By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.3
For more than 30 years, the BMW 3 Series has set the standard for entry-level luxury sedans. Despite the best efforts of age-old rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS, the 3 Series continues on as the undisputed benchmark in the category. This level of dominance is owed in large part to the variety of configurations that comprise the 3 Series line, including the multifaceted Sport Wagon, a fuel-sipping diesel, and an all-new Gran Turismo hatchback. To make the nameplate more accessible, the newly available 320i trim delivers 3 Series prestige at a buyer-friendly price. As for coupe and convertible versions, they will migrate to the forthcoming 4 Series platform, leaving the 2014 BMW 3 Series with an all-4-door portfolio. This is the story of why we named it one of the 10 Best Luxury Cars Under $40,000 for 2014.
Automotive purists on the prowl for the most enthusiast-oriented sports sedan on the market need look no further than the 2014 BMW 3 Series. Although entries from Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz are certainly advanced, well-equipped 3 Series models hold the edge when it comes to the latest in-car tech.
If value, style, and quality trump handling dynamics on your list of priorities, the new-for-2014 Lexus IS deserves your consideration. Other noteworthy alternatives include the sporty Cadillac ATS, the well-rounded Audi A4, and the popular Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Two-door versions of the latest 3 Series platform are set to arrive in showrooms later this year under the new 4 Series designation. In addition, a new 4-door hatchback variant dubbed the Gran Turismo joins the roster.
Driving Impressions A major element of 3 Series appeal is their driving dynamics. They consistently perform at or near the top of their segment in terms of ride and handling. The exception...is the bigger, heavier Gran Turismo hatchback, which isn't as nimble as its siblings. The 3 Series' fuel-saving stop/start feature shudders during engine shutdown, and again when the system restarts. Drivers can deactivate stop/start by pressing a button on the dash each time they start the car. The delightfully torque-rich turbo-6 is good for 5.4-second 0-60 bursts, but the surprising turbo-4 is only about a half-second slower. The down-powered 320i gets to 60 mph in roughly 7.1 seconds. The diesel engine delivers strong performance and excellent fuel economy. As a bonus, the twin-scroll turbocharger used on all powerplants is virtually free of turbo lag. In late 2014, the next-generation BMW M3 will arrive.
iPhone users can access a number of popular mobile applications like Glympse location sharing data, audio books by Audible, and TuneIn radio via the standard navigation system display and iDrive controls. BMW Apps can even read aloud Twitter and Facebook feeds.
SURROUND VIEW SYSTEM
Cameras in the outside mirrors provide a bird's-eye top view of the area around the car to aid maneuvering in tight spaces, while the selectable Side View function uses cameras in the sides of the front bumper to monitor traffic crossing in front of the car.
BMW calls its 2014 3 Series interior "straight out of the BMW design handbook," meaning an uncomplicated look with tight fits, simple shapes and upscale materials. The cockpit, angled toward the driver by seven degrees, presents important controls within easy reach. Overall, the cabin is quite spacious, and the rear quarters offer more legroom than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac ATS and Infiniti Q50. The console-mounted iDrive controller is handy to both driver and front passenger, and its freestanding central screen boasts an HDTV-like trans-reflective, high-resolution display. On the practicality front, 3 Series Sport Wagon and Gran Turismo models maintain a sizable advantage over their sedan-only rivals like the Lexus IS and Infiniti G when it comes to hauling cargo.Exterior
When BMW's 1977 3 Series replaced the respected but ungainly 2002, its styling was a pleasant surprise. Thirty-six years later, its evolving design has never again surprised, and that's a good thing. Line up all six generations, and the evolution is so apparent that even casual observers have no doubt what it is. Today's slightly longer and taller model differentiates itself mostly by adding more defined character lines and creases, along with a visual connection between the headlights and the marque's signature twin-kidney grilles. The Gran Turismo hatchback, on the other hand, is an acquired taste.
Straight out of the box, base 320i trims come equipped with leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, and a 9-speaker sound system with a 6.5-inch LCD display, a USB port, and HD Radio. For comparison, the less expensive Acura TSX and Audi A4 offer power front seats and leather as standard fare. Safety features standard on every 2014 BMW 3 Series model consist of eight airbags, active head rests to help reduce the severity of whiplash injuries, and impact sensors that unlock the doors, activate the hazard lights, and disengage potentially hazardous electrical systems in the event of a collision.
In typical BMW fashion, the options list for the 2014 3 Series is both extensive and pricey. Features we feel are worth their weight in gold include the above-mentioned Surround View camera, a hands-free power trunklid that opens by waving your foot under the bumper, navigation with programmable waypoints, a head-up display that projects pertinent driving information onto the windshield, and adaptive cruise control designed to maintain a preselected distance behind the vehicle ahead. The sport seats, aerodynamic enhancements, suspension tuning, and lightweight wheels of the available M Sport Package help bridge the performance gap between the standard 3 Series and the fire-breathing M3.
Two turbocharged gasoline engines are offered in 2014 3 Series lineup: A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in 320i and 328i models (detuned in the 320i) and the 3.0-liter inline-6 in 335i models. Both engines drive the rear or all four wheels through a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission. Diesel models get a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that packs nearly the same low-end torque as the 6-cylinder, but with significant fuel economy benefits. The ActiveHybrid 3 marries a 55-hp electric motor (packaged inside the 8-speed automatic housing and driven by a lithium-ion battery) to the turbo-6 for a combined 335 hp (not the sum of both peak outputs, since both engine and motor can't operate at max power simultaneously).
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
180 horsepower @ 5,000-6,250 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/36 mpg (manual), 24/36 mpg (automatic), 23/35 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/34 mpg (manual), 23/33 mpg (automatic), 22/33 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4
180 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
280 lb-ft of torque @ 1750-2750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 32/45 mpg, 31/43 mpg (AWD)
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/30 mpg (manual), 23/33 mpg (automatic), 23/28 mpg (AWD)
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 (hybrid)
335 horsepower @ 5,800-6,000 rpm
330 lb-ft of torque @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 mpg
The entry-level 2014 BMW 320i carries a rather palatable mid-$33,000 starting price, while 328i models begin just over $37,000. The diesel-powered 328d starts just under $40,000, and the range-topping 335i trims check in right around $44,000. All-wheel drive (AWD) adds $2,000 to the price of any sedan, and is standard equipment on the Sport Wagon and Gran Turismo. Sport Wagon models start at around $42,000, while the base Gran Turismo starts at around $41,500. With all option boxes checked, the 2014 3 Series tops out close to $61,000. Fully-loaded versions of the Lexus IS, Cadillac ATS and Audi A4 are slightly less expensive than the 3 Series. Only the Lexus bests the 3 Series at resale time. If the 2014 BMW 3 Series is the right car for you, take a look at KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see current transaction prices in your area.
By Joe on Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Driving Dynamics, Navigation System"
Cons: "Requires a lot of maintenance, Customer Service"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Definitely a fun to drive car. Engine is great, and power comes on strong, especially for a turbo 4 cylinder. Interior and exterior design is one of the best. The navigation screen is big and navigation system is easy to use, though can have issues when communicating with Apple devices. Suspension is soft, and really takes the harshness out of the NYC roads. Vehicle broke down numerous times, and there were multiple issues with the plastic interior falling apart. Required many trips to the dealer. Customer service was not very helpful. Parts are hard to come by (due to so many issues), and I ended up waiting a month for a new engine part."
By Yakamatsu on Wednesday, July 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, Looks, Acceleration with great MPG."
Cons: "Storage - What Storage, Bluetooth, Auto Shutoff"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I leased a 2014 BMW 320i after spending more than a year looking at alternatives. I came very close to leasing an Audi and considered Lexus, Mercedes, Infinity, etc.. As an owner of two previous Bimmers (1995 525i and 1994 318i) and additional German cars (2 Porsches), I had very high expectations. I have to say that I love and hate this car. I love the handling characteristics, great mpg with the 4 cylinder turbo, the pickup even in "Eco" mode. I'm annoyed by run-flat tires, lack of rear seats that fold down, and the failure of the stereo system. The BMW engineers have decided to have multiple , folding rear seats with no options for a real spare. I found out after purchase that in order to play songs from my iphone, I have to have two cables, both that I had to purchase. I recently rented a very similiar California 328i, which Bluetooth'd my iphone in minutes...no cables. BMW, really? Why the different options? My dealership tells me this is a "Hardware" upgrade. OMG. This may be the stupidest bit of engineering in Bimmer history. I have base model Kias, Toyotas ,Fords, Hyundais via rental car companies. All of them linked up quickly to my iphone. How tough is this? Also, BMW in their infinite wisdom decided to install run-flats on all bimmers (at least all 3-series). Recently, I get a notice of low pressure on a tire including a warning message not to drive over 50 mph. That'll get your attention. So I take it to the dealer who tells me that I have a nail in the tread. I told them to fix it. They replied, it would cost $230 for a new tire. Seriously? And now I read BMW doesn't recommend tire rotation. Wow. I still own my 525i...lacks bells and whistles of the new cars, but so solid and better than the new over engineered cars."
6 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Hal on Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks, interior, handling, power"
Cons: "gas mileage,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I purchased my 328i Sedan from a local dealer used. Vehicle is very nice loaded with prem pkg, lthr, sunroof, etc.(no GPS) my only reservation is the gas mileage. Around town 16-18 mpg and highway 24-25 mpg, was hoping for better around town with prem. gas required. I do the math every time I fill up and I am not heavy footed. Otherwise very happy with the vehicle."
11 people out of 21 found this review helpful
By DMac on Saturday, May 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,300overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fuel economy, power, handling, seat comfort."
Cons: "Price of BMWs, run flat tires, BMW Apps worthless"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The ActiveHybrid 3 has been a great car. I get 38 to 42 mpg on freeway trips averaging 70 miles per hour. My city mileage, which is about 85% of my driving gets about 25 mpg. My overall average for 17,000 miles has been 28 mpg with an average speed on the computer of only 28 miles per hour. The car is smooth and very powerful and handles very well. There is nothing like the BMW straight six for strong pull and smoothness. Auto magazines really don't get this car, but those of us who want power and great fuel economy do. While the sticker price of the car is higher than a 335i, BMW has subvented the lease so the monthly payment for and Activehybrid 3 is about the same as a 335i while the fuel economy is much better. You get the benefits of a 335i with the fuel economy of a four cylinder Accord. The only down side of the car is the run flat tires, which are very harsh in urban driving. Also, I would not pay for the BMW apps or electronics package again as the Nav system and apps are pretty worthless. The seats are great, the stereo is great and I have been very happy with this car."
5 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Thomas on Tuesday, May 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 750overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfortable, handing, look, joy to drive!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I just bought my dream car, and so far I have zero regrets! It is just smooth, and an absolute pleasure to drive."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Fred on Saturday, May 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Tremendous fun to drive, maintenance covered."
Cons: "Tight interior."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love driving this car with the top down along a winding road at good speed. It simply follows every command with maximum precision. The 335is is positoned between the 335i and the M3. I drove an Audi S5 and the BMW 335is and found the BMW to be the better car."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful