The BMW 3 series is one of those cars that stands out. From the first generation E21 of 1976 model year in the United States to the present G20 that came out in 2018, each one has been a roomy sedan that is fun to drive. Of course, over the years there have been better models, some with unique features or more power. Some of those special versions are more special than others, but that got us thinking about where the simple entry-level 3 Series stands today.
The entry-level 3 Series today is the 330i. We managed to get our hands on one and started driving on some twisty roads as well as normal freeways and pothole filled streets to see if the 3 Series is still fun and engaging.
It is very difficult to find a BMW without a boat load of options. They know that adding a ton of options is extra profit, so they will keep pushing the customers to pay more. We were lucky enough to only have a few options that we liked and tried to ignore the others in our analysis.
The 2023 330i starts out at $42,300 for the rear-wheel-drive model. That is a fairly reasonable price considering that a fully loaded Honda Accord will cost about that. With all options, the 330i came out to just over $50,000, which is too much. Our car has the Driving Assistance Package for $700 that can absolutely be avoided. The package comes with active driving assistant, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning. Pay attention to your driving and you can skip having the car the car yelling at you and save money in the process. Our car also came with a fancy paint job that cost $650 and remote engine start for $300, both of which should be avoided.
The options that we did like were a few comfort items such as the Harmon Kardon stereo for $875 that sounds great and we feel that it will cost you way more than $875 if you were to upgrade the stereo yourself. The Premium package is also a good one for $1,350 if you like heated seats and heated steering wheel and keyless entry.
There were two options that we really enjoyed. These were the Dynamic Handling package comprising of big M sport brakes with blue calipers for $1,200 and the M Sport package — though I’m not sure why the M Sport brakes don’t get included in the M Sport package — for $3,100. That $1,300 sum, gets you 19-inch wheels with the adaptive M suspension, sport steering, M steering wheel, and anthracite headliner.
It is a bit unfortunate that we did not have a 330i without the M Sport package handy, but our M Sport equipped 330i was the way a BMW is supposed to feel. The steering was quick and responsive, and the car felt planted around corners. Push it hard and the stability control never intervened — unless you do something stupid — and felt really sporty.
Because our car was equipped with 225-40-19 Bridgestone Turanza T005 tires in the front and 255-35-19 in the back, grip was excellent. The tires were a big part of the feel of the car because they provided good grip, but were gentle to break away and produced a lot of confidence to the driver. Despite this, the ride was firm, but never harsh, and the 330i soaked up potholes with no issues. While this car is not a race-prepped M3, it is arguably more fun to drive on the street since the limit is lower and easier to drive.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood was a similar story. It is not extremely powerful at 255 horsepower, but it is enough to move the 3,500 pound 330i without a problem, and the car feels lively and fun. The turbo spools up quickly and with eight gears on tap, it is always ready to go. Again, if you want to go really fast, buy an M3, but the 330i is plenty fast for street use.
What is even more impressive with the engine is the fuel economy. The EPA rates the car at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway. We found that it can easily get more than 34 mpg on the highway. In fact, if you can keep it under 60 mph on the highway, we saw high 40 mpg numbers, which is spectacular for such a roomy and fun vehicle.
The 330i may be an entry level BMW, but it is nice to see that BMW still has a substantial premium feel in a car that starts out at $42,000. An even better surprise was that the entry level BMW was fun to drive and sipped fuel like an econobox. Yes, an M3 is a tasty bite, but on the street the 330i is a fine choice.
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder|
|Horsepower:||255 @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque:||295 pound-feet @ 1,500 rpm|
|Front Suspension:||McPherson strut|
|Rear Suspension:||Multilink strut|
|Curb Weight:||3,582 lbs.|