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BMW 3-Series Saloon verdict

2005 - 2011 (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 54.5

Written by Mike Humble Published: 18 October 2022 Updated: 18 October 2022

2005-2013 BMW 3-Series Saloon used review and buying guide
2005-2013 BMW 3-Series Saloon used review and buying guide

Should you buy a used BMW 3-Series (E90) Saloon?

Yes, if you find a good one. A lot of them, as cheap rear-wheel drive cars, have been abused but there are still plenty of well-maintained later models to choose from. While the diesel versions can introduce more maintenance and reliability concerns, well-maintained six-cylinder versions such as the 330d can deliver a blend of fuel economy, handling and refinement you’ll struggle to find in other brands.

In a modern landscape the fifth-generation 3-Series is also quite a small, low and sporty car even in fairly basic trim, too. As a used buy it’s pragmatic with a premium air, and if you avoid the boy-racer temptations of fake M3s you’ll find it fits in anywhere.

Downsides are the inevitable practicality constraints of a small saloon, and the cost of trim, electricals and major components (most service items are very reasonable) should things go wrong. There are plenty of abused ones about, and the diesels were often chosen by high mileage drivers who would get them to 100,000 miles in four years; look for a lot of service receipts.

What we like

Nimble, still classy, still looks fresh and less over-the-top than modern BMW designs, if a little safe when launched. Six-cylinder engines are, as ever, lovely, and involving rear-wheel drive chassis delivers far more fun than the boring silver saloon appearance of a typical 3-Series implies.

What we don’t like

Some trim ages badly, and so does the tech – though that can be upgraded. Genuine parts are expensive outside of routine servicing, so damaged trim or faulty electrics can cost more than you expect – or think is worth spending – to fix. Therefore a lot of cheaper cars on the market are functional-but-shabby. Four-cylinder diesels can be unreliable, and like previous generations of 3-Series, rust is beginning to nibble the early cars underneath.