A history lesson…
The no-brainer; the ultimate BMW; the daddy; the 3-Series is just the absolute dog’s danglies. It deserves every bit of the praise it receives because it has become the ultimate saloon. Since its conception in the 1980’s, the 3-Series has gone from strength-to-strength, and the newest model is proof BMW know how to build a car.
From the basic 3-Series to the M3, every car is built to last, built to evoke emotion and built to impress. It’s a car that somehow sells more than the Mondeo – despite costing thousands more – and it’s a car that, if you park it on your drive, will annoy the neighbours.
Bang for your buck
There’s been so many variants, so many engines and so many models of the 3-Series it’s hard to choose one. On many levels, it makes more sense to buy a slightly older M3, because they aren’t only extremely brilliant in every single way, but relatively affordable. But if you can’t afford to run a top-end 3-Series, buying a diesel makes a hell of a lot of sense, too.
The modern BMW diesels are nothing short of remarkable. If you go for one of the twin-turbo diesels, you’ll have a saloon that is not only sleek, respectable and good on diesel, but also unbelievably quick. The 330d variants are rapid, and you will embarrass most hot-hatchbacks.
There are so many smaller-engined petrol and diesel units to choose from, so whatever you want, there is a 3-Series for you.
What you’ll pay
Thanks to the 3-Series being a German BMW, they do hold their residuals quite well. Depending upon what age or engine you opt for, you can grab yourself a bargain quite easily. Old 1990 M3s go for stupidly low prices, and while you’ll pay through the nose for a new V8 M3, it is one of the most exciting cars on the road today.
Expect to pay around £15/16k for a 2007/08 320i, which may be a lot, but you end up with a lot of car and some of the best engineering in the world of cars. Plus, you get a BMW badge, which comes as standard with “take that, neighbours” snobbery.
Diesels typically hold their value better, and you will pay a premium for the more popular diesel engines.
What to check
If you’re buying a 2007+ 3-Series, there really isn’t too much to worry about. Warranties should sort you out for most of any troubles, but if you’re buying a pre-2007 3-Series, you need to make sure the car you’re buying has been looked after.
If you’re unsure, an RAC check will ensure that the car you’re buying is safe and road-worthy.
Parts are expensive for the 3-Series, as it is an executive saloon. Clutch assemblies are around £150 and front brake pads are about £60. While starter motors are £170 and full exhausts a very hefty £500.
How it drives
‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ is the slogan, but with the 3-Series, they’re not too far off that being the truth. You’ll struggle to find a better handling saloon for this money; even Audi can’t match BMW’s engineering with the 3-Series. It’s just a dream to drive on a daily basis. It can do motorways and long-runs, and then, at the flick of your big toe, entertain you on twisty B-roads.
The M3 is obviously the most exciting variant in the range, but any 3-Series has the chassis to keep a big smile on your face. It may not be the cheapest car on the road, but for what you get, it is easily the best junior executive saloon on the market.