A look inside the BMW 3 Series

2016 BMW 3 Series Grand Touring.

By Ewan Kennedy

The BMW 3 Series is a luxury small to medium-sized German car. Launched in Australia in February 2012, the sixth generation is noticeably larger than the models it replaced, and we’re kicking it off in this Checkout.

This is truly a driver’s car, as rear-wheel drive gives you throttle control that you can enjoy playing with. The neutral feel through the steering is perhaps the best feature of all BMWs.

BMW 3 Series sold as four-door sedan, five-door hatchback and five-door wagon. The latter is called the Gran Tourismo or GT.

All BMWs come with responsive engines. Interestingly, there are times when the stopwatch may tell you they’re not as fast as your senses tell you, yet they feel great to sit behind, and that’s what matters.

The choice of engines is many and varied, with three, four and six-cylinder petrol engines. There are also four- and six-cylinder turbo diesels.

With an abundance of 2.0-litre Twin Power four-cylinder engines, only the BMW 335i has a six-cylinder in-line petrol engine. Each engine is powered by an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In October 2015, the 3 Series received a facelift and a tail tuck to give it a wider look. The headlamps were connected to the kidneys by an LED light bar. The headlamps are full LED as they provide significantly more light and ensure safer driving at night.

In 2016 there were major engine upgrades that increased power and responsiveness while reducing fuel consumption.

The 3 Series 330e petrol-electric hybrid joined the range in May 2016. A realistic range of 28 to 20 miles on electric power alone is fine for many who typically commute moderate distances. Indeed, if you can charge it both at home and in the office, you can drive without gas all week,

The hybrid can be charged from a standard electrical outlet in about 3.5 hours, from a special BMW iWallbox in 2.25 hours or at public charging stations. Of the latter, there are an increasing number in Australia and you may be able to take quite long journeys without using fossil fuels.

BMW ConnectedDrive Services has a SIM card built into the car that provides access to a range of services independently of a smartphone. The Concierge Service will search for places of interest such as restaurants and hotels for you and can even make reservations. The BMW employee then sends information directly to the vehicle as a navigation destination, along with all contact details.

Maintenance and repairs can also be expensive, but maintenance is according to the needs of the individual car, not according to a date on the calendar or the mileage on the trip odometer.

Insurance can be pricey because avid drivers (who often don’t have the talent they think they possess) sometimes crash.

As always with insurance, shop around if you think you can get a better deal, but make sure you fully understand what is and isn’t covered by the different policies you are researching. You may also be able to get a better deal on insurance if you have a clean driving record and talk to the insurance company about it.

It pays to find a new BMW with a full service history. You’ll probably be asked to pay more, but it’s almost always worth the money.

WHAT TO SEARCH

Run your hand back and forth over the front tires; more resistance in one direction than the other probably means the car is chamfered.

Check the overall exterior condition of a 3 Series especially scrapes on rims, front left usually suffers first, also look at door edges for chips where they’ve opened up against other cars (tut-tut!).

The complex nature of the later models in the 3 Series means that they should only be serviced by specialist BMW technicians. Be sure to get a quote for even small items as repair costs can be high.

Make sure the engine is stone cold before starting it. Make sure that it skips within a few seconds and that there is no hesitation in acceleration.

Previous crash repairs may mean the car has slightly mismatched colors, look for paint overspray on unpainted surfaces. Ripples in the panels are also a sign of the repairs.

A magnet will tell you if the material under the repaired area is metal or plastic filler.

Look for sun-induced blurring on horizontal surfaces, a sign that a car has spent nearly all of its time out in the open.

A few owners have told us about intermittent Bluetooth issues. Check that the system is up to date, as BMW has made several revisions.

HOW MUCH?

Expect to pay from $11,000 to $17,000 for a 2012 BMW 320d; $18,000 to $25,000 for a 2012 328i; $21,000 to $28,000 for a 2016 320d Luxury or a 2017 318i M Sport; $25,000 to $34,000 for a 2014 328i Touring; $31,000 to $42,000 for a 2018 318i Luxury Line; $36,000 to $47,000 for a 2015 335i; $39,000 to $51,000 for a 2016 340i Luxury Line; $48,000 to $63,000 for a 2018 340i M Sport; and $52,000 to $71,000 for a 2020 330i M Sport.

CAR BUYING TIP

Shop around in different areas as car prices can vary from area to area.