The BMW 3 Series is a German compact luxury car that competes with the Cadillac ATS, Mercedes Benz C-Class and Audi A4. The small luxury sedan is BMW’s best-selling vehicle so shoppers considering a used 3 Series know they are buying a world-class product.
Best 3 Series
The 3 Series is currently in its sixth-generation (F30 platform) and has a variety of trims and engines. A sixth-generation 3 Series launched for the 2012 model year and is still being produced with a coupe, wagon and sedan body style. The four-door sedan is more popular in the United States while the five-door wagon is preferred by most Europeans.
Shoppers looking to save money on a 3 Series should also consider a fifth-generation (E-90 platform) that was built for the model years 2005 to 2012. Like the sixth-gen 3 Series, the fifth-gen is available with a variety of trims, engines and a wagon, coupe or sedan body style. The 3 Series is so good that it made our list of top 10 used vehicles under $10,000 and it’s also our top luxury sedan. The performance M3 coupe made our list of best used sports cars under $40,000.
3 Series Engine
Between the fifth-generation and the sixth-generation BMW, there have been a handful of standard gasoline engines. For shoppers just beginning to research used 3 Series for sale, the sheer amount of trims and engines can seem overwhelming. After determining what body style makes the most sense, whether it is a two-door coupe, four-door sedan or five-door wagon, shoppers then need to compare between a 316i, 320i, 323i, 325i, 328i or a 335i.
A rule of thumb when attempting to understand BMW 3 Series trims is by looking at the number. For example, a 320i or 323i are lower end 3 Series trims, sporting base engines. If an ‘x’ is attached to the name, that means the vehicle sports BMW’s all wheel drive system called xDrive. Since the 3 Series is rear wheel drive, the xDrive is a real difference maker in the snow and during nasty weather.
In the fifth-generation BMW, the base engine was a 3.0 inline six cylinder engine with 215 horsepower. The base engine in the sixth-gen 3 Series is a turbocharged 2.0 four cylinder engine with 240 horsepower or a 3.0 inline six cylinder engine with 230 horsepower. Higher end engine options include a turbocharged 3.0 inline six cylinder with 300 horsepower
3 Series Diesel & Hybrid
In addition to an array of gasoline engines, BMW has a hybrid and diesel powered option, too. The 335d Blue Performance was a diesel-powered BMW that was sold for the model years 2010 to 2011. The turbocharged 3.0 I6 diesel-engine delivered 265 horsepower and boasted a combined 27 MPG.
The 335d was dropped, however, after the 2011 model year for the ActiveHybrid 3 (picture below). It has the same luxury add-ons as a 335i, except it is powered by a hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder engine with 225 horsepower. That fuel-sipping hybrid engine gets a combined 28 MPG and moves from 0-60 MPH in 5.3 seconds.
Written by Max Katsarelas