Used BMW 3 Series Review (2012-2020) MK6

Independent review by Peter Hayward from Driving Force

4-minute read

Blue BMW 3 Series Exterior Front Driving

BMW 3 Series (2012-2020)

The BMW 3 Series has long been a staple for UK motorists thanks to good all-round capabilities and a top build quality

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  • Well balanced
  • Built to a high standard
  • Great performance
  • Complicated model range
  • Rivals are less expensive
  • Sportier models are less comfortable
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What's the BMW 3 Series like?

The 2020 BMW M3's looks have caused quite the debate in the motoring world as designers come up with new cutting-edge ideas.

One thing for sure is that the previous range of the BMW 3 Series built between 2012 and 2020 was uniformly good looking and svelte.

Most 3 Series models are optimised for the best performance and economy balance, with marvelous handling and a very good ride. They're among the most enjoyable driving cars you can buy.

Those with larger than standard wheels or sports suspension spoil that ride quite badly and unnecessarily; the handling and roadholding are just as good with the standard setup.


Equipment and Practicality

Equipment levels are very good throughout the range, but there were a large range of expensive extras when new, so look out for examples with any additional kit.

But there's a bewildering range of models to choose from. For instance, there are 57 different engine, gearbox and trim combinations for the 2.0-litre diesel alone.

So, make sure any that you’re interested in have all the bells and whistles you would like. xDrive denotes models with all-wheel-drive.

This is the 3 Series that grew up, and for the first time, brought enough head and legroom for two adults to ride comfortably in the back.

Models that come with smaller wheels and larger profile tyres have the best of everything.

Even entry-level SE models come with traction control and loads of other electronic safety devices, alloy wheels, parking sensors, loads of airbags, heated mirrors, cruise and a remote for the stereo system.

And many models will have lovely leather upholstery plus uprated media.


Diesels are a 2.0-litre which has power ranging from 114 to 214bhp and a silky smooth 3.0-litre with 254 to 308bhp. This is the best sounding oil burner of them all.

The petrol engines are all turbos and start with a 1.6-litre that has 134bhp, or 167bhp in some Efficient Dynamics models.

Next comes the more common 2.0-litre with power ranging from 181to 248bhp, and then the beautiful 3.0-litre ‘six’ with 301 to 321bhp.

The 1.6-litre petrol was later replaced by a 3-cylinder 1.5-litre that produces the same 134bhp output.

Many will be fitted with the excellent steptronic automatic gearbox, but if you would rather have a manual, make sure you can live with the offset pedals before you buy.

There is also a plug-in petrol/electric hybrid introduced in 2016. It has the 2.0-litre petrol combined with an electric motor to give a total of 248bhp and can cover 25-30 miles on electric power alone.


Performance is good to superb in all.
Peter Hayward

The 1.5-litre/1.6-litre petrol powertrains are capable of 8.6 seconds to 60mph, and economy of 47mpg.

The 2.0-litre 240bhp petrol reaches 60mph in under 6.0 seconds, and the later 214bhp 2.0-litre diesel covers it in 6.4 seconds and can also reach 68mpg.

Both the 3.0-litre petrol and diesel can get to 60mph in about 5.0 seconds, but the diesel is still capable of 57mpg.

Find your BMW 3 Series your way with CarStore

The BMW 3 Series is one of the most popular used executive cars thanks to its refined experience, range of standard equipment, and efficient powertrains. With a good amount of room in the back and a wide range of models to choose from, there's sure to be a 3 Series that suits most.