole. Obvious rivals range from the likes of an Audi A5 Sportback to the Mercedes C-Class Estate. Equally buyers could be juggling the 3 Series GT against traditional saloons in the compact executive sector – the Jaguar XE and Lexus IS amongst them.

Depending on your viewpoint though, it could be argued the GT’s additional practicality means it takes on a slightly awkward profile. Buyers will also find themselves having to shell out around £1,300 on average over and above the cost of the Touring.

The 3 Series GT comes in four different trim grades: SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport. Whichever one you choose, it will come with BMW Business Navigation and ConnectedDrive services.

The specification is pretty good across the board, with ‘standard’ SE grade cars featuring 18-inch alloys, an active rear spoiler, dual zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth and DAB radio plus parking and rain sensors. Sport adds Drive Performance Control with Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, a range of ‘sporty’ trim embellishments inside and out plus sports front seats, steering wheel and a special instrument cluster with red highlights.

Luxury adds leather upholstery and wood trim inside, plus ‘chromeline’ exterior trim, while the M Sport features special wheels, aerodynamic bodystyling, ‘shadowline’ exterior detailing, plus lowered, firmer suspension as part of its package of go-faster goodies.

Engines, performance and drive

4.6
A great spread of engines and an agile chassis mean the GT3 is good fun to drive

BMW has actually set the 3 Series GT up to be a more comfortable car than the standard 3 Series, so you'll find it's not quite as sharp to drive. We've only tried models with the optional £750 adaptive dampers, and these work well to give a very soft ride in Comfort mode. Switch them to Sport and the suspension firms up, giving you much more confidence in the steering and a little more agility through the bends.

The longer body, increased weight and higher centre of gravity mean it never feels as sharp as either the 3 Series saloon or Touring, but the rear-wheel-drive chassis and accurate steering ensure the 3 GT is still more fun to drive than most cars of this size.

The 320i is also available with BMW's sophisticated electronically controlled four-wheel drive system, which makes it an ideal all weather choice.

Engines

Of the engine choices, the diesel-powered 320d makes the most sense, offering acceleration from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds with claimed fuel economy of 57.6mpg. The engine is a little bit too noisy at idle but does improve at speed. If you don't do many miles, the quieter and smoother revving petrol engines may be a better bet. You can choose from the four-cylinder 320i and 328i or the silky smooth six-cylinder 335i, though the 328i with its 242bhp output and up to 44mpg efficiency offers the best blend of performance and economy.

This 2.0-litre turbo engine works well with BMW's optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, which delivers smooth shifts in auto mode and responds crisply when you use the lever or steering wheel mounted paddles to change gears manually. A slick six-speed manual is standard fit on all models.

Performance across the 3 Series GT line-up ranges from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds for the slowest 318d, which is flat out at 130mph, to a nippy 5.4 seconds for the 335i M Sport that will crack 155mph. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.6
Excellent diesel economy, firm residuals and good value servicing will help the sums add up

The most efficient 3 Series GT you can buy is the 318d model, which manages 62.8mpg with the six-speed manual gearbox fitted. That also equates to 119g/km of CO2. The petrol models aren't particularly far behind, with the entry-level 320i capable of 45.6mpg, and with CO2 emissions of 145g/km. That's good news for company car buyers, with the 320i and 318d models both performing well when it comes to Benefit in Kind. It also means a fairly low road tax bill for private buyers.

The four-cylinder 325d manages 55.4mpg and 134g/km, while the auto-only 330d can match the mpg figure and barely loses out on emissions at 135g/km. The more powerful 335d only comes with xDrive four-wheel-drive, and economy drops to 50.4mpg with 148g/km of C02.

Opt for the 3.0-litre six-cylinder 335i M Sport and while the performance is great, economy is a little less rewarding. The official combined consumption value is 34.9mpg, while C02 emissions are up to 188g/km.

And as with other BMW models, there's the availability of a great value servicing pack, which for less than £500 takes care of maintenance for five years and 50,000 miles.

Insurance groups

As performance is pretty much equivalent to the 3 Series saloon, it’s no surprise to find that insurance costs are mirrored between the two ranges. That means the entry-level 318d is rated in group 24, while the 335i performance model hits group 38.

Depreciation

Private buyers looking for strong residuals will find that the 3 Series GT has weakened a little since launch. Only the most desirable versions are able to hold onto 45 percent of their value after three years and 36,000 miles, according to used car values experts CAP. That basically means M Sport models with the bigger diesel engines.

Conversely, it’s the smaller petrol-engined models that perform least well, with lower-spec models only just clinging onto 40 percent and possibly edging down towards the high 30s. 

Interior, design and technology

3.6
The 3 Series GT is less ungainly than the larger 5 GT, but looks awkward from some angles

The BMW 3 GT - or Gran Turismo - gets bespoke bumpers and lights, and it looks handsome from the front, especially in M Sport trim. The slightly bulbous rear won't be to everyone's taste but BMW has done a far better job of getting the proportions right than it did with the larger 5 Series Gran Turismo. However, we think how the car looks is very susceptible to paint colour.  Lighter choices help distract from the car's bulk, but in darker colour schemes it can seem a little bit more ungainly. It’s worth noting too that big 18-inch alloys are standard even on the entry-level SE model, again helping to distract the eye from the car’s hefty profile.

In order to help the voluminous body slip through the air, the aerodynamics are a little more advanced for GT models. They all get an Air Curtain vent mounted behind the front wheels for improved airflow, a feature you won't find on any other 3 Series. There's also an active rear spoiler that pops up at 70mph.

Inside, the GT is identical to the 3 Series saloon apart from some extra trim on the door panels to match that on the dash. That means you get a slickly styled and clearly laid out dashboard, plus excellent build quality and classy materials. As with other models in the 3 Series range buyers can choose between four different equipment levels SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport, each having their own unique styling cues.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All 3 Series GT models come with a BMW’s Professional Navigation system, which means you get Bluetooth connection, plus voice control and can even subscribe to the Nuance dictation service for emails. Internet access is optional, and you can also access a range of BMW apps.

Audiophiles will appreciate the Harmon/Kardon sound-system upgrade that puts 16 speakers and 600 watts of music into the cabin.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.8
With more space than any other 3 Series, the only compromise is rear headroom

The 3 Series GT majors on practicality; it features a wheelbase that is 110mm longer than the standard saloon car, which has allowed BMW to free up a lot more space in the back seats.

The wide-opening tailgate is extremely practical too, while from an occupant’s point of view the five-seat cabin functions just as well as the similarly formatted 3 Series saloon. That means you get a spacious glovebox, big door bins and useful cup-holders between the front seats.

The driving position has the wide range of adjustment you’d expect from any BMW, and the layout and clarity of controls is exemplary. You also benefit from the added visibility provided by the GT’s raised driving position.

Size

The 3 Series GT is 4,824mm long, 1,828mm wide and 1,508mm tall. In contrast the Audi A5 Sportback is 4,712mm x 1,854mm x 1,391mm. A standard 3 Series saloon is appreciably smaller than both, at 4,633mm x 1,811mm x 1,441mm.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

With almost an extra 80mm of knee-room over the 3 Series saloon, there's about as much space as you will find in the larger 5 Series. One of the 3 GT’s biggest problems, though, is that the higher seating position and swooping roof line mean rear headroom is tighter than in a 3 Series Touring. This is made worse if you go for the optional panoramic sunroof.

As a result, the 3 Series GT is perhaps better geared towards family usage than as a luxury taxi for business colleagues, particularly as a centre rear passenger will find the large central transmission tunnel takes away foot-room. The rear seats do recline, though, which helps rear seat passengers relax, and Isofix seat mounts are standard-issue too.

Boot

The GT’s boot is the largest out of any 3 Series model, with a healthy 520-litre capacity. The rear seats can be folded flat very easily, using a pair of levers mounted in the boot. This immediately liberates an impressive 1,600 litres of space, which again is more than is available in the practical Touring estate variant. It’s also a significant 620-litres more than the volume offered by the Audi A5 Sportback.

There are lashing points supplied for awkward loads, and the GT’s wide-opening tailgate is electrically operated to make access a breeze.

Reliability and Safety

4.3
As one of the 3 Series family, the GT has convincing reliability and safety creds

The platform and technology underpinning the 3 Series GT is pretty much identical to that used in the standard 3 Series, so buyers can look to the excellent reliability record of the saloon car for peace of mind. The engine range is used extensively throughout BMW's line-up, and all have proven themselves to be extremely reliable. There's a definite feeling of solidity about the interior fittings as well, leading you to believe the 3 Series GT is certainly built to last.

In fact, in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the latest 3 Series saloon was ranked strongly at 50th overall, from 200 cars. It scored a 54th slot for reliability, and came 75th for build quality.

As a manufacturer, BMW was 14th out of 30 in the 2015 Driver Power survey, making it one place behind rival Audi.

There's no official crash safety rating from Euro NCAP yet but we would expect the GT to score highly, with a full five-star rating – not least because the top rating was awarded to the 3 Series saloon back in 2012.

To help the GT’s safety cause, all cars get stability control and six airbags, while lane keep assist, a collision mitigation system and head-up display are available as options.

Warranty

BMW’s standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty applies to all models of the 3 Series family, including the GT line-up. BMW also offers a range of insurance-based warranty products, which can be purchased to extend cover when the standard retailer warranty expires.

It’s pretty average cover for the sector, matching Mercedes but beating Audi and Lexus which both limit warranty mileage to 60,000.

Servicing

BMW servicing intervals are now more difficult to predict exactly, as they’re flexible based on your style and type of driving. However you can keep a tab on costs, as BMW offers its Service Inclusive and Inclusive Plus packages that will cover service items for up to five years/50,000 miles. You can even include certain wear and tear parts like brake parts or a worn clutch, depending on how much you want to pay.

Last updated: 3 May, 2013