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.
In this review
- 1VerdictThe BMW 3 Series is well built, efficient and fun to drive, justifying its place near the front of the compact executive saloon class
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe BMW 3 Series gets a range of fast but frugal engines and is one of the best compact executive cars to drive
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsConsidering the powerful range of engines, the 3 Series returns admirable fuel economy and emissions
- 4Interior, design and technology - currently readingInside, the BMW 3 Series can't compete with the super-desirable Audi A4, but it's not a bad place to be
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceSpace in the back of the BMW 3 Series is a bit tight, but no worse than in key rivals
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe BMW 3 Series finished mid-table in our Driver Power survey, but safety is top-notch