2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Review: The Legend Continues

The BMW 3 Series feels like coming home to loved ones after a long day of interacting with a group of strangers at a badly organized networking event. It's familiar, comforting, and just makes sense, which is saying a lot in a BMW lineup that has become increasingly foreign and at odds with the German brand's time-honored strengths of simplistic style and driver-focused dynamics. There's the oddball 2 Series Gran Coupe that sends power to the front wheels, the latest 4 Series with its Bugs Bunny face, and a sea of M-badged models that are mind-blowingly fast but have lost their sense of connection to the driver. The 3 Series is far less polarizing. It looks good, handles as well as anything else in this segment, sends power to the right axle, is beautifully built, and comes equipped with two refined powertrains, topped by the 382-horsepower turbocharged inline-six in the M340i. Even with talented rivals like the Audi A4 and the Genesis G70, the 3 Series' spread of talents is hard to match. In some cases, familiarity leads to monotony, but there's nothing boring or unwelcome about the sustained excellence of the BMW 3 Series.

Read in this review:

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 3 Series Sedan?

Although the BMW 3 Series isn't new for 2021, the company has made a few small but welcome upgrades to the range. SiriusXM with 360L and a one-year subscription is now standard, along with Android Auto integration. Other standard features over the 2020 version now include automatic high beams, keyless entry, and the Connected Package Pro for the 330i variants. For M340i models, ambient lighting and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system are the new additions. Many other changes have been made to the optional packages and the color palette, such as the addition of lane departure warning for the Driving Assistance Package, the addition of Live Cockpit Professional availability for the 330i models, and the removal of the previously available Luxury Package.

Pros and Cons

  • Spacious and high-quality cabin
  • Class-leading handling
  • Powerful engines
  • Quick acceleration
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Large trunk
  • Ride is on the firm side
  • Conservative cabin design
  • No manual transmission
  • Fussily designed digital instrument cluster

Best Deals on 3 Series Sedan

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
330i Sedan
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
$41,250
330i xDrive Sedan
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$43,250
M340i Sedan
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
$54,700
M340i xDrive Sedan
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$56,700

3 Series Sedan Exterior

BMW knows that this isn't the model to take any stylistic risks with, so the latest version retains a classic 3 Series silhouette that is both elegant and subtly aggressive. The grille is a lot larger than before but stops short of being offensive. The standard LED headlights feature a lower notch that harks back to the E46 3 Series, and automatic high beams are now standard. Along the side, there are neat 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in run-flat tires, while the M340i has 18-inch M double-spoke bi-color wheels. 19-inch alloys are on offer, but these can further firm up the ride, which is already quite harsh in standard form. Further setting apart the M340i are features like an aerodynamic kit, an M rear spoiler, and darker Shadowline exterior trim. All versions have dual exhaust outlets, although these are larger on the M340i. A two-way power glass moonroof is standard across the lineup.

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Front View BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Rear View BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Front Angle View BMW
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Dimensions

Marginally longer and wider in its dimensions than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the latest 3 Series is a far cry from the more petite E30 and E36. Of course, this also means it's far less cramped inside than it once was. The length works out to 185.7 inches and the width is 81.4 inches, mirrors included, but the height varies between 56.4 and 57 inches depending on the model. All versions have a 112.2-inch wheelbase. The curb weight ranges from 3,560 pounds for the 330i RWD to 3,979 lbs for the M340i xDrive.

  • Length 185.7 in
  • Wheelbase 112.2 in
  • Height 56.8 in
  • Max Width 71.9 in
  • Front Width 62.3 in
  • Rear Width 62.9 in

Exterior Colors

For 2021, BMW has removed Mediterranean Blue metallic and Vermont Bronze metallic from the color palette, but Phytonic Blue metallic has been added. On the 330i, Alpine White and Jet Black are standard, with metallics including Black Sapphire, Melbourne Red, Mineral White, Mineral Grey, Sunset Orange, Portimao Blue, and Blue Ridge. All metallics will add an extra $550 to the bill. On the M340i's abbreviated color palette, Jet Black, Melbourne Red, and Blue Ridge fall away. With the latter's Shadowline trim, Alpine White paint works particularly well, but Blue Ridge is another attractive and unusual hue that works well on the 330i. The M340i offers Individual Dravit Grey metallic and Individual Tanzanite Blue II metallic, both new options for 2021.

  • Black Sapphire Metallic
  • Mineral White Metallic
  • Mineral Grey Metallic
  • Sunset Orange Metallic
  • Portimao Blue Metallic
  • Mineral Gray Metallic
  • Glacier Silver Metallic
  • Phytonic Blue Metallic
  • Melbourne Red Metallic
  • Blue Ridge Mountain Metallic
  • Dravit Grey Metallic, Priority 1
  • Tanzanite Blue II Metallic, Priority 1
  • Alpine White
  • Jet Black

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Performance

Two engines do duty in the BMW 3 Series and a quick test drive reveals that both provide brisk, flexible performance. The base 330i RWD delivers 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbo-four, which is enough to see this model reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. With xDrive AWD, the 330i will complete the 0 to 60 run in 5.3 seconds. The M340i benefits from BMW's brilliant 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that generates 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with xDrive, 0-60 comes up in a mere 4.1 seconds, shaving three-tenths off the RWD's time. Every 3 Series has a top speed limited to 155 mph when equipped with performance tires. In general, the 3 Series is quicker than its primary competitors, with equivalent versions of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4/S4 being a few tenths off the pace of the 3 Series in most cases. Unlike Audi, BMW offers the choice of RWD or AWD for both the 330i and M340i.

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Front View Driving BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Rear View Driving BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Engine BMW

Engine and Transmission

Regardless of the engine choice, as standard, every 3 Series is equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual shift modes, launch control, and paddles shifters mounted on the steering wheel. This brilliant gearbox may not offer the tactility of a manual, but it doesn't miss a beat otherwise, with unobtrusive shifts around town and lightning-quick gear changes when called upon to do so.

On the 330i models, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It may not sound as good as BMW sixes of old, but it's certainly not lacking grunt. The four-pot revs freely, but thanks to the strong torque at lower revs, there's no need to wring its neck to make smooth, effortless progress. Passing power is excellent and helped along by that eight-speeder, which always seems to choose the right gear.

Both the M340i and M340i xDrive make use of a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, enhanced this year by the addition of a 48-volt mild hybrid system. The benefits of this system include supplying energy to the vehicle's various electrical functions while also providing extra drive power. The engine's outputs remain unchanged, though, with a meaty 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, it offers almost M4-like acceleration but wrapped in the refined and practical package of the 3 Series sedan. The inline-six makes a sweet and civilized sound as it winds its way up to over 6,500 rpm, and doing so will see you reach alarmingly high speeds without much effort at all.

  • Engines
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

BMW did its homework with this latest G20 3 Series, which once again resides in the upper echelon of the segment for fun driving dynamics, an area in which the previous-gen model fell behind rivals from Alfa Romeo and Jaguar. The 3 Series' steering rack is sharper and more precise than you'd expect of a sedan in this segment, once again setting the BMW apart from its peers. Coupled with fantastic body control, it's a joy to thread the 3 through a few fast sweeps. On the downside, the steering is more affected by bumps in the road than the likes of the C-Class, which does a better job of cushioning imperfections. That brings us on to the 3 Series' ride, which is firmer than some would like. Although the 3 Series has never been as soft as a Mercedes or even the Audi A4, it seems that BMW has gone too far in the other direction in pursuit of a sporty drive, with both small and large imperfections being felt in the otherwise serene cabin. Even in Comfort mode, many would argue that a practical family sedan should better cushion occupants. In our BMW 3 Series review, we found that on smooth surfaces, the sedan impresses with excellent noise suppression and rock-solid stability, while the powertrains are hushed most of the time, too. Optionally available is an adaptive M suspension.

3 Series Sedan Gas Mileage

Good performance doesn't come at the expense of fuel-efficiency in the BMW 3 Series. The base 330i RWD is the thriftiest model in the range, returning EPA-rated figures of 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined, with the 330i xDrive managing 25/34/28 mpg. With its new 48-volt mild hybrid system, the M340i boasts improved economy figures of 23/32/26 mpg, while the M340i xDrive manages 22/31/25 mpg. With a 15.6-gallon gas tank, the 330i has a cruising range of about 468 miles, but that drops to 390 miles for the M340i xDrive.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    15.6 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 26/36 mpg
* 2021 BMW 3 Series 330i Sedan RWD

3 Series Sedan Interior

Although it can appear rather clinical and cold in its design, the BMW 3 Series interior is a great place to sit for the driver and occupants. From the dashboard to the seats and door panels, everything looks suitably upscale and the 3 is on par with the Audi A4 in terms of quality. The digital dials aren't the clearest, but everything else is logically presented and easy to fathom. The base model comes equipped with luxuries like 14-way power-adjustable front seats, a power moonroof, three-zone automatic climate control, and a driver's seat memory system. All versions ship with frontal collision warning, a rearview camera, automatic high beams, and dynamic cruise control. An array of options include a head-up display, heated front seats, gesture control, and adaptive cruise control.

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Dashboard BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Central Console BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Central Console 1 BMW
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Seating and Interior Space

Seating five passengers in total, the current BMW 3 Series is the most accommodating yet. The legroom and headroom are adequate for people up to six-feet tall both front and rear, although the middle rear-seat passenger has limited foot space due to the central hump in the floor. That said, it's better for three in the back than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The driver's seat drops down nice and low for a sporty seating position, and the tilt/telescoping steering wheel helps to get comfy, too. Ingress and egress pose no problems, although visibility isn't perfect, with fairly broad front pillars.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.0 in
  • Front Head Room 38.7 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.2 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.6 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The stark cabin can be dressed up in a few colors to brighten up the atmosphere. On the 330i, SensaTec imitation leather upholstery is standard in either Black or Canberra Beige. For an extra $1,450, buyers can upgrade to Vernasca leather in colors like Black, Canberra Beige/Black, Black with Blue contrast stitching, Oyster, or Cognac with contrast stitching. However, this upgrade also requires another $250 charge for ambient lighting. There are plenty of attractive trim inlays to choose from such as open-pore fine wood oak grain, open-pore fine wood maple, aluminum tetragon, high-gloss fine wood ash Grey/Brown, and aluminum mesh effect. The M340i only has SensaTec in Black as standard, although there is a similar choice of additional colors; on this model, ambient lighting is already standard, so that won't add to the $1,450 Vernasca leather upgrade.

3 Series Sedan Trunk and Cargo Space

At 17 cubic feet, the 3 Series has one of the bigger trunks in its segment, further adding to its practicality score. By comparison, the Genesis G70 has under 11 cubes of space. The BMW's wide opening and relatively low load-lip are welcome, and a couple of large suitcases can easily be swallowed up. A hands-free trunk lid opening/closing feature is convenient, as are the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats which can be easily flipped to accommodate longer items.

Interior storage space is another upshot of 3 Series ownership. Although the glovebox isn't large, there are good-sized door bins in all four doors, two cupholders in front, a center console storage compartment, and a fold-down rear-seat armrest that houses another two cupholders.

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Trunk Space BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Trunk Space 1 BMW
2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Maximum Cargo Space BMW
  • Trunk Volume
    17 ft³

New BMW 3 Series Sedan Infotainment and Features

Features

The BMW 3 Series is equipped to quite a good standard, with features such as 14-way power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, three-zone automatic climate control, a power moonroof, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a tilt/telescoping steering column, push-button ignition, power-folding side mirrors, keyless entry, and the Live Cockpit Plus digital instrument cluster. Moving up to the M340i upgrades the instrument cluster to the Live Cockpit Professional, while also adding multi-color ambient lighting in the cabin. All BMW 3 Series models come with safety gear like frontal collision warning, automatic high beams, a fatigue/focus alert function, and LED headlights with a cornering feature. Options include a head-up display, heated front/rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Infotainment

On the 330i, the Live Cockpit Plus digital instrument cluster measures 8.8 inches and is supplemented by a central infotainment touchscreen that is the same size. The iDrive 7.0 system is operable by means of voice, a physical rotary controller, or available gesture control. The system has quick processing speeds and the screen clarity is excellent, although it has become a bit more complicated to use than older iterations of iDrive. Included features comprise Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, navigation, SiriusXM with 360L and a one-year all-access subscription, and both Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. A 205-watt Hi-Fi system with ten speakers is standard, but a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is optionally available. Moving up to the M340i brings with it the larger 12.3-inch Live Cockpit Professional digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central touchscreen. Wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot are available.

3 Series Sedan Problems and Reliability

The BMW 3 Series hasn't excelled in terms of reliability. J.D. Power's consumer verified rating for the BMW 3 Series stands at 77 out of a possible 100, which is below competition like the Lexus IS and Genesis G70. Although the 2021 3 Series has not yet been recalled for any problems, the 2020 model was subject to a disappointing seven. The problems were varied and included steering gear tie roads that could become damaged, malfunctioning seat belt sensors, headlight failures, an improperly installed trunk release cable, potential engine damage resulting from a loosened counterbalance shaft, and failure from the rearview camera to display images. We can only hope that these issues have been ironed out for the 2021 model.

BMW's limited warranty runs for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, and includes four years of roadside assistance. There is also a 12-year rust perforation warranty regardless of mileage covered, plus a competitive three-year/36,000-mile maintenance plan.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    12 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

3 Series Sedan Safety

Although the NHTSA has yet to evaluate the 3 Series, the IIHS bestowed its Top Safety Pick award on BMW's compact sedan, an evaluation that applies to the 2020 version. However, the headlights were rated as Poor or Marginal on some trims.

Key Safety Features

The BMW's suite of airbags amounts to eight, and these include dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, front knee airbags, and front/rear head airbags. Every version has ABS brakes, a rearview camera, adaptive brake lights, tire pressure monitoring, dynamic stability control, and dynamic traction control. The list of standard driver aids comprises automatic high beams, an accident-detection system that can prepare the car for an imminent crash, fatigue/focus alert, frontal collision warning, and automatic city collision mitigation and braking. Options include park distance control, automatic parking assistance, extended traffic jam assistant, steering and lane control assistant, lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection, active cruise control, and a surround-view camera system with 3D view.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan a good car?

Despite the weight of expectation that stems from decades of 3 Series generations dominating the segment, the latest G20 effortlessly extends the legacy of one of BMW's core models. It's back to being one of the most enjoyable cars in the segment to drive thanks to sharp handling, a well-tuned chassis, and two exceptional powertrains. Inside, it's both beautifully built and spacious for all occupants, and it comes with just enough equipment to justify the price. Weaknesses include a ride that is too harsh, the absence of a manual gearbox, and an interior that isn't particularly exciting to look at. There are also numerous excellent alternatives in this segment, such as the Audi A4 and Genesis G70, not to mention the sporty Alfa Romeo Giulia. But for the most part, BMW's sedan ticks all the boxes expected of a 3 Series, and if that's not high praise, nothing is.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan?

At an MSRP of $41,250 for the base 330i RWD, the 3 Series starts at $500 more than it did in the USA last year. The 330i xDrive goes for $43,250, rounding out the four-cylinder models. For the M340i, expect to pay $54,700, while the M340i xDrive tops the range at $56,700. All prices exclude taxes, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $995. The Audi A4 starts at a more wallet-friendly $39,100, although this base version isn't as powerful as the 330i. Likewise, the Audi S4 comes in at a starting price of $49,900, undercutting the M340i with which it competes. With all the options ticked, the price of the BMW 3 Series will nudge $70,000 - that applies to the M340i xDrive.

2021 BMW 3 Series Model Breakdown

This year, the BMW 3 Series sedan sticks with a choice of four trims for the US market: 330i, 330i xDrive, M340i, and M340i xDrive. Common to all configurations is an eight-speed automatic transmission. Both 330i derivatives employ a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, while the M340i uses a 382-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. Power goes to the rear wheels, but xDrive versions feature all-wheel drive.

On the 330i, standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with a cornering function, adaptive brake lights, three-zone automatic climate control, a ten-speaker audio system, SensaTec upholstery, an 8.8-inch central touchscreen display, and forward collision warning.

The 330i xDrive is equipped with all the same features but sends power to all four wheels via the brand's all-wheel drive system. Thanks to this system, the 0-60 time for this model improves by a couple of tenths.

Moving up to the M340i not only introduces the more powerful engine, but adds different 18-inch alloy wheels, an aerodynamic kit, an M performance suspension, Shadowline exterior trim, an M rear spoiler, ambient lighting, and larger screens for the infotainment system and digital driver's display.

The M340i xDrive includes all the same equipment, along with all-wheel drive, making it the fastest-accelerating model in the lineup.

See All 2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

A range of upgrades are offered for the 2021 BMW 3 Series. On 330i variants, the Convenience Package includes features like comfort access keyless entry, and ambient lighting for a cost of $900, but you can only spec this in conjunction with park distance control ($200). The $3,200 Premium Package includes a head-up display, heated front seats, a larger 12.3-inch instrument cluster and more, but requires the $700 Driving Assistance Package, which adds lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection, and park distance control. The latter package is also a requirement for the $4,400 Executive Package (head-up display, gesture control, heated steering wheel, and more). On the 330i and 330i xDrive, the M Sport Package (standard on the M340i) costs $3,800 and adds features like Shadowline exterior trim, 19-inch M double-spoke wheels, and an M steering wheel.

Unique to the M340i is the $1,500 Cooling and High Performance Tire Package with superior cooling for the drivetrain and braking system, high-performance tires, and a mobility kit. Both six-cylinder models have their own Premium and Executive packages, but these cost less than on the 330i models due to the differences in standard features.

All new models can be optioned with wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot ($500), the Harman Kardon sound system ($875), adaptive M suspension ($700), and remote engine start ($300).

🚗What BMW 3 Series Sedan Model Should I Buy?

The M340i is undeniably the more appealing option in the range as it comes with that wonderful six-cylinder engine. However, it's well over $10,000 more than the equivalent 330i and doesn't offer all that much more standard equipment. If you can stretch for it, go for it, otherwise a base model 330i is a wonderful compact luxury sedan. We'd equip ours with the Driving Assistance Package and the Premium Package, adding welcome features like a head-up display and active blind-spot detection.

Check out other BMW 3 Series Styles

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan Comparisons

Audi A4 Sedan Audi
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan Mercedes-Benz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
BMW 3 Series Sedan255 hp26/36 mpg$41,250
Audi A4 Sedan 201 hp24/31 mpg$39,100
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan 255 hp24/35 mpg$41,400

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs Audi A4 Sedan

Our reviews demonstrate that like the BMW, the Audi A4 is an exceptional all-rounder in this segment. Although the A4 has a lower base price, this version of the Audi makes do with a less powerful 201-horsepower engine, so it isn't quite as fast as the base 330i. However, the A4's more powerful optional 261-hp 2.0-liter engine makes this version a good match for the 330i. With quattro all-wheel drive, the A4 provides sure-footed handling but isn't as entertaining to drive fast as the 3 Series. However, the Audi has a smoother and more cushioning ride. Both cars have sturdy and logical interiors with a similar amount of space for passengers, although the BMW wins on headroom. Pushed for a decision, we'd side with the BMW for its spirited powertrains and brilliant handling.

See Audi A4 Sedan Review

2021 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan

The current Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been around for several years, although a series of updates has kept it fairly fresh. For the 2021 model year, Mercedes has added a few more standard features, but the C-Class retains the 255-horsepower turbo-four in the C300 and the 385-hp V6 in the AMG C43. Both models run the 3 Series close, but the BMW is marginally faster and, as it has always been, is the more athletic offering. The C-Class has a more dramatic cabin layout but doesn't feel quite as well put together as the 3 Series, and the BMW provides more head clearance for taller people. While the Mercedes remains a prestigious choice, the fresher 3 Series gets our vote.

See Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan Review

BMW 3 Series Sedan Popular Comparisons

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