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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. 

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The dashboard design works seamlessly with the new technology on board, and all cars come with sat nav (an 8.8-inch touchscreen in SE and Sport models, 10.25-inch in the M Sport) and 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. 

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M Sport models come as standard with BMW’s new Live Cockpit Professional, which includes a 12.3-inch digital dashboard display that allows you to fully customise the information displayed and offers a higher level of functionality than in SE or Sport models. What is a little disappointing is that this Live Cockpit Professional cannot be added as an option to the SE or Sport models. These receive more traditional analogue instruments with a smaller central digital display.

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.

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Non-metallic paint is standard on all models bar the 330i and if you want to add metallic to an SE or Sport model it’ll cost around £670. The 330i M Sport model can be specified in a unique hue of Portimao Blue which does set off its aggressive styling to good effect. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Long gone are the days when a 3 Series didn’t even come with a stereo or speakers, and all models are now packed with an array of hi-tech equipment. There’s sav nav (with a 8.8-inch central screen on SE and Sport models, 10.25-inch on the M Sport) and there’s Bluetooth – both for calls and music streaming – 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 available, even as an option. 

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.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    318i SE 4dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £29,840

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
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