The BMW 3 Series 2018 has been a compact executive class leader for more than 40 years, and the latest model was a winner yet again when it arrived in 2012. The competition has raised its game in recent times, with the arrival of an all-new Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia, yet the facelifted 3 Series does enough to keep it at the front of the field.
While the BMW 3 Series 2018 crown as the best handling compact executive saloon remains intact, the Jaguar XE comes close to matching it, and offers marginally lower running costs. However, the margins between the two are very slim, and you won’t be opting for second best with the 3 Series.
The diesel models are powerful and refined, while the petrols deliver great performance, although while the 330e hybrid delivers low running costs, it’s not the most efficient plug-in, while the handling has a softer edge.
The BMW 3 Series 2018 replaced the popular 2002-series of small saloons in the mid-Seventies. Over the years, the 3 Series has grown in size, but has largely stuck to the same formula, by offering four doors, a front-engine, rear-wheel drive transmission, and delivering involving handling for drivers that want a sporty family car.
The current BMW 3 Series 2018 uses the internal model code F30, and is the sixth generation of this best-seller in the compact executive saloon sector. It’s also available in a number of body styles: there’s the Touring estate (F31), two-door 4 Series Coupe and Convertible (F32 and F33 respectively), the five-door 3 Series Gran Turismo (F34) and five-door 4 Series Gran Coupe (F36).
You have a choice of four trims available. The range starts with SE, then there’s Sport trim, Luxury and M Sport variants. The latter M Sport cars are marked out by a subtly more aggressive bodykit and M Sport badges. The 330e hybrid gets subtle pale blue detailing, although it could easily pass as a conventional model as it’s offered in all trim levels bar SE.
Sat-nav is standard across the BMW 3 Series 2018 range, as is DAB radio and emergency eCall, although BMW offers a long list of options and packs so that you can personalise your car.
There are a wide range of engines available, although not every engine is offered in every body style. The BMW 3 Series 2018 saloon gets most engine options, and petrol cars get an ‘i’ suffix, the diesels end with a ‘d’, and the plug-in hybrid uses an ‘e’. However, the badge on the car’s bootlid doesn’t necessarily equate to the engine under the bonnet. The 318i petrol uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder, the 320i and 330i use a 2.0-litre four, and the 340i has a 3.0-litre straight-six. All of these engines are turbocharged.
Rival saloons for the BMW 3 Series 2018 are the Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. Other models worth considering are the Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50 and even higher-spec versions of family cars such as the Volkswagen Passat, Mazda 6 and Ford Mondeo.