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 335i 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 or a Mercedes, not to mention a Lexus or Toyota, 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 there is nothing that gets close to the 3-series, let alone looks likely to beat it. What must be so terrifying for rival manufacturers is the car’s ability across the board. It gives not just outstanding performance, but combines it with fabulous economy. It’s not just the best-handling car in the class, but the best-riding, too. 

The 3-series is a triumphant testament to BMW’s driver ethos and engineering prowess, and now stands head and shoulders above its competition, towering clearer of the pack than any other new BMW, or any other class-leading car, we can think of.

And until someone can devise a way of attacking successfully on such a myriad array of diverse fronts, the position of the 3-series as the world’s best small saloon looks more secure than ever.