Currently reading: Old vs new BMW 3 Series: compare the styling changes
We put the new G20 3 Series alongside the outgoing F30 model, to take a closer look at some of the styling changes
Jim Holder
3 mins read
2 October 2018

The new BMW 3 Series has been unveiled at the Paris motor show, giving us a first chance to assess the exterior design changes.

As a result principally of stricter crash test regulations, the new G20 3 Series, pictured here in blue, with the outgoing F30 car in red, is longer, wider and higher than its predecessor and also boats a marginally extended wheelbase.

However, BMW’s design team, led by Adrian van Hooydonk, has also developed new styling cues for the car, both to modernise its look and to incorporate new technology features, most notably the large radar integrated on the lower section of the front grille.

The new 3 Series has been unveiled - get your first look here

At the front, BMW highlights the single surround that now encases the kidney grille and extends to the front headlights, which are further emphasised by a design flourish on the adjacent bumper design. The vertical bars inside the grille have also been redesigned.

On the bonnet, the new 3 Series has four contoured lines that lead to the kidney grille. Also noteworthy is the integration of the fog lights and some aerodynamic enhancements into the front bumper assembly.


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Along the side of the car a pair of creases - called “character lines” by BMW - rise towards the rear of the car at door-handle level, while another line pushes up towards the sculpted rear wheel arches, which are bulged out in recognition of the car’s rear-drive bias.

The so-called Hofmeister kink - a BMW design signature - if also evident, running down from the trailing edge of the side window. This element of the window frame is now integrated into the C-pillar, giving the rear doors a free-standing glass edge.

The lines run through the length of the new 3 Series, into the side skirts and rear, extending upwards to the rear lights and on to the spoiler on the boot lid. To emphasise the car’s sportiness. Slim, darkened rear headlamps house L-shaped taillights.

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From launch, the new BMW 3 Series will be available in two non-metallic colours and ten metallic ones. The Portimao Blue shown here is only available on the to date best-selling M Sport model.

Inside, the designers have worked hard to accentuate the spaciousness of the 3 Series interior, even though it has only physically grown fractionally in width. Details include running all of the styling lines on the dash round onto the driver’s doors, as well as the inclusion of electroplated trim strips along the width of the dash, to both emphasise the width and break up the wall of dark trim material.

Also of note is the new infotainment screen, and the iDrive control panel which continues to mix a combination of physical shortcut buttons with a rotary controller than is worked in conjunction with the screen. The start and stop button now also sits in the centre of the car, rather than up by the steering wheel.

Interior trim options range from fine woods to aluminium in a variety of treatments.


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Join the debate


2 October 2018

The headlight design copies Peugeot!

2 October 2018

The same only a bit uglier.


2 October 2018

....Agree....I wouldnt spot it on the move!

2 October 2018
I prefer the new interior with a better integrated sat-nav screen. Overall less fussy and fewer buttons too. Exterior changes are evolutionary. Again looks better in pictures.

2 October 2018

BMW designers still rely on crease lines, trim details, wheelarch & bonnet bulges etc. - ie. small local gestures - to shape the car. The result lacks overall cohesion. 

Look back 20 or more years, the best looking cars were conceived in terms of the overall form rather than an accumulation of local ideas.

One troubling detail is fixing the Hoffmeister kink to the C-pillar thus necessitating an awkward cut line to the window surround. Why oh why? What purpose does this 'innovation' serve?

2 October 2018

I like these sort of articles, especially when the next generation is such a minor change to the previous one in its overall look (e.g. the latest Fiesta)

By contrast the first 3 generation of the 3 series all looked completely different

2 October 2018
I like it overall. For some reason though the side profile reminds me of the previous generation of Lexus IS and it's curved downward bonnet. The rear lights to remind me a lot of the Lexus RC as well. I also think that the front has nods to the e46 in the lower headlamp contour and E90 in overall shape. The kidney's look imposing too. A decent effort imo.

2 October 2018

 the new G20 3 Series, pictured here in blue, with the outgoing F30 car in red

Glad you pointed that out to us... The E46 was the last decent looking 3 series, this one just continues the ugly oversized corporate trend 

2 October 2018

Cant help but feel it is too much like a Lexus - any elegance and indiviuality looks to be fast disppearing. And the highlight above the rear wheel arch looks very unresloved. As per usual with BMW the steerig wheel looks over padded, and a shame to see their beautifully clear analogue dials phased out - digital does not always mean better. Obviously cars always look best in the natural daylight, so it will be interesting to see what its like then, but on this showing I think its a missed opportunity. Too many creases and cut outs to be elegant, it all looks incohereant. A shame. 

2 October 2018

This is what creative death looks like.



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