Nearly-new buying guide: BMW 3 Series (F30)

The spectacle of all-new 3 Series saloons leaving your local BMW showroom can mean only one thing: a mountain of trade-ins, many of them the model’s predecessor, the F30-generation model of 2012 to 2018. 

What a cracking car it is. True, by the end, rivals – notably the Jaguar XE, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 – had the measure of it but none was such an all-rounder as the F30. 

Handling, composure, performance, efficiency, quality, image – the F30 has it all in abundance. Even the interior, on earlier models a weak spot for its bulky transmission tunnel, is roomy in the back. The boot’s a handy 480 litres, or larger if you find a car with optional folding back seats. 

You want more grip? There’s four-wheel drive in the shape of xDrive. You want to join the hybrid revolution? Early on, there was the ActiveHybrid 3, followed later by the 330e iPerformance, a plug-in hybrid capable of up to 25 miles of pure-electric motoring. 

During its first year on sale, the F30 accumulated an impressive selection of engines, standouts being the smooth and lusty 320d, the snarly 330d, the creamy but potent 328i and its more frugal 1.6 turbo relation, the 320i EfficientDynamics. The 320d and 330d were EU6-compliant from launch. Buyers could choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic, both superb. 

In 2015, the then three-year-old F30 received a shot in the arm courtesy of restyled front and rear ends, LED headlights and a refreshed interior. At the same time, new engines – such as the three-cylinder 318i, the 99g/km CO2 320d ED and the seriously quick 340i – joined the range. The chassis and gearboxes were improved and more advanced infotainment features arrived. 

Throughout, standard kit has always run to alloy wheels and climate control. SE models have dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and rear parking sensors and Sport cars get sports seats and other racy bits. The Modern trim reaches out to BMW newbies with more informal colours and Luxury ladles on the goodies. 

Can’t stretch to the mighty M3? You can always seek out the copycat M Sport, with its bodykit, larger alloy wheels and sports suspension. 

So where to find your used F30? You shouldn’t have to look too far. One major classified sales site is showing over 4000 at prices starting from £4399 for a 2012/12-reg 320d ED with 170,000 miles. At the other end of the spectrum, you can get into a 2018/68-reg 320d M Sport auto with 1500 miles for £32,985. Its all-new, G20-gen equivalent starts at £38k. 

At the time of writing, the cheapest BMW approved used F30 was a 2013 320d ED with 50,000 miles for £9424; not bad for a car with a 12-month warranty and full service history. All F30s have variable servicing. On cars under five years old, check if they were sold with the five-year servicing pack. It could save you some money. 

Need to know

Because it’s built so well, you should be alive to the risk of buying a clocked F30. In fact, it’s easy to give one a haircut because of its digital odometer but just as easy to interrogate the ECU and spot it. Check old MOTs, too. 

Options typically depreciate faster than the car they’re fitted to so look out for extra toys at no extra cost. One worthwhile option is folding rear seats, but walk away from oversized wheels, which do little for the ride. 

A full BMW service history may be expensive to maintain but it will always reward you with an easier resale. Still, don’t ignore the very capable BMW specialists out there who can save you money and who have more experience of older, leggier cars. 

Our pick

BMW 320d SE: Keep your sports suspension and big engines. We’ll take our F30 in SE guise with its more compliant suspension, powered by the 187bhp 320d diesel engine that can do up to 57mpg.

Wild card

BMW 340I M Sport Auto: The smaller engines and standard springs – that’s the route to the F30’s heart. The 340i M Sport has none of these so we’ll just take its 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine for all it’s got.

Ones we found

2013 BMW 320d ED, 83,000 miles, £8300 

2014 BMW 320i Sport, 40,000 miles, £12,300 

2015 BMW 330d Sport auto, 50,000 miles, £15,000 

2016 BMW 335d xDrive M Sport, 50,000 miles, £20,000