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Road tests

New BMW 3 Series 2022 review

Updates have turned the already impressive BMW 3 Series into a thoroughly polished product

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The sixth-generation 3 Series is a thoroughly polished product that’s great to drive, and now has one of the best infotainment setups in its class. While the 330e plug-in hybrid is likely the top pick for company car drivers, the M340i xDrive is seriously fast and a better all-rounder than the M4 for many owners. 

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Despite all the talk about SUVs, the BMW 3 Series has been quietly doing the business for BMW, racking up more than 1.1 million global sales since 2019. It was the small executive saloon market leader in the UK, Germany and China during 2021 and around 14 per cent of all BMWs come with a 3 Series badge. Now, it’s been treated to a mid-life refresh.

Given its success, BMW has kept the exterior changes unsurprisingly subtle, but they do help to keep the G20 3 Series looking fresh. The kidney grilles have grown slightly, and there are slimmer headlights that are full-LED items as standard. A new style of daytime running lights bring an ‘inverted L’ signature, with the outer elements doubling up as indicators. Wheels measure up to 20 inches in diameter and two ‘frozen’ matt-effect paint finishes have been added to the range to offer a subtle but distinctive change of style. 

M Sport versions - the most popular trim in the UK - have added visual aggression, with a large rear diffuser-style bumper and two large (and functional) exhaust tips at either side. Flared wheel arches also do a good deal to help the latest 3 Series look planted, especially from the rear. An M Sport Pro Pack is also available - standard for M-badged models. Here, finishing exterior trim is gloss black, there’s larger brakes with red calipers, plus seat belts with contrasting stitching in M Sport colours.

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It’s inside where the biggest change comes, however. The facelifted 3 Series adopts BMW’s seriously impressive curved display, as seen in the i4 and iX models. It’s made up of 14.9-inch infotainment and 12.3-inch instrument panels, seamlessly joined together and carefully positioned at the leading edge of the dashboard. Information is clear, and the graphics are some of the best we’ve seen in any car.

Unlike models lower in BMW’s range, it also benefits from both touch control and an iDrive controller, along with voice recognition. While the touchscreen feels natural to use when stopped, the circular iDrive dial still feels easier and safer to interact with once driving. The gear lever is now just a toggle, which can take some getting used to if you go for reverse in a hurry.

Interior space shouldn’t be an issue for most drivers or passengers, with plentiful seat and steering wheel adjustment in the front, and room for six-foot-tall passengers in the back. There are useful 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats and the 480-litre boot is a good size without being class-leading. It’s also worth noting it shrinks by 105 litres in the 330e to make way for its battery pack, although this isn’t uncommon for the class.

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The 3 Series is still available in the popular 187bhp and four-cylinder 320d guise, or with four-wheel drive badged 320d xDrive, which is replicated on the petrol side by the 182bhp 320i and 320i xDrive. Above this sits the 330i, with the same 2.0-litre petrol engine as the 320i tuned to produce 255bhp. Company car drivers are likely to be drawn towards the 330e plug-in hybrid, thanks to its low CO2 emissions from just 30g/km for low tax liability, while the hottest non-M models are the 335bhp M340d and M340i xDrive with 369bhp that we’ve driven here. An eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is standard across the range, with no manual option. 

M Sport Adaptive suspension comes as standard on the M340i and M340d. Within a short distance, you’ll be able to tell BMW hasn’t shied away from building the most overtly sporty small executive car. While the Mercedes C-Class is increasingly like a downsized S-Class to drive, the 3 Series is taut in a manner you feel through the seat more than the steering wheel.

In its Comfort setting it actually proved more comfortable than the 320d Touring M Sport with non-adaptive suspension we also tried, but you may still find yourself favouring fast and flowing A roads over a poorly paved B-road rat run on your way home. There’s just enough feedback through the steering, which is consistent and gives a good impression of the car’s even weight distribution as it carves through sweeping bends. 

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In the age of downsizing, BMW’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine is a real reminder of the breadth of ability that a bigger capacity can deliver. In its more relaxed settings, it’s tractable, smooth and sounds good, providing an effortless surge as you tackle the daily commute. But turn it up to Sport the gearbox tightens up, and there’s ferocious mid-range acceleration accompanied by audible wastegate chirps from under the bonnet and booms from the exhaust.

The autumnal temperatures and leaf-strewn roads during our test also seemed fitting, as the xDrive four-wheel drive - with a playful rear bias - helps give the driver even more confidence, and wonder if they’d be going any quicker in an M3 that costs around £25,000 more.   

The 3 Series saloon starts from £37,805 in 320i Sport guise, and impressively the curved infotainment displays come as standard, along with triple-zone climate control. Other standard kit includes LED exterior lighting, cruise control and all-round parking sensors. M Sport adds 18-inch black and silver alloy wheels, more aggressive looks, different interior trim and a sports steering wheel for around £1,250 extra. M Sport models like the M340i xDrive version driven here, cost from £54,445 before options and feature 19-inch alloy wheels.

Model:BMW M340i xDrive
Price:£54,805
Powertrain:3.0 6cyl petrol turbo MHEV
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic
Power/torque:369bhp/500Nm
0-62mph:4.4 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy:34.9mpg
CO2:134g/km
On sale:Now
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