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2021 BMW 3-Series Review

The 2021 BMW 3 Series sits in the middle of our competitive luxury small car rankings. 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

New for 2021

  • 330e plug-in-hybrid model
  • High-performance M3 and M3 Competition trims
  • Standard Android Auto

Rankings & Research

The 2021 BMW 3-Series's #8 ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Small Cars category. Currently the BMW 3-Series has a score of 7.8 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 24 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.8

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.9
Performance: 8.5
Interior: 6.9
Safety: 9.6
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.

Why You Can Trust Us: 24 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 24 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.

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.

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?

Two models return to the 3 Series' lineup for the 2021 model year: the redesigned BMW M3 and the plug-in-hybrid 330e. A plug-in-hybrid version of the 3 Series was previously available for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 model years, while the M3 was last available for 2018.

BMW also added Android Auto to the 3 Series' standard feature list as a midyear update.

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: gains standard Android Auto; plug-in-hybrid 330e trim and high-performance M3 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?

The base 2021 BMW 330i sedan starts at $41,250. That's on the high end of the luxury small car class but priced similarly to rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A5, as well as the Lexus RC and Infiniti Q60 coupes.

The 330i features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The BMW 330e is a plug-in-hybrid model that starts at $44,550, while the M340i and its turbocharged six-cylinder engine retails for $54,700. All three trims come standard with rear-wheel drive. BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive is optional for $2,000.

The performance-oriented 2021 BMW M3 starts at $69,900, and the M3 Competition starts at $72,800. A fully loaded M3 will cost you around $105,000, making it one of the most expensive 3 Series variants ever produced.

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, along with a larger touch screen. The Audi retails for about $2,000 less than the BMW, and it comes standard with all-wheel drive. Though its standard engine is rated at only 201 horsepower, the A4 still scoots pretty quickly, and you can outfit it with a 261-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, however, has a more refined and upscale interior, with optional features such as 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, as well as comparable power from the performance-oriented M3 and AMG C 63 variants. While the 3 Series is only available 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. The M3 has a 13-cubic-foot trunk.

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. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this setup the highest rating of Good for its ease of 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 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, Android Auto, 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 serves up quick, creamy shifts. A plug-in-hybrid version of the 3 Series is also available. We discuss the 330e in more detail below.

Under the hood of the BMW M340i is a turbocharged six-cylinder good for 382 horsepower and 368 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.

Roaring back onto the scene for 2021 is the fully redesigned version of the BMW M3. With a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the hood, the M3 makes 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. BMW estimates its zero-to-60 time at 4.1 seconds.

The M3 Competition takes it up another notch, with a retuned engine good for 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The Competition goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.

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 M340i gets 23/32 mpg city/highway with rear-wheel drive and 22/31 mpg with xDrive all-wheel drive. The 2021 M3 is rated at 16/23 mpg city/highway.

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.

The M3 takes handling and sportiness even further and feels more at home carving laps on a track than it does in everyday traffic.

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

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2021 3 Series the highest rating of Good in all six crashworthiness tests. Depending on trim and how its equipped, the 3 Series' headlights received the top rating of Good, the second-lowest rating of Marginal, or the lowest rating of Poor for how well they illuminate the road.

The IIHS uses a different scale for grading collision avoidance features. The 3 Series earned the highest rating of Superior for its standard and optional vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems, while the standard vehicle-to-pedestrian system earned a Superior rating, and the optional system earned the second-highest rating of Advanced.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not evaluated the 2021 BMW 3 Series.

3 Series Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • 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 to 15.8 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 five trims: 330i, M340i, 330e, M3, and M3 Competition. 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. Those three models come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option.

The M3 and M3 Competition both feature a twin-turbo six-cylinder engine tuned for 473 and 503 horsepower, respectively. A six-speed manual transmission is the only choice for the regular M3, while the Competition only offers an eight-speed automatic. For now, both M3s are only rear-wheel-drive, but BMW has announced that the M3 Competition will be available with all-wheel-drive in the summer of 2021.

The main factor in picking a 3 Series is deciding on a powertrain. Most shoppers should be satisfied with the spunky base engine, though the M340i offers a nice upgrade in performance, while being much less expensive than the full-bore M3. Regardless of trim, 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

The 2021 BMW 330i starts at $41,250. Standard features 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, Android Auto, 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 costs $900 and includes proximity keyless entry, ambient interior lighting, and power-adjustable lumbar support. The Premium package ($3,200) includes the features from the Convenience package 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. Buy the Premium package, and you can add heated rear seats for an additional $350.

The Executive package ($4,400) builds on the Premium package with infotainment gesture control, automatic high-beam headlights, and upgraded low beams.

The Driving Assistance package retails for $700 and adds blind spot monitoring, along with front and rear parking sensors. You must buy that package to get the $1,700 Driving Assistance Professional package, which includes 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 ($700) comes with a surround-view parking camera system, automatic parking assist, and front and rear parking sensors. For $2,450, the Dynamic Handling package upgrades performance with an M Sport differential, an adaptive M suspension, and M Sport brakes.

Other optional features include leather seats ($1,450), remote start ($300), wireless device charging and a Wi-Fi hot spot ($500), and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo ($875).

BMW 3 Series M340i

The BMW M340i retails for $54,700 and 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 $1,500 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.

BMW M3

The 2021 BMW M3 retails for $69,900 and comes with a 473-horsepower twin-turbo six-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, an adaptive M suspension, M drive modes, Merino leather upholstery, heated front M Sport seats, a Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo, front and rear parking sensors, proximity keyless entry, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.25-inch touch screen, lane departure warning, speed limit recognition, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Optional features exclusive to the M3 include ventilated front seats ($350), M carbon fiber front seats ($3,800), and carbon ceramic brakes ($8,150). The $4,700 M Carbon Exterior package adds lightweight, carbon fiber body pieces such as mirror caps and a rear spoiler.

For $900, the M Drive Professional feature adds track-day technology such as a cornering analyzer and a lap timer.

BMW M3 Competition

The $72,800 BMW M3 Competition has a 503-horsepower engine, an eight-speed M-tuned automatic transmission, M seat belts, and unique wheels and exterior trim. The Competition model offers the same optional amenities as the standard M3.

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, but 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: January 15, 2021

Class-Leading Sales: The BMW 3 Series finished 2020 as the top-ranked luxury small car in sales. It led the second-place seller, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, by over 50 percent, and outsold its smaller 2 Series sibling by almost 3 to 1. However, 3 Series sales slowed in 2020, falling by 20.1 percent relative to 2019.

Research more buying advice »
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