2009 BMW 3-Series Interior Review

Note: This interior review was created when the 2009 BMW 3-Series was new.


Interior: 8.0

The BMW 3-Series boasts a passenger cabin that will satisfy even demanding drivers, with luxurious materials, advanced electronics and a level of fit and finish worthy of its class. However, it sacrifices some space on the altar of performance, trailing much of its class in both back seat space and storage.     

  • "The 3 Series interiors provide a restrained show of luxury. Though a tad plain, the emphasis is on driver comfort and involvement through elements such as supportive seats and clean analog gauges." -- Edmunds
  • "Cabin materials have a sturdy, soft-touch feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Inside the 3-series, the shapes and the controls are mostly carried over, but the materials are upgraded to alleviate the somewhat stark overall appearance." - Car and Driver
  • The interior is comprised of "high-quality materials and a very modern design." -- Automobile Magazine


We find nearly no complaints about the front seats of the 2009 BMW 3-Series -- they're well-bolstered, and even in their standard leatherette trim they are comfortable and durable. The rear seats, however, don't offer much room. Though it's an entry-level luxury car, the 3-Series borrows a lot of design cues from sports cars, including their small back seats.

  • +"The standard front seats have enough firm support to ward off fatigue during a day's worth of driving, while the optional power-adjustable sport seats are sublimely comfortable. The rear seats are adequately roomy for adults on shorter trips, but taller passengers will wish for more headroom." -- Edmunds
  • "Seats have excellent bolstering to secure occupants through turns, but the bolsters may make the seats feel too narrow for those of generous girth." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Front-seat comfort is first-rate." -- CNET
  • "Even the standard-trim front buckets provide excellent support without feeling too hard. The manual adjustments work great, though we recommend using them when the car is parked. The 335i gets power adjustments with three memory positions and they are coded to the key. The power seats that come with the Sport Package are outstanding. Additional back and bottom bolstering make them a bit harder to slide into, but we'd rather have them during a spirited drive." -- New Car Test Drive

Interior Features

The 3-Series is built of high-quality materials with an attention to detail that equals the best in its class. What still divides reviewers, even five years after its introduction, is BMW's iDrive system. iDrive uses a single dial to control all of the car's interior electronics, from navigation to climate control. While some reviewers find it intuitive, others say it's needlessly complicated and BMW might have been better off just giving each system its own controls. The iDrive system in the 2009 3-Series has been improved somewhat over last year's -- but those who don't like driver interface systems at all still see iDrive as a terrible idea.

  • "Materials and build quality are exceptional; even the standard leatherette (vinyl) upholstery looks and feels better than one would expect." -- Edmunds
  • "The iDrive system has gone through another round of simplifications. The navigation menu looks suspiciously similar to that of Audi's MMI system; a few useful buttons let you bypass the system. We don't exactly love it now, but it's user-friendly enough not to make you run anymore. You can still skip iDrive altogether by not ordering a factory-installed navigation." -- Car and Driver
  • "Audio and climate controls are compromised by their low mounting position and some cryptic markings. BMW was wise to make the complex iDrive control system optional, though anyone who wants a navigation system will have to live with it." -- Consumer Guide
  • iDrive was "designed by a psychiatrist trying to drum up more business by driving motorists mad." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "Much has been said about how hard [iDrive] is to figure out. That's not the problem. I'm geeky enough that I figured it out without training or a manual. The problem is that even when you do know how to use it, it's a colossal drag to do so -- every single time." -- Cars.com


The trunk of the 3-Series sedans and coupes offer 12 cubic feet of space -- a bit small for this class. The convertivle edition has a very small trunk to begin with, and nearly no storage space when the top is down.  Some reviewers say the 3-Series lacks the interior storage space its rivals have to offer.

  • "Trunks have a low liftover, and the non-intrusive lid hinges help make good use of the available volume. But the convertible's meager top-up trunk space shrinks to minuscule with the top down; there's just enough room for a single small suitcase with the top retracted.." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Trunk space is average in sedans and coupes, while the wagon offers a maximum cargo capacity of 61 cubic feet. The convertible offers a reasonable cargo hold when the hardtop is up, but it predictably shrinks considerably when the top is lowered." -- Edmunds

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