The BMW 3-series is one of the bestselling compact executive saloons in the world. The car is a favourite for many customers for good reason. It is a classy entry-level luxury car endowed with excellent fit and finish, spirited performance and an exquisite ride-and-handling balance unmatched by most vehicles at any price. That is true no matter which model or year you choose, as generation after generation of the 3-Series has offered the same strengths in spite of continual evolution. Around one in every four BMWs sold is a 3-Series, which makes this model series the most successful model in the German brand’s line-up. Sharper design, advanced technologies and cutting-edge engines ensure the 2017 3-Series remains a more attractive proposition than ever before.
The design of the 2017 3-Series stands out with even greater precision and various detail improvements. At the front end, new aprons with revised air intakes accentuate the feeling of width, while the sensor for the optional Active Cruise Control (ACC) is neatly integrated into the central air intake. The car’s aggressive poise is characterised by the wide forward-slanting BMW kidney grille, the signature twin headlights with corona rings and the LED positioned like eyebrows at the top each headlight. Full-LED headlights can now be specified as an option.
The headlights merge with the kidney grille giving the front a continuous look from each side. Larger dual air intake system, which is located underneath the headlights, channels more air to the engine and give the 2017 3-series a sporty look. The air intakes feature vertical ducts, which improve airflow around the front wheel. This, according to BMW, helps improve aerodynamics thus reducing fuel consumption. Sweeping lines dot the side surface. The double swag line consists of two lines that run from the front to the rear give the 2017 3-series a stunning look. A new range of wheels underlines the sporting appearance of the 2017 3-Series visually and functionally.
The rear end with its sporty design also impresses with its likewise highly sculptural, clearly defined lines. The newly designed rear lights are full-LED units. The light bars, arranged in a distinctive BMW “L” shape and now more heavily curved, lend greater dynamic presence to the rear end of the car even when it is stationary. Added to which, the integrated LED brake lights raise safety another notch thanks to their faster responses. The two-piece LED indicators form a horizontal band of light across both sections of the rear lights and provide extremely even and consistent light. They stretch into the boot lid and underline the car’s sporty looks. The wider, Line-specific trim element on the rear apron lends additional emphasis to this dynamic appearance.
Entry level 2017 3-series is the 318i. This particular version features a turbocharged 1.5-litre three three-cylinder petrol power unit. Output for the 318i is rated at 100 kW (136 hp) and 220 Nm of torque. The engine consumes 5.3 l/100 km. With the six-speed manual gearbox, the 318i accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8.9 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 210 km/h.
The mid-spec variants, the 320i and 330i, feature a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder in-line unit. Output for the 320i is rated at 134 kW (184 hp) and torque peaks at 290 Nm. The 330i delivers 185 kW (252 hp) and 350 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption for the 320i is rated at 5.9-litres per 100 km, while the 330i needs 0.6 litres more to cover the same distance. The 320i comes with a six-speed manual as standard. The more powerful 330i is equipped with BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic transmission. The 330i accelerates from 0 – 100 km/ sprint time of 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h.
The 340i is the top of the line saloon in the 3-series range. The 340i is equipped with an all-new 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. The lightweight and rigid all-aluminium unit with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology provides a perfect blend of superb performance and outstanding efficiency. The new three-litre six-cylinder in-line BMW 340i develops maximum power of 240 kW (326 hp) and 450 Nm of torque. Paired with the engine is BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic transmission. 0 – 100 km/h is dealt with in just 5.1 seconds. Top speed is governed at 250 km/h.
The 3-Series has been the benchmark in driving dynamics for generations. The further developed damper technology and stiffer suspension of the 2017 3-Series team up with a more finely honed steering set-up to deliver significantly enhanced dynamic capabilities without any compromise on comfort. The suspension improves both transverse and longitudinal dynamics under all payload conditions. This is expressed in reduced roll, unwavering directional stability and an exceptionally high level of steering precision.
The interior faithfully reflects the dynamic and elegant lines of the sporty 3-Series model range. The cockpit’s driver focus is a signature BMW feature and provides optimum access to all the important functions. The outstanding ergonomics of the 3-Series have been improved further still and additional, carefully arranged chrome highlights and high-gloss surfaces give the interior an even classier look.
The central control panel in the centre console comes in high-gloss black. It also features an ambient lighting surround and additional chrome applications. Chrome accents make the newly designed controls for the electric seat adjustment, for example, clearer to the eye. Chrome applications are also a feature of the electric window controls and air vents, bringing added high-quality accents to the interior.
An iDrive monitor with high-resolution display is positioned on the horizontally structured instrument panel. The monitor has no folding mechanism or binnacle, allowing the entire dashboard to retain its flat, smooth lines. The accent strip in the instrument panel continues expansively into all four doors, emphasising the generous levels of space for the passengers and providing a classy ambience.
Positioned centrally on the centre console is the iDrive Controller. It is easy to reach for both the driver and the front passenger. Underneath the armrest is the optional seat adjustment buttons. There is also a compartment for mobile devices, which also contains a USB/AUX-IN socket. The iDrive also acts as the infotainment system of the car. The boot offers 480 litres of space. With a system called Comfort Access, the boot can be opened hands free without the need for a key. All you need to do is move your foot underneath the bumper to trigger the opening mechanism for the boot lid.
The 3-series is a classy entry-level luxury car endowed with world-class fit and finish, spirited performance and an exquisite ride-and-handling balance unmatched by most vehicles at any price. That is true no matter which model or year you choose, as generation after generation of the 3 Series has offered the same strengths in spite of continual evolution.
In past reviews, we have lauded the exceptionally well-rounded nature of the 3-Series. Whether you’re devouring on the highway, running errands around town or making time on your favourite back road, the car always feels up to the task. Inside, drivers will find a restrained show of luxury, with an emphasis on comfort and involvement.
Overall, if you can afford the price of admission, the 2017 3 Series is the standard-bearer in the compact luxury-sport class. Thanks to its wonderfully balanced dynamics, powerful and efficient engine line-up and wide range of configurations, the 3-Series earns our very strong recommendation. Bavaria Auto Limited, a subsidiary of Simba Colt, is the BMW brand custodian in Kenya. Their showroom is located along Mombasa Road in the outskirts of Nairobi City. Prices for the BMW 3-series start at Kshs 5.5 million.
Quote: The 3-Series has been the benchmark in driving dynamics for generations.
What we like
- Composed ride
- Elegant design and high quality interior materials
- Refined engines and transmission
What we dislike
- Safety systems are optional extras
- Base model lacks creature comforts
- Storage is limited compared to rivals