BMW 3-series review - Still the best compact executive car? - Ride and handling

The latest generation of 3-series is the most comfortable yet, but some of its sporting character has been lost

Evo rating
Price
from £25,580
  • Usual BMW blend of great chassis and high build quality
  • GT is ugly and dull to drive, xDrive models detract from the fun

Ride and handling

We might sound like we’re being needlessly fussy when we say the sixth-generation 3-series is starting to show signs that smoothness and luxury is more important than outright handling prowess. The nicely weighted and informative steering, superb combination between body control and balance, and a compact size perfect for UK roads are attributes that previous 3-series have been known for.

Although many of these are still present in the latest, F30 generation there is a little less information flowing back to you through the seat squabs and steering wheel. The subtly softer chassis is more comfortable and this 3-series has the best ride of any generation of BMW’s best-seller. On dual carriageways and motorways, it can settle into a completely serene groove that allows you to cover big distance in a relaxed, enjoyable manner. This extra comfort has eroded away some of the 3-series’ sporty character, albeit only slightly. Its ever-increasing size also doesn’t help make it more enjoyable on our tight and twisting roads.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

However, the F30 has a set of strong and progressive brakes, something that older 3-series models sorely lacked.

If you dream of driving a BMW on opposite lock everywhere, hanging the back end out whenever the moment takes you, anything other than the 340i will be disappointing. Other models will oversteer if you’re aggressive enough with you inputs and totally committed. However, none of the 3-series models, no matter what the engine size, can be specced with a limited slip differential. Mechanical grip is sufficient for even the 340i not to really need one, however the lack of LSD does make the 3-series’ on-limit handling slightly unpredictable and any slides slighty scruffy. The all-wheel xDrive models initially react like their rear drive counterparts, but the front axle is called into play when a loss of grip is detected at the rear to neutralize the any oversteer.   

> See how the BMW 340i Touring comapred to the Mercedes-AMG C43 Estate

There’s very little difference between the way the saloon and Touring models drive. The bigger engines mean that the extra weight that the estate carries around is hardly noticeable and it’s just as fun to hustle down a twisty road.

The GT, which is taller, heavier and saddled with a longer wheelbase, is a different prospect. The changes turn it into much more of a cruiser than the regular saloon and Touring models.

Most Popular

Hyundai i20 N revealed – 200bhp supermini ready for some Ford Fiesta ST baiting
Hyundai i20 hatchback

Hyundai i20 N revealed – 200bhp supermini ready for some Ford Fiesta ST baiting

Long-awaited second N division model set to shake up the junior hot hatch establishment
20 Oct 2020
£153,000 ​Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA enters final stages of development
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

£153,000 ​Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA enters final stages of development

Alfa Romeo has put its F1 drivers behind the wheel of the Giulia GTA and GTAm ahead of production in 2021
20 Oct 2020
Volkswagen Golf GTI 2020 review – eight generations new, the GTI still has the goods
Volkswagen Golf GTI

Volkswagen Golf GTI 2020 review – eight generations new, the GTI still has the goods

A very good hot hatch, but a great Golf GTI, the new mk8 excels where required to form a very desirable offering
19 Oct 2020
SSC Tuatara hypercar hits 331mph, making it the world’s fastest production car
News

SSC Tuatara hypercar hits 331mph, making it the world’s fastest production car

Over a decade after SSC last entered the record books, its Tuatara has claimed the title of world’s fastest production car
19 Oct 2020