Ad closing in seconds...

Early drive: 2019 BMW 3 Series Saloon

  • Early chance to sample BMW's crucial company car
  • Petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric powertrains expected
  • Touring estate model set to follow along with sizzling M3 
  • Early chance to sample BMW's crucial company car
  • Petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric powertrains expected
  • Touring estate model set to follow along with sizzling M3 

BMW 3 Series review summary

We've had an early first drive in a prototype of the new 2019 BMW 3 Series Saloon - one of the most recognisable models in the German company's range, and among the top-selling cars in the UK.

Our first impressions were gleaned from a drive in a pre-production car wearing a disguise, because the next 3 Series hasn't been unveiled to the public yet.

The next version of this popular four-door saloon is set to take on the Mercedes-Benz C-ClassAudi A4Lexus ISAlfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE – all highly capable cars that appeal to both company car drivers and private buyers.

Our colleagues on CAR magazine have also been sent some spyshots of the 2020 BMW 3 Series Touring, with the estate model set to follow around a year after the saloon.

Read on for our early review and everything we know so far about this crucial new model.

Jump to the following sections: 

BMW 3 Series 2019 driving impressions

Our first drive took place on the Nurburgring race circuit and the roads around it in Germany, with the cars in full camouflage ahead of an official public unveiling at the 2018 Paris motor show in October.

BMW 3 Series 2019 tested on the Nurburgring

We drove a 2.0-litre petrol in what will be equivalent to M Sport specification once the finished car reaches the UK.

The first thing that struck us is just how well it handles. On the circuit the steering is super-accurate and the 3 Series’ grip levels were extremely high – so much so in fact that our tester thought the chassis felt almost as good as the previous M3.

This capability is a trade-off with ride quality, though, which we found a little jiggly out on public roads. This could be down to the sports suspension on M Sport cars.

The seats are extremely comfortable – as good as the excellent 5 Series in this regard – but the new 3 also feels as wide as its big brother too, which detracts from its performance on narrow country lanes.

BMW 3 Series rear view disguised

We can’t tell you a lot about the interior at this point since most of it was disguised, but there are still a lot of physical buttons where many companies are increasingly relying on touchscreens – including one for a heated steering wheel. One thing is clear: fans of BMWs will immediately recognise this is one of the firm’s cars. It’s impossible to mistake it for another company’s product.

When will the BMW 3 Series go on sale?

It's slated to be officially unveiled to the public at October 2018's Paris motor show, but sales aren't due to begin until well into 2019, with the Touring estate model to follow later still.

Whether it's worth waiting for is down to your priorities. The BMW’s always been one of the sportier option in its market sector – great to drive, with a cabin designed around the driver’s needs.

As with previous 3 Series it will have rear-wheel drive as standard, though BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system will be available on some versions. This set-up has become increasingly popular during the life of the current car, and this trend is likely to continue with the next one.

What engines will the 2019 BMW 3 Series have?

There are no official details on the UK specification of the next-generation BMW 3 Series at this stage. But we are expecting an even wider range of powertrain options than usual, including the possibility of a full-electric version to complement the petrols, diesels and plug-in hybrid already available.

That said, the turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel options will continue to make up the lion's share of sales. More powerful six-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel options should continue, in spite of the car industry's continuing obsession with downsizing.

BMW 320d Saloon is a very popular version of the current 3 Series

In time we’ll see a new M3 performance model, while a plug-in hybrid similar to the current 330e is a certainty. The distinct possibility of a pure electric 3 Series would reflect the modern car market’s general move towards electrification.

Conventional engines in the previous 3 Series have included the popular diesel 320d along with the lower output 318d and more powerful 330d. Petrol options have included the 320i, 330i and 340i. So, don't expect a Volvo S60-like dropping of diesel models from the 3 Series range, just yet.

What’s the cheapest BMW 3 Series to run?

We’re expecting the continuation of the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine in the current 318i (also used in the 2 Series 218i) in the form of the 138hp 316i, while a 316d represents the lowest-powered diesel motor that we’ve driven in the MINI Cooper D.

We're expecting an eDrive version of the BMW 3 Series Saloon

Both of these engines should offer a compelling proposition for those looking for the lowest possible VED car tax or benefit-in-kind because they’ll offer reasonable CO2 output.

Some variants of the 2019 BMW 3 Series should easily dip under the 100g/km threshold.

What changes can we expect on the 2019 BMW 3 Series?

Technology already on the 5 Series and 7 Series models is a given, so expect gesture control along with lots of driver assistance features (including but not limited to adaptive cruise control, active lane-departure technology, autonomous emergency braking) and the very latest BMW iDrive infotainment system.

The iDrive multimedia system as seen in the BMW 5 Series that we're expecting in the 2018 3 Series

We’re not expecting the exterior styling of the new car to be hugely different to the current 3 Series. It may follow the more modern styling cues of the latest 5 and 7 Series, but it will remain recognisably a BMW regardless.

Next BMW 3 Series Touring on the way after Saloon

The estate version of the 3 Series will arrive later than the saloon, but it's unclear exactly when. It’s set to use the Touring moniker just like all other BMW estate cars.

BMW 3 Series Touring 2020 from CAR magazine

Our colleagues on sister title CAR magazine were sent the above spyshot in July 2018.

New BMW M3 slated for 2020 reveal

We'll see a new version of the legendary BMW M3 in 2020. It'll feature a six-cylinder twin-turbo engine like the current car, but with an electronic compressor similar to that fitted to the Audi SQ7, all-wheel drive and water injection among the new features aiming to make this the go-to choice for a new supersaloon. 

Expect around 500hp to rival the Audi RS5, Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, Jaguar XE Project 8 and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofoglio. 

Full details of the 2020 BMW M3 on CAR online

When will the 2019 BMW 3 Series go on sale?

The new 3 Series will be shown to the public for the first time in October 2018 at the Paris motor show, but we're expecting official pictures before that.  

Keep an eye out for the full Parkers 2019 BMW 3 Series Saloon review coming later in 2018

Sidebar Right

Choose a different car: