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View all BMW 3-Series reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6
  • Range of petrol and diesel engines available
  • Plus a 330e plug-in hybrid option
  • Performance is strong across the range

When selecting your BMW 3 Series, you’ll be met with a wide range of familiar engine options, whether it’s petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid that takes your fancy.

BMW 3 Series petrol engines

The petrol line-up kicks off with the 320i, a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 184hp and 300Nm of torque. It’s capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 7.1 seconds and will go on to reach a top speed of 149mph.

If you require more performance, there’s the 330i, with a 258hp power output and 400Nm of torque. This will allow the 3 Series to get from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. It’s smooth and responsive in its power delivery, and is an interesting alternative to the noisier 320d. There’s even quite a fruity sound coming from the exhaust.

Both petrol engines come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.

BMW 3 Series diesel engines

The diesel range is a little lengthier, kicking off with the 318d, a 2.0-litre turbodiesel producing 150hp and 320Nm of torque. This comes with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes – with 0-62mph times of 8.4 and 8.3 seconds respectively.

We tested this engine with the automatic gearbox and found performance to be adequate for most. There’s enough grunt for overtaking and getting up to motorway speeds, but they do require a little planning, taking a little longer to build speed above 60mph. You won’t feel short-changed with this engine, even if you want more grunt from time to time, but it’s hardly surprising to see why the mid-range diesel is the most popular choice.

Blue 2019 BMW 318d Sport Saloon front three-quarter

The big seller is the 320d, offering 190hp and 400Nm of torque. This too comes with a choice of gearboxes, with a 7.1-second 0-62mph time for the manual and 6.8-second time for the auto. This is the only car to be available with a choice of rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel drive at the time of the car’s launch. The 0-62mph time for the xDrive is 6.9 seconds, and is auto-only.

While the 320d’s performance figures look strong, in reality it doesn’t actually feel quite as eager as it did in the old car. It exceeded expectations in the old car, but this time around it feels a little more reluctant. However, that’s damning it with faint praise as it’s still an excellent all-rounder that will be a perfect fit for the majority of buyers.

The torque on offer is fantastic which means you don’t have to put too much effort into getting up to speed, and it does so smoothly thanks to the excellent automatic gearbox (where fitted). The only niggle with this powerplant is that it’s quite noisy and grumbly when pottering around town and getting up to speed. However, refinement at speed is excellent thanks to comprehensive insulation, which offsets the noisiness elsewhere.

When fitted with xDrive, traction when pulling away quickly is also impressive, feeling assured and responsive.

At the top of the diesel range is the 330d, with 265hp and a whopping 580Nm of torque. This engine only uses an automatic gearbox and is rear-wheel drive, with a 0-62mph time of just 5.5 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

This currently makes it the fastest accelerating 3 Series to reach 62mph and it certainly feels that way. That said, the muscular performance isn’t quite as intimidating as some may expect, with a smooth power delivery that gently pushes you into the seat, rather than delivering its torque in one big shove.

As an all-round sporting saloon, the 330d is close to being all the car you’ll ever need, with its six-cylinder performance, noise and balanced chassis. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is also available with this engine, which should help see you through the winter months, too.

Driven: 2019 BMW M340i xDrive Saloon prototype

Red 2018 BMW 3 Series Saloon pre-production prototype at the Nurburgring

We’ve only had a chance to sample this model in pre-production form on a racing circuit. That means the surface was glass-smooth and it was at very high speed, so not exactly indicative of what you’ll experience on a wintery UK backroad.

Still, we were impressed with a number of aspects of the way the M340i drives. Push the starter button and immediately it’s clear this is the best engine in the new 3 Series line-up. It’s a six-cylinder turbocharged petrol that is also used in the Z4 sports car, though it’s been tweaked slightly for use in the 3. It sounds fantastic, with a purposeful rumble at low speeds that builds in excitement along with the revs. We were impressed with its throttle response, too – particularly in Sport mode where everything is sharpened up.

With 374hp and 500Nm of torque available, it’ll cover 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds (provisional figure) and feels every bit as fast as that thanks to the traction of the xDrive all-wheel drive system.

As standard this car comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, but we tested it with the optional eight-speed automatic that shifts quickly and smoothly between its ratios. On circuit we had this ‘box in its manual mode, using the paddleshifters behind the steering wheel, and it performed very well indeed, with only the very slightest of reluctance to change down on some of the quicker corners.

Another optional feature was the adaptive suspension, which allows the driver to choose between a softer ride or a harder, flatter chassis for better cornering. This works in conjunction with the electrically controlled locking rear differential to help when turning into a bend, effectively tightening the car’s trajectory and pushing the back end around, making the 3 Series feel even more agile than in the other two versions above.

Once you get the hang of predicting what it’s going to do, you’re able to set the M340i to work at angles you’d previously never imagined – especially once you’ve push the traction control button once to enter into Traction mode. This commands the xDrive system to divert more torque rearwards, meaning it feels more like a rear-wheel drive car and thus is more enjoyable at speed.

BMW 3 Series driving modes

There’s a range of driving modes available on the 3 Series, consisting of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Individual. There’s also an Adaptive option on cars fitted with adaptive suspension. Eco Pro and Comfort are largely self-explanatory, while putting the car in Sport will make the throttle response sharper, the suspension stiffer (on cars with adaptive suspension) and make the steering heavier. In action, the steering becomes far too heavy, so the best option if you want more response from the engine is to configure your own setup in the Individual settings.

2019 BMW 3 Series Saloon gearlever and driving modes

Handling

  • Fine handling a 3 Series trait
  • Feels light and agile while remaining comfortable
  • Settings can be configured via drive modes

The 3 Series has long been known as the best car to drive among the compact saloons on sale. And while rivals like the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE strongly challenge the 3 Series in this regard, the BMW remains the best option if you want the best blend of performance, driver enjoyment and comfort in one, rounded package.

Around town, the 3 Series’ lighter controls pay dividends making much lighter work of lots of turning of the steering wheel, be it parking in car parks or on urban streets – it’s one of the welcome improvements over the old car. This lighter feel doesn’t leave it feeling less involving, though – it’s still responsive and feels very agile indeed.

Blue 2019 BMW 3 Series Saloon front end driving shot

This agile feel comes thanks to a lighter overall construction than the car it’s replaced, as well as being stiffer overall. On a twisty road, then, the 3 Series feels very well controlled with minimal body roll and a very composed feel. There’s a great sense that the 3 Series feels like it’ll look after you on a twisty road, feeling light on its feet and like it’ll do exactly what you ask of it.

You can tweak the driving experience via mode selection next to the gearlever, with choices of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Adaptive. The latter is only available on cars fitted with adaptive suspension. These modes tweak the responsiveness of the throttle and gearbox, as well as the weight of the steering. To complicate things a little, there are Individual settings available within each mode, so you can tweak the car’s settings to within an inch of its life.

It’ll be a purely personal thing, but one thing we would suggest is avoiding the steering setting to be in Sport – it makes it feel unnecessarily heavy and feels like a lot of effort and hard work just to go through some corners.