What To Look For When Searching For This Compact Exec Car Secondhand
BMW’s small executive saloon, coupe, and the estate has been battling it out with Mercedes’ C-class and Audi’s A4 for class honors for years – and has nearly always been at the top of its game.
3 series Engines And Specification
From launch, the 3 series was available with 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 petrol engines, ranging from 127-306bhp and 2.0 and 3.0 diesels with 120-282bhp. The 414bhp 4.0-liter V8 appeared in the M3 saloon, coupé, and Cabrio from 2007. Most versions employ EfficientDynamics, which employs engine stop-start technology to reduce emissions.
All engines are highly rated, although the base 2.0 petrol may be a little underpowered if you frequently blast from one end of the country to the other. All of the diesels are exceptional, both for the amount of torque they produce and their low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The 414bhp M3 looks superb in coupé guise and drives well, although the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG now runs it very close.
The base spec gets you alloy wheels, but at least there’s air-conditioning. Go for ES and you’ll have those alloys and fog lights. SE adds climate control, parking sensors, bigger alloys, and heated mirrors. More powerful M Sport models get leather, Bluetooth, and larger alloys, but make sure you go for a long test drive because models fitted with run-flat tires tend to have an extremely firm ride which gets jiggly and uncomfortable on poor roads surfaces. Boot space on the saloon is starting to look a little tight, compared with rivals, so go for the Touring if this is important to you.
3 Series Gearboxes
BMW manual gearboxes have always been much better than the automatics but that changed with this model – the six-speed auto is a peach. Many drivers will still prefer to go with the manual, though, and all have six forward speeds. The M3 comes with the 7-speed semi-automatic DCT box or the regular manual.
3 Series Special Editions
BMW isn’t one for producing a string of special editions. Nevertheless, there have been a few:
Edition ES (2008)
Edition SE (2008)
Edition M Sport (2008)
M3 Edition (2009) 10mm lower ride height and minor styling enhancements
What to Watch Out For
Some electrical gremlins affect early petrol engines.
Runflat tires mean there’s no spare wheel.
Dual mass flywheel failures not uncommon on manual diesels.
325i should have had recall work carried out to correct possible injector failure.
A worn sensor mat can lead to the deactivation of passenger airbags (mats not fitted in all markets).
3 Series Engines and Dimensions
The following list shows the engines’ performance, and the saloon’s dimensions, as quoted by BMW:
318i – 2.0 petrol, 127bhp, 0-62mph 10.0sec, top speed 129mph, 38.7mpg, 175g/km CO2
318i – 2.0 petrol – 141bhp, 0-62mph 9.1sec, top speed 130mph, 35.8mpg, 142g/km CO2
320i – 2.0 petrol – 147bhp, 0-62mph 9.0sec, top speed 137mph, 38.2mpg, 178g/km CO2
320i – 2.0 petrol – 167bhp, 0-62mph 8.2sec, top speed 142mph, 46.3mpg, 146g/km CO2
325i – 2.5 petrol – 215bhp, 0-62mph 7.0sec, top speed 152mph, 33.6mpg, 203g/km CO2
325i – 3.0 petrol – 215bhp, 0-62mph 6.7sec, top speed 155mph, 39.8mpg, 170g/km CO2
330i – 3.0 petrol – 258bhp, 0-62mph 6.6sec, top speed 155mph, 31.4mpg, 216/km CO2
335i – 3.0 petrol – 301bhp, 0-62mph 5.6sec, top speed 155mph, 29.4mpg, 231g/km CO2
M3 – 4.0 petrol – 414bhp, 0-62mph 4.8sec, top speed 155mph, 22.8mpg, 295g/km CO2
318d – 2.0 diesel – 120bhp, 0-62mph 10.6sec, top speed 128mph, 50.4mpg, 150g/km CO2
318d – 2.0 diesel – 141bhp, 0-62mph 9.3sec, top speed 130mph, 60.1mpg, 123g/km CO2
320d – 2.0 diesel – 163bhp, 0-62mph 8.3sec, top speed 140mph, 49.6mpg, 153g/km CO2
320d – 2.0 diesel – 174bhp, 0-62mph 7.9sec, top speed 143mph, 58.9mpg, 128g/km CO2
325d – 3.0 diesel – 194bhp, 0-62mph 7.4sec, top speed 146mph, 44.1mpg, 171g/km CO2
330d – 3.0 diesel – 227bhp, 0-62mph 6.7sec, top speed 155mph, 43.5mpg, 174g/km CO2
335d – 3.0 diesel auto – 282bhp, 0-62mph 6.2sec, top speed 155mph, 37.7mpg, 200g/km CO2
Boot space (seats up/down) 460/na liters
Used 3 Series For Sale
The 3 series is still the best compact executive car to drive. It might be short on space compared with the opposition but BMW’s Efficient Dynamics have turned it into the car that every company driver wants.
The pick of the bunch has to be the 325d Touring, for its superb performance-economy balance and load-lugging abilities. At the other end of the scale is the 318i (127) saloon, which is still a respectable buy but lets the side down by being tighter on space and not exactly frugal while offering only average performance.
Rivals include the Audi A4, Ford Mondeo, and Mercedes C Class. All match the 3 series on quality and residual values, but can’t quite match it for driver enjoyment. That’s why the BMW leads the compact executive class.