You might open your eyes a little wider at the sight of the full five stars here, but any fewer would be a perverse choice. Across the board from a 316 SE to a 340i M Sport, the 3 Series should be the starting point for everyone shopping in this market with an open mind.

There may be many reasons you might eventually prefer an Audi A4 or a Mercedes C-Class, not to mention a Lexus IS or a Jaguar XE, but they’re likely to be largely subjective and matters of personal taste. 

Matt Prior

Road test editor
The 320d is in a league of its own on performance, economy and driving dynamics

For in terms of outright ability, currently only the small Jag out does the 3 Series, while others have significantly closed the gap. In the past it must have been so terrifying for rival manufacturers is the car’s ability across the board. Times have changed and the market has moved on, with the Mercedes outdoing the BMW on ride comfort, while the A4 is the best compromise between a comfortable ride and dynamic ability, while on the driving stakes alone the Jaguar is a far more compelling unit to be behind the wheel of.

It is not to say that the 3 Series has turned into an awful car, in fact it is far from it, with its abilities still revered throughout the world. The difference between its launch in 2012 and the cars entering 2017 is that there is a new king ruling the compact executive roost in the shape of the Jaguar XE, and BMW will to up the ante if it plans on knocking the big cat from the top.

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