Performance runs right through the engine range, starting with the entry-level petrol that can do 0-62 in an impressive 8.9 seconds. You have to work it fairly hard to get the best out of it, but the rewards are pleasing.
The 320i and 330i models are quicker, and can do the 0-62 dash in 7.2 and 5.9 seconds, but they don’t really make a lot of sense if you’re going to be spending most of your time milling around the town. For that, the entry-level petrol should be just fine.
The 340i is breathtakingly fast, and can do 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, but you also shouldn’t overlook the diesel engines. A 320d has more power than the 320i and does 0-62 in 7.5 seconds. It’s the cheapest engine to run, and makes sense for high-mileage drivers. It is, however, a tad on the noisy side. But those promised fuel economy returns of 74.3mpg are hard to ignore.
That’s as good as things get, but mpg numbers across the range are decent. The 330d is good for 56.5mpg, while the 318i petrol model can claim returns of 51.4mpg.
BMW do top quality interiors all the time, so it’s no surprise to find the 3 Series is a very pleasant place to be. The design is classy and current, the layout is logical, and the materials are great to the touch. We especially like that standard cloth seats are standard across the range.
The driver-oriented dash is of the wraparound kind, which means the centre console is a bit to high, though the dials and controls are all angled towards you. These dials are easy to read and use too.
The 3 Series Saloon is fairly practical. It’s the same size as the Volvo’s other German rivals, but, like the S60, it’s not the most usable car in the class. That award goes to the likes of the VW Passat.
However, this is the biggest 3 Series so far. As a result, leg and headroom is satisfactory, and the 480-litre boot is competitive. Like the Volvo, anyone sat in the middle seat will struggle with the high transmission tunnel. Upfront, though, there is plenty of space for the driver and passenger.
Volvo – £22,000 – £34,200
BMW – £25,000 – £41,000