This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW 3-Series Saloon review.

Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Well-made with high-quality materials…
  • Yet it fails to impress like the C-Class cabin
  • Intuitive to use controls make life easy

BMW 3 Series saloon: what's it like inside?

BMW has bestowed the 3 Series Saloon with one of the most driver-focused cabins around, with the centre console angled much more acutely towards the driver than its predecessor was.

It’s intuitive to use, with logically arranged – and pleasing to use – switchgear, including the iDrive multimedia controller with its rotary dial.

Contemporary iDrive systems are much easier to navigate than earlier versions introduced back in 2002, with additional shortcut buttons around the central knob and logical menus displayed on the multimedia screen that stands proud of the dashboard.

BMW 3 Series saloon: high quality cabin but it lacks some rivals' wow factor

While the interior soft-touch plastics are of a high quality – and the dashboard’s got an interesting oblique styling theme to it – it somehow conspires to not feel as classy as the interiors of the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class do.

There’s a wide palette of colours available for the 3 Series Saloon’s interior plastic mouldings, including a variety of trim appliques in wood, metal and textured plastics.

Differences in the BMW M3 cabin

Save for some M3-specific features like the seats, steering wheel and automatic gear lever, you’d be hard-pressed to know whether you were in the flagship sports model or a lowly 316d.

Yes, you can make it more special with BMW’s Exclusive package but it should feel more special than lesser 3 Series anyway.

This though, is a relatively minor criticism, as the M3’s cabin is a refined and comforting place in which to travel, especially given the wide range of adjustment from the superb front seats, although we have reservations about the gaucheness of the illuminated M badges on the seat-backs.

  • 3 Series blends sportiness with comfort
  • Adaptive suspension option worth considering
  • M3 is useable every day without being too firm

BMW 3 Series: which is most comfy for me?

On motorways in particular, the ride quality is excellent and road, wind and tyre noise is minimal. Inevitably there’s some engine noise, particularly under harder acceleration, from the diesels, while 318i petrols from the 2015 facelift have a characteristic three-cylinder thrum.

The front seats are extremely comfortable, and the side and lumbar support are good. There’s plenty of adjustment too, but the electrical versions allow you to hone your driving position with even more perfection.

BMW 3 Series: few cars even come close to the BMW's ride/handling balance

Move to the rear seats and you’ll find a decent amount of space for two adults, but if space is your primary requirement then look at something more mainstream such as a Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb or Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport.

BMW M3 is comfortable and rapid

There’s no escaping the M3 Saloon’s rapidity and levels of driver engagement, but equally impressive are BMW M3 comfort levels.

The secret is the adaptive suspension dampers at each corner. Sure, when you put it into Sport or Sport+ modes, it sharpens considerably, with the latter setting making the ride particularly firm, but in Comfort mode you’re unlikely to get many complaints from your passengers.

It’s not a comfort-oriented car though and with 19-inch alloy wheels shod in very slender yet wide rubber, there are going to be odd jolts and noises but nothing particularly jarring.

Depending on which engine mode you choose, it can be quite soothing in the cabin too, the six-cylinder motor sounding almost subdued at times, should you want it to be, although tyre roar from the beefy rubber can be tiresome on motorway jaunts if you drive without the infotainment system switched on.

Front seat occupants are very well catered for with superb seats offering support and grip without feeling like your kidneys have been pummelled after a long journey.