Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Blue 2019 BMW 3 Series Saloon front end driving shot

  • Range of petrol and diesel engines available
  • Plus a 330e plug-in hybrid option
  • Performance is strong across the range

What engine options are there?

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.

Petrol engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
318i
156hp, 220Nm
8.4secs
140mph
320i
184hp, 300Nm 7.1secs
149mph
330i
258hp, 400Nm 5.8secs
155mph
M340i
380hp, 500Nm 4.4secs
155mph

View full specs

The petrol line-up kicks off with the 1.5-litre 318i, followed by the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol 320i. 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.

A feisty M340i xDrive high-performance saloon was added to the 3 Series range in autumn 2019, acting as a bridge to the BMW M3. All petrol engine options come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.

Diesel engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
318d
150hp, 320Nm
8.4secs
136mph
320d
190hp, 400Nm 7.1secs
149mph
330d
265hp, 550Nm 5.5secs
155mph
M340d
340hp, 700Nm 4.6secs
155mph

View full specs

The diesel range starts with the 318d. 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.

The big seller is the 320d, which 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. The 0-62mph time for the xDrive is 6.9 seconds, and is auto-only.

On the road, 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.

Blue 2019 BMW 318d Sport Saloon front three-quarter

That said, the muscular 330d is quick and 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 rear-wheel drive chassis. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is also available with this engine, which should help see you through the winter months, too.

Electric and hybrid engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
330e
252hp (292 boost), 420Nm
5.8secs
143mph

View full specs

There's just the big-selling 330e falling into this category right now. It uses the same 184hp engine as the 320i but enhanced with an electric motor hidden away in the eight-speed automatic transmission, this has a regular combined power output of 252hp but can produce 292hp for 10-second bursts thanks to a special XtraBoost function.

You can read all about how the BMW 330e drives in its our separate review.

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.

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.

BMW 330e plug-in hybrid, 2019, matt grey, rear view, driving on road towards tree