Gone are the days of the indomitable supremacy of the BMW 3 Series; it simply doesn’t lord over the luxury compact sport sedan segment as it once did. BMW of late has been attempting to bring the 3 back to benchmark status, starting with the introduction of the current G20-generation 3 Series for the 2019 model year. We found the latest 3-er to be sporty and capable, even if its design was too restrained and its available M Sport suspension setup was punishingly stiff. But do those steps in the right direction continue with the G20 3 Series’ mid-cycle update? We hopped behind the wheel of the newly updated 2023 BMW 330i to see if any progress toward redemption has been made.
What’s New for 2023?
BMW updated the 3 Series’ exterior styling with a simplified headlight look, updated bumpers, an altered grille, and new wheel designs. The cabin receives attention, too, with slimmer vents, fewer physical buttons, and a standard curved glass unit that houses a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 14.9-inch infotainment screen. Otherwise, BMW keeps the 330i pretty much the same as the year prior.
Is the 3 Series Great To Drive?
BMW packed a lot of goodies into our test car. Notably, our 330i was outfitted with the M Sport and Dynamic Handling packages, adding performance goodies such as an adaptive suspension, variable sport steering, sticker summer tires, and blue-painted M Sport brakes. The kit also switches up the exterior styling, adopting a gaping maw under the kidney grilles and a restyled rear bumper.
The 330i packs unexpected charisma for an entry-level model, mainly thanks to its fizzy turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 that spits out 255 hp and 294 lb-ft of torque. (The next-level-up 3 Series is the 382-hp, six-cylinder M340i.) In our testing, a 330i with the M Sport package ran from 0-60 mph in a brisk 5.4 seconds, which we expect to remain the same for the updated model. The gutsy, smooth engine powers the rear wheels through a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s one of the best drivetrain combos currently available in the segment and does a great job of shuttling the 3 Series through traffic or sending it stomping up a mountain road. Great fuel economy is merely icing on the cake; the EPA rates the rear-wheel-drive 330i at 25/34 mpg city/highway.
With all of its M-branded equipment, the 330i also impresses on a curvy road. We’ve tested 3s with the fixed-tune M Sport suspension in the past and found the ride far too stiff for everyday commutes. The M Adaptive electronically adjustable dampers on this car do a far better job of both cosseting occupants on city roads and delivering excellent fast-road body control. Along with its M Sport limited-slip rear differential, the 330i deftly navigates corners with composure.
The steering is light and accurate even in Sport mode, and we preferred this setting given how featherweight and feedback-free the baseline Comfort setting is. Otherwise all of the primary controls have the same satisfying weighting; the brake pedal engages immediately and continues to provide natural feel and plenty of communication through the entirety of its travel, and the gas pedal operates with a similar heft. This is a compelling all-rounder, and continues the 3 Series’ redemption from its less coherently tuned predecessor.
How’s the New Cabin?
The seats are comfortable and supportive, with good but not too aggressive side bolstering. Even though the now-familiar iDrive control knob remains in its usual position between the front seats, BMW places a stronger emphasis on touch- and voice-activated controls with its new iDrive OS 8 setup. Fortunately, the 14.9-inch central touchscreen is very responsive, and the speech recognition system accurately picks up most commands and can interpret more abstract queries. Asking a question along the lines of “Can you find me some tacos?” will result in search results for taco shops.
The interior is free of squeaks and rattles and BMW’s use of materials with interesting textures keeps the mostly businesslike environment from feeling too dour. The Sensatec synthetic leather in our test because felt expensive and premium, too. Though the lack of some physical controls is lamentable—especially if you’re coming out of a pre-refresh 3 Series—the screen-heavy new dash is at least clean and handsome.
How Much Does It Cost?
BMW asks $43,295 for a base 3 Series and the M Sport package ups that by $3,100. To get the Adaptive M suspension, buyers can purchase it as a standalone option on top of the M Sport package for $550, or as part of the $1,200 Dynamic Handling package. Buyers who don’t need the extra sportiness probably don’t need to spend the extra money on either option, and will likely be happy with the base suspension setup. Those who desire a more entertaining driving experience, however, shouldn’t hesitate to drop the extra cash for an adaptive suspension-equipped M Sport.
The model we tested also came with the $700 Driving Assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and lane keep assist. One of the 3 Series’ weaknesses is its lack of standard safety features, although it did receive great crash test ratings for the 2022 model year, so it could be a prudent choice to check this box. Other options include stunning Portimao Blue Metallic paint ($650), the Premium package ($1,350), remote engine start ($300), and an incredible premium Harman Kardon audio setup ($875). All told, this is a solid compact luxury sedan for the as-tested price of $51,390, and right in line with rivals such as the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Genesis G70.
Not only does this 330i feel much better to drive than a 2019 M Sport model we tested years ago, but it shows that with the right equipment, the current G20-generation 3 Series can be a delightful sport sedan. Along with the latest 2 Series, which shares its bones, the 3 shows BMW still knows how to build proper driver’s cars. Following a few years of lackluster sporting products outside of its M division, BMW’s sport sedan comeback continues.
Looks good! More details?
|2023 BMW 330i Specs|
|Layout||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|Engine||2.0L/258-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|Curb Weight||3,536 lbs.|
|LengthxWidthxHeight||185.9 x 71.9 x 56.8 in|
|0-60mph||5.4 sec (MT is)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ||25/34/29mpg|
|EPA Range, Comb||452 miles|
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