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2021 BMW 3-Series Review

The 2021 BMW 3 Series sits in the middle of the competitive luxury small car segment. It delivers lively handling and good engine power, but its cabin is a little underwhelming compared to rivals.

Pros & Cons

  • Swift acceleration
  • Deft handling
  • Spacious cabin and trunk
  • Great fuel economy with base engine
  • Somewhat muted interior design
  • Infotainment features can be convoluted

Rankings & Research

The 2021 BMW 3-Series's #7 ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Small Cars category. Currently the BMW 3-Series has a score of 7.9 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 15 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.9

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.9
Performance: 8.7
Interior: 6.9
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.8 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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 Is the BMW 3 Series a Good Car?

Yes, the 3 Series is a very good car. Its middling ranking is more indicative of the strength of the class than of any serious weakness with this sporty small car. This BMW sets the standard for performance in the luxury small car class, with agile handling complementing each of the three capable powertrain options. Spacious, comfortable seating and one of the largest trunks in the class further enhance the 3 Series' appeal. Its few downsides include a cabin quality that doesn’t quite match the extravagance of some rivals' and an infotainment system that is generally user-friendly but features some fussy optional controls.

Should I Buy the BMW 3 Series?

The 3 Series has a lot of appeal, but there are many compelling options in this class. The Audi A4, for example, is more well-rounded than the BMW, while the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the most opulent choices, and it's available with several different powertrains and body styles.

Find a 2021 BMW 3 Series for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 BMW 3 Series: What's the Difference?

The major difference between the 2020 and 2021 3 Series is the return of the plug-in hybrid 330e model, which has an all-electric driving range of 22 miles. BMW offered its previous-generation 3 Series as a plug-in hybrid for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 model years.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 BMW 3 Series »

Here are the key changes for the BMW 3 Series over the past few years:

  • 2017: Apple CarPlay and wireless device charging became available; 328i trim replaced by 330i
  • 2018: no major changes
  • 2019: sedan fully redesigned with performance upgrades, updated exterior styling, a higher-quality interior, and a more advanced infotainment system
  • 2020: M340i trim introduced; gained standard navigation; Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo body styles discontinued
  • 2021: plug-in hybrid 330e trim reintroduced

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 3 Series, 2019 3 Series, and 2020 3 Series reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on vehicles like a new BMW.

We Did the Research for You: 15 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 15 BMW 3 Series reviews – along with predicted reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2021 3 Series is the right new car for you.

This 2021 3 Series review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined auto industry experience. To remain objective, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside team manages the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the BMW 3 Series Cost?

As of this writing, BMW has not announced pricing for most 2021 3 Series models.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local BMW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our BMW deals page.

BMW 3 Series Versus the Competition

BMW 3 Series vs. Audi A4?

The Audi A4 is a better pick than the 3 Series for most shoppers. The base A4 comes with a more straightforward standard infotainment system than the 3 Series, and it includes a larger touch screen and Android Auto, the latter of which isn't even offered in the BMW. Though its standard engine is rated at only 188 horsepower, the A4 still scoots pretty quickly. You'd spend around $3,500 more to outfit the A4 with a 248-horsepower engine that's more in line with the 3 Series' standard 255 horses. Both luxury small cars rate well for handling and ride quality, as well as for seating space and comfort. The Audi is more refined and upscale inside, with optional features such as ventilated and massaging front seats, which you can't get in the BMW.

Compare the 3 Series and A4 »

BMW 3 Series vs. Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has arguably the most impressive interior in the segment, handily outclassing the 3 Series' somewhat underwhelming cabin. In keeping with its focus on luxury, the C-Class prioritizes ride comfort over sporty handling, so if driving fun is your prerogative, pick the 3 Series. These two cars have similar horsepower ratings for their base engines and one-step-up options, but in the absence of a new-generation M3, BMW has no answer for the 469- and 503-horsepower Mercedes-AMG variants. While the 3 Series is only offered as a sedan, you can get the C-Class as a sedan, coupe, or convertible. With similar base prices and spots in our rankings, choosing between these rivals comes down to what you want more out of a car: luxury or sportiness.

Compare the 3 Series and C-Class »

Compare the 3 Series, A4, and C-Class »

3 Series Interior: Big on Space, a Little Short on Luxury

3 Series Cargo Space

You get 17 cubic feet of trunk space with the 3 Series, an amount that trumps most other cars in the class. Only rivals with a hatchback or liftback design offer more room. You can take advantage of the standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat for more cargo utility, and opt for hands-free trunk opening to ease access. The 330e has 13.2 cubic feet of trunk space, which is about average for the class.

How Many People Does the 3 Series Seat?

The BMW 3 Series sedan carries five people. More than a dozen power adjustments for the front seats make it easy to find a relaxing and ergonomic position. The seats remain comfortable on long drives, and there's ample side support and good outward visibility as well. The second row is spacious, with enough head- and legroom for taller adults to get comfortable.

3 Series and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the middle seat. All of the anchors are easy to find and to use.

3 Series Interior Quality

This BMW’s cabin design is nice enough, and nearly all materials are high quality and soft to the touch. However, it lacks the opulent materials that you'll find in some rivals.

3 Series Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

There are two levels to the 3 Series' infotainment offerings. The standard setup features an 8.8-inch touch screen running the 6.0 version of the brand's iDrive software. This system is easy to learn, and you can customize certain menus and the icons on some screens. In addition to the touch screen, you can use a rotary control knob on the center console. The 3 Series comes standard with Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto is still not available.

The upgraded system pairs a 10.25-inch touch screen with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and iDrive 7.0. From here, you can opt for gesture control, which allows you to do cool party tricks like wave your finger in a circle in the air to raise or lower the volume. However, some test drivers report that gestures aren't always recognized. The 3 Series has support for voice commands as well, which is also a mixed bag. It recognizes casual addresses such as "Hey, BMW" but doesn't always pick up the command you want.

  • Standard infotainment features: an 8.8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, navigation, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a 10-speaker stereo, and HD Radio
  • Available infotainment features: a 10.25-inch touch screen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, gesture control, voice control, wireless device charging, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo, and satellite radio
  • Additional standard features: tri-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener
  • Other available features: proximity keyless entry, remote start, and a performance data recorder

Read more about interior »

3 Series Performance: Swift and Sporty

3 Series Engines

The BMW 330i comes standard with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that doles out 255 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque. That output is one of the highest for a base engine in the class, but it's also very close or identical to some primary rivals like the Kia Stinger and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. If you're looking for a comfortable cruiser or commuter, look no further than this powertrain. Acceleration is satisfying, and an eight-speed automatic transmission – the sole offering in the lineup – serves up quick, creamy shifts.

Under the hood of the BMW M340i is a turbocharged six-cylinder good for 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. This inline-six breathes a whole new life into the car and lets you go from zero to 60 mph in as little as 4.1 seconds. This model also ups the performance quotient with variable sport steering and an M Sport differential, brakes, and suspension.

3 Series Gas Mileage

With its standard engine and rear-wheel drive, the BMW 3 Series gets an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Those figures are excellent for a luxury small car. Fuel economy for the 3 Series 330i xDrive drops slightly to 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

The EPA has not evaluated the M340i, but BMW estimates its gas mileage at 22/30 mpg city/highway, regardless of whether it has rear- or xDrive all-wheel drive.

3 Series Ride and Handling

The BMW 3 Series has sharp, responsive steering and well-controlled body motions around turns. Optimal suspension tuning keeps the ride quality plush. With its performance enhancements, the M340i variant is more athletic and suited to enthusiastic driving than the base model.

3 Series Alternative Fuels and Charging

For 2021, BMW resurrects a plug-in hybrid version of the 3 Series as the 330e trim. The hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and an electric motor that combine to make 248 horsepower. In Sport driving mode, a feature called XtraBoost lets you unlock 288 horsepower for up to 10 seconds.

This electrified 3 Series sedan accelerates quickly thanks to a retuned version of the standard eight-speed transmission, and there's a pretty seamless transition from initial hybrid battery power to full-on gas mode. Other aspects of the 330e's performance are less impressive. The extra weight of the batteries, placed near the rear of the car, hampers handling, and steering feels more numb than it does in the nonhybrid models. Additionally, the hybrid-specific regenerative braking system can feel inconsistent.

The BMW 330e sedan has an electric-only, emission-free driving range of 22 miles with rear-wheel drive and 20 miles with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive. It's rated at up to 75 MPGe, which is about average for a plug-in hybrid vehicle. For more information on this metric as it applies to comparing alternative-fuel vehicles, read What Is MPGe?

BMW says that the hybrid 330e charges seven times faster using a 240-volt home charger or a public Level 2 charger rather than a standard household outlet.

Read more about performance »

3 Series Reliability

Is the BMW 3 Series Reliable?

The 2021 3 Series has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

BMW 3 Series Warranty

BMW covers the 3 Series with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

Read more about reliability »

3 Series Safety

3 Series Crash Test Results

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2021 3 Series.

3 Series Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency breaking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Stop-and-go adaptive cruise control
  • Low-speed automatic steering assist
  • Lane keep assist
  • Automatic lane changing
  • Front cross traffic alert
  • Evasion assist
  • Emergency stop assist
  • Head-up display
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Automatic parking assist
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automatic high-beam headlights

Read more about safety »

3 Series Dimensions and Weight

The 3 Series is 15.5 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,589 to 4,138 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 BMW 3 Series Built?

BMW builds the 2021 3 Series in Germany and Mexico.

Which BMW 3 Series Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 BMW 3 Series is available in three trims: 330i, M340i, and 330e. The base 330i comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the M340i features a turbocharged six-cylinder. The 330e is a plug-in hybrid. All trims come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option for every model.

The main factor in picking a 3 Series is deciding on a powertrain. Most shoppers should be satisfied with the spunky base engine. If you're looking for the best performance, you'll want to spring for the M340i, but know that it comes at a hefty price increase over the base model. BMW offers a wide variety of option packages and individual upgrades that let you personalize the car to your liking and within your budget.

BMW 3 Series 330i

Standard features in the BMW 330i include a 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, synthetic leather upholstery, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, and an 8.8-inch touch screen infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a 10-speaker stereo, and HD Radio. Also standard are forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, a rearview camera, alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a universal garage door opener.

The optional Convenience package includes blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, proximity keyless entry, hands-free trunk access, satellite radio, adaptive headlights, and four-way front-seat power lumbar adjustment. The Premium package includes all the aforementioned features along with heated front seats, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 10.25-inch touch screen. The Executive package builds on the Premium with infotainment gesture control, automatic high-beam headlights, and upgraded low beams.

The Driving Assistant Professional package adds stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, low-speed automatic steering assist, lane keep assist, automatic lane changing, front cross traffic alert, evasion assist, and emergency stop assist. The Parking Assistance package comes with a surround-view parking camera system, automatic parking assist, and front and rear parking sensors. The Track Handling package upgrades performance with an M Sport differential and M Sport brakes.

Other optional features include leather seats, remote start, wireless device charging, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo, an adaptive M suspension, heated rear seats, and a performance data recorder.

BMW 3 Series M340i

The BMW M340i features a 382-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine, an M Sport differential, upgraded driving modes, M Sport brakes, an M Sport suspension, variable sport steering, adaptive headlights, an M Sport steering wheel, satellite radio, and proximity keyless entry.

M340i models retain most optional features from the base model. Unique to this trim is a Cooling and High Performance Tire package.

BMW 3 Series 330e

The plug-in hybrid 2021 BMW 330e starts at $44,550. Its powertrain doles out 248 horsepower. This trim also comes with satellite radio and automatic high-beam headlights. The Convenience, Premium, and Executive packages cost between about $1,500 and $4,000. You can get most other options or small bundles for around $1,500 or less.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local BMW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our BMW deals page.

See 2021 BMW 3 Series specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 BMW 3 Series is not only one of the most fun-to-drive luxury small cars, it also boasts comfy seating, good fuel economy, and a large trunk. However, you may want to look elsewhere if you prioritize cabin luxury.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "An outstanding compact sports sedan, the luxurious BMW 3 Series must fend off not just the usual Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 competitors, but also other sporty offerings such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Genesis G70. This 7th-generation 3 Series … is packed with the latest technology and safety features, and its performance ranges from good to great." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 3 Series is a sporty midsize sedan with ample luxury. For many BMW buyers, though, entertaining handling manners are far more important than creature comforts." -- Autotrader
  • "Our initial impressions of the 2021 BMW 330e are predominantly favorable. … The new 330e delivers useful local EV-style driving along with the ability to go long distances. On top of that, it's pleasant to drive and has the refinement expected of a luxury sedan." -- Edmunds 

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: July 9, 2020

Falling Sales: The BMW 3 Series is one of the top-ranked luxury small cars in sales this year. It’s outselling its smaller sibling, the BMW 2 Series, by more than 3 to 1. However,  3 Series have slowed this year, falling by 13 percent in 2020 relative to the same span in 2019.

Research more buying advice »
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