The new 2019 BMW 3 Series marks a giant stride forwards for one of BMW’s most important model lines. It’s easy for brands to play it safe in this sector – witness the latest Audi A4. But then look at the meek market reaction to the A4, and Audi’s subsequent struggle for sales.
This, surely, has emboldened BMW with the new 3 Series. So here it is, the seventh-generation 3, the most stylistically different from its predecessor since the futuristic E36 version back in 1990. It’s the undeniable highlight of the 2018 Paris Motor Show.
This generation of 3 Series is known as G20 and will go on UK sale on 9 March 2019. It’s a measure of what an important car it is that BMW already has an on-sale date. And a price: it’s yours from £33,610.
We’ll see it first as a petrol 330i and diesel 320d. Both will be four-cylinder turbos, and BMW will quickly follow them up with a 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid. Six-cylinder performance versions? They’ll come, but they’re not the big news at launch. The rest of the 3 Series is. And it’s quite the story to tell.
2019 BMW 3 Series: outside
Creases and contour lines dominate the appearance. This is brave stuff, for a 3 Series. The front has an entirely new look, with a broad BMW kidney grille and intricately shaped headlights. Four contour lines on the bonnet feed into them, and the bonnet itself sits neatly flush with the lights and kidneys.
BMW is proud of the intakes for the aero-aiding Air Curtains on SE and Sport models, because they use a NACA design for the intakes, something more commonly seen on retro racing cars.
There’s a lot of design detail on the side profile, such as strong lines around the rear door handle and a bold lower contour that BMW says emphasises the rear wheelarches. The designers have also integrated the BMW ‘Hofmeister kink’ into the C-pillar, so the rear doors have a freestanding glass edge. And you thought simple frameless windows were cool…
Recent 3 Series rear ends have been forgettable, but the new model has a pronounced boot lid spoiler lip and dark-tinted L-shaped tail lamps. It’s slipperier through the air, too: the Cd drops from 0.26 to 0.23.
2019 BMW 3 Series: inside
BMW has rewarded loyal 3 Series customers who’ve had to put up with the humdrum, forgettable interior of the current car with nothing short of a revolution. Everything cool that’s been admired in umpteen 8 Series concept cars is in evidence here, from the all-new BMW Cockpit infotainment display to the intricate heater controls first seen on the new BMW Z4.
The design and layout is driver-focused and all-new trim materials are available, including open pore wood and mesh-effect aluminium. Electroplated trim strips add a quality feel, while BMW’s at last moved the starter button to a more convenient location next to the gearlever.
The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant comes to the new 3 Series. We’ve explained what this does separately, and it means new 3 Series owners will be able to speak with their cars by saying ‘Hey BMW’, if they so wish.
It’s bigger all round, with more shoulder room in the front, more legroom in the rear and more space between the front and rear seats. It’s easier to get in and out, and all-round improvements to seat comfort will impress high-mileage users. A 480-litre boot is enhanced by 36 litres of oddment stowage.
Engines and suspension
The launch 2.0-litre engine range comprises 190hp 320d diesel or 258hp 330i petrol. The diesel does 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, or 6.9 seconds as an auto (an xDrive 4WD option has identical acceleration). It averages 64.2mpg as a manual and 67.3mpg as an auto, and costs from £33,610.
The 330i only comes as an eight-speed auto, and does 0-62mph in a swift 5.8 seconds, yet still claims 48.7mpg and emits 132g/km CO2. It’s priced from £37,660.
Suspension is overhauled, to take advantage of a 25 percent stiffer bodyshell (it’s 50 percent stiffer in key areas). Clever lift-related dampers are standard and spring rates are 20 percent firmer for a sportier drive. M Sport models have more focused suspension as standard, with a 10mm lower ride height; Adaptive M suspension with variable modes is an option.
The 330i M Sport has unique lightweight brakes, with aluminium centres and grey cast iron discs – spot them by their blue calipers. They are optional on the diesels as part of an M Sport Plus package, as is an M Sport differential.
Trims and standard equipment
Because it’s ready to go on sale, BMW can tell us what each trim variant gets as standard. Here are some of the highlights in the kit lists over today’s cars.
- The SE now has LED headlights with ‘eyebrow’ indicators, a reversing camera, 11-colour interior ambient lighting, three-zone climate control, a 40:20:40 split rear seat, acoustic glazing (including the side glass), 8.8-inch BMW Live Cockpit Plus and 17-inch alloys.
- The Sport has heated leather sports seats, 18-inch alloys, high-gloss Shadow Line window surrounds, a high-gloss black kidney grille and high-gloss black interior trim strips.
- The M Sport has a bespoke front bumper, side skirts and rear apron, Dark Shadow rear diffuser, another type of sports seats inside, anthracite roofliner and Aluminium Tetragon trim strips. It also has the all-digital BMW Live Cockpit Professional with a bigger 12.3-inch instrument cluster and bigger 10.3-inch central screen.
All cars have a standard 100-watt stereo with an optional 16-speaker 464-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system available as an option.
There are 10 metallic colours, with one of them, Portimao Blue, reserved for M Sport models. Two non-metallic shades are offered.
2019 BMW 3 Series: did you know?
- BMW has simplified the trim and options. There are now just six options packages and 10 individual options, to make the ordering process easier.
- The optional electric glass sunroof is 100mm longer.
- The optional head-up display’s projection area is 70 percent larger
- The BMW Digital key has a motion sensor and, when it is put down on a table, switches into standby mode and stops transmitting, so the signal can’t be picked up by thieves with transmitter devices.
- You can lock and unlock the new 3 Series with a smartphone, if you have a Samsung Galaxy with Android 8.1 and above. That’s because the BMW Digital Key has Near Field Communication tech: once you put the smartphone in its holder, the car will start. Owners can even share their key with up to five others.
- Apple CarPlay is now standard on the 3 Series – but only for a year. After then, it will require a subscription, either for a year, three years, or lifetime.