New BMW 3 Series tested by Which? CarBest-selling premium saloon tested by Which? Car
09 March 2012
BMW's new sixth-generation 3 Series saloon is now on sale, and the Which? Car test team has put it through its first full test.
BMW claims that its talented, best-selling 3 Series premium saloon is improved in several key areas, from space to fuel efficiency. The Which? test team has put those claims to the test in an exacting series of tests on the road and in the lab.
Longer, wider, more spacious
While the new 3 Series may look very similar to the outgoing model, it is in fact all-new. It's wider and longer, and crucially its 'cab-forward' design and longer wheelbase increase space for passengers, particularly in the rear. While it's still not class-leading, the Which? test team measured more leg- and knee-room than before.
However, BMW's claim that the boot is 20 litres bigger than the last 3 Series isn't borne out by Which? measurements. Because of its new boot lid hinge design, usable luggage space is actually down by 30 litres, at 375 litres.
Eight-speed auto - more economical?
BMW becomes the first car maker to offer an eight-speed automatic gearbox in this market class. The extra gear ratios are claimed to make the automatic more fuel-efficient than manual cars. Certainly the official EU figures show the new-shape 3 Series is more economical. But again, the Which? Car test team found reality falling short of the claims. In laboratory fuel testing, the 320d automatic averaged 54.3mpg, some way off the official claim of 62.8mpg.
Diesel versions of the 3 Series - available in four different power outputs from 116bhp to 184bhp - all emit less than 120g/km of carbon dioxide, which keeps them in tax-efficient bandings. The lowest-emitting model, the 320d EfficientDynamics, emits 109g/km of CO2, meaning owners will pay only £20 per year in VED tax.
Keeping in tune with the sporty-driving reputation the 3 Series enjoys, the auto transmission also has a Sport mode, while manual gear selection is also possible using either the gear lever or steering wheel paddles.
- Find out our full verdict and test results for the BMW 3 Series
- Read full test results for all large cars on sale
- See the Which? experts' top 10 large car buying tips