This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW 3-Series Saloon review.

Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

BMW 3 Series performance statistics make interesting reading. It is available with a wide choice of excellent diesel and petrol engines, offering everything from fuel sipping economy to storming performance. When launched there was the choice of three petrol engines - the 150bhp 320i, the 218bhp 325i and the 258bhp 330i, plus one diesel - the 163bhp 320d.

Performance was strong and all manual versions covered the 0-62 benchmark in 9.0 seconds or less. An excellent 330d was launched in 2005 and the six-cylinder engine is superb with huge amounts of pulling power while a 325d and 335d (both using the same 3.0-litre engine) were added in 2006. The latter is stormingly quick with a 0-62mph time of just 6.2 seconds.

In September 2007 the engine range was overhauled with the Efficient Dynamics program and as well as improvements in fuel economy and emissions, power outputs also increased. The popular 318i, 318d and 320d models saw some of the most improved figures. The 318i received an extra 14bhp, up from 129hp, but economy is even better at 48mpg. The 318d and 320d are similarly impressive - the former has power boosted to 143hp, while fuel consumption improves to 60mpg.

The 320d’s output rises from 163hp to 177hp while fuel consumption improves to 59mpg. For outright performance the 335i manages to rival even the M3 thanks to a 306bhp twin-turbo engine and a 0-60mph time of just 5.6 seconds.

The previous 3 Series was a class benchmark for handling and the fifth-generation car raises the bar even higher. With excellent weight distribution and rear-wheel drive, the BMW feels perfectly balanced when being driven on challenging roads, responding instantly to steering inputs. There's limited body roll and plentiful grip too. The suspension has been designed to suit the firmer sidewalls of run-flat tyres (which are fitted as standard) and this allows the driver to feel the surface of the road without jarring the occupants in the car.