In the past BMW has been criticised for a relatively low level of standard equipment for the price. The German car-maker – and indeed other European brands – has started to address this by adding more gear as standard, but there are still some key features missing. For example, heated seats are an option. When this is standard on mid-range Kias and Hyundais it should be standard on a $70k BMW. Aside from that, however, there is plenty on offer in the 330i. Our press car was fitted with options including a high-end Harman Kardon sound system, black alloy wheels and a ‘Visibility Package’ featuring a sunroof, metallic paint, ambient lighting and laser headlights. This increased the price as tested to $78,570.
Notably, the 3 Series includes BMW’s ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’ that allows users to dictate actions using voice recognition. Starting with the command “Hey BMW”, you can ask the system to change the temperature by saying “I’m cold” or you can search for your nearest cafe by saying “I’m hungry”. A selection of options are then either displayed on the central 10.25-inch screen or the system will ask for more voice inputs. For example, what temperature you’d like for the cabin. Mercedes-Benz and Audi have similar set-ups, but the BMW system is, so far, the most consistent.
In fact, BMW is getting a lot of the tech and connectivity stuff right lately. The iDrive operating system that houses information, audio and more is the best of its kind among the premium brands. The only quirk is if you want to charge your device on the wireless charge pad, the system will switch from Bluetooth to Apple CarPlay, and then back to Bluetooth when you remove the phone from the charger. It should just recognise one without overriding the other.
BMW has given the interior a complete makeover and the results are impressive. It’s still unmistakeably BMW, but with a cleaner, more modern look. The centre-console layout has been cleaned up and even the steering wheel controls are intuitive. We like the fact you can adjust the lane-keeping aid via the wheel.
The front seats are comfortable but the rear seats mark a big improvement. The old 3 Series had flat second-row seats and poor legroom, but there’s much more space now thanks in part to the sculpted front seat backs. There’s good bottle storage, knee-level air vents, climate controls, two USB and one 12v outlet back there.
The 330i’s 480-litre boot is sizeable, matching the capacity of the Audi A4 and exceeding the Mercedes-Benz C300 (455 litres). The rear seats are lowered via a lever in the boot. BMW uses run-flat tyres so there’s no spare wheel.