BMW 3 Series (2012-2018) review - Interior, design and technology

Inside, the BMW 3 Series can't compete with the super-desirable Audi A4, but it's not a bad place to be

Few cars are as recognisable as the BMW 3 Series. It’s gone through an evolutionary process over the years – although the latest model, launched in 2012 and facelifted in 2015, is arguably the best looking yet. With its familiar kidney grille and aggressive headlamp design that incorporates distinctive LED daytime running lights, there’s no mistaking it for any other car on the road.

Meanwhile, the low bodyline and wide track give it a lithe and athletic appearance. Go for an M Sport model, and the styling package includes 18-inch alloys, a subtle bodykit, gloss-black trim for the window surrounds and discreet M badges on the front wings.

Choose the 330 plug-in, and very little distinguishes it from the range. You get a 330e badge on the bootlid and eDrive logos on the C-pillars, while the charging flap on the nearside front wing is the only other obvious visual clue to the car’s hybrid system. Stick with the standard wheels and the BMW roundels are outlined in pale blue, but as with the bootlid badge you can choose to delete this feature at no extra cost.

Inside, there’s a minimalist wraparound dash, with only a few buttons, clear digital read-outs and a large centre console screen. We’ve no complaints about the classy materials, excellent build quality and solid finish, either but unfortunately it falls shy of the super-desirable Audi A4 with its crisp dials and upmarket appeal.

Again the 330e doesn’t advertise its hybrid system, with eDrive logos only on the door sills and in the instrument cluster. The only other clues to the hybrid system are the energy-flow meter in the bottom of the rev counter, plus a schematic view of the car showing energy use that can be displayed on the infotainment screen.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All BMW 3 Series models get sat-nav and a wide central screen as standard. The setup is controlled using the iDrive scroll wheel and buttons next to the gearlever. It’s intuitive to use, and the graphics are spot on. There’s no option for customisable dials like you get with Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit, but they’re still slickly styled and easy to use. The orange back-light seems a little old-fashioned, though.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    318i SE 4dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £30,470

Most Economical

  • Name
    330e SE Pro 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,970

Fastest

  • Name
    M340i xDrive 4dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £48,070

Most Popular

BMW 5 Series vs Audi A6 vs Volvo S90
BMW 5 Series vs Audi A6 vs Volvo S90 - main
Car group tests

BMW 5 Series vs Audi A6 vs Volvo S90

Can plug-in hybrid power create a clear winner out of the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 or Volvo S90
23 Jan 2021
Best small 4x4s to buy 2021
Dacia Duster ford
Best cars & vans

Best small 4x4s to buy 2021

Need 4x4 capability without big SUV fuel bills? Take a look our top 10 small 4x4s instead
6 Jan 2021
New Lotus ‘Type 131’ due in 2021 as Elise, Exige and Evora bow out
Lotus range
Lotus

New Lotus ‘Type 131’ due in 2021 as Elise, Exige and Evora bow out

A new look Lotus line-up is teased with heavy influence from Evija hypercar expected
24 Jan 2021