In-depth reviews

BMW 3 Series review - Interior, design and technology

Improvements in interior quality and technology are very welcome, but the styling is a little underwhelming

The 3 Series is now based on BMW’s CLAR (short for Cluster Architecture) platform, which was first introduced on the flagship 7 Series in 2015 and is also used for the 5 Series executive saloon. The car is available as a four-door saloon and as a five-door estate, badged Touring.

The latest car features an interior that feels like that of the 5 Series and 7 Series, and that’s no bad thing as both those cars have an excellent, high-quality feel to them. The 3 Series has a more driver-centric feel to it than the Audi A4 and is less fussy and more straightforward than that found in the Mercedes C-Class, too. 

The dashboard design works seamlessly with the new technology on board, and all cars come with sat nav and a 10.25-inch touchscreen with BMW’s new Intelligent Personal Assistant, a voice controlled set up that allows you to communicate with the car as you would with Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. Thus you can adjust the temperature, change the audio settings or talk to the sat nav amongst other things. If you prefer you can still use the iDrive controller which is intuitive and easy to use. 

Also now standard is BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional set-up, which includes a 12.3-inch digital dashboard display that allows you to fully customise the information displayed.

Externally the G20 3 Series is instantly recognisable as belonging to the BMW family, but it does seem to be a somewhat evolutionary design. And while the car’s looks are obviously subjective, we do feel it’s a little bland from some angles. From the front it’s instantly recognisable as a BMW with its trademark headlights (LED throughout the 3 Series range) and the kidney grilles remain, but from the rear it’s perhaps less recognisable as a BMW.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Long gone are the days when a 3 Series didn’t even come with a stereo or speakers, as all models are now packed with an array of hi-tech equipment along with USB charging points.

A DAB radio comes as standard, as does BMW’s Connected+ which gives you access to BMW Apps as well as its online services. Emergency Call will automatically call the emergency services in the event of an accident. Apple CarPlay is standard across the range, but disappointingly Android Auto is not currently available, although BMW is looking to add this function to certain models in the future.

The stereo along with many other functions can be accessed via the central control display acting as a touchscreen, or you can also use voice commands and the iDrive controller. While it can seem a little bewildering at a glance, those coming from a previous generation 3 Series will have no trouble operating the system and it soon all becomes second nature once it’s been used for a couple of days.

Criticisms are hard to make, but the reversing camera rotates with the steering lock, which makes it hard to figure out when you’re aligned with a parking space. The digital dials work well enough, but the graphics do look a bit fussy.

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