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Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

Even if you were to blank out the iconic blue-and-white roundel on the 3 Series’ characteristically thick-rimmed steering wheel, it’s unlikely you’d identify this cabin as belonging to anything other than a BMW.

The architectural relationship to Munich’s wider contemporary model offering is clear: a high-resolution central display still sits atop two central air vents, which in turn straddle a bank of buttons for the HVAC and media systems. The centre console, meanwhile, houses the gearshifter, drive mode selection switches (now individual ones rather than a toggle) and rotary dial controller for the infotainment suite.

BMW’s infotainment system is generally excellent, but I do think making Apple CarPlay a subscription-based service is a cheeky move. I wonder if this will irk many in the long run.

As far as graphical sophistication and fluidity is concerned, it seems fair to say that BMW now leads the class. Only the infotainment systems in the newest Audi models (which have only just found their way into the A4) really give BMW’s Operating System 7.0 a run for its money in terms of visual wow factor. The car’s digital instrument cluster isn’t quite as neat-looking, but is still clear and easy to read.

Satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity are included as standard – all of which can be accessed easily via the rotary dial or the 8.8in touchscreen, the latter increasing to 10.25in in size with BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional option (standard on M Sport cars).

Apple CarPlay preparation is also included as standard, although rather controversially this service is only available free of charge for the first year of ownership. Once that year is up, you’ll need to pay an annual subscription fee to continue being able to use it. BMW still refuses to acknowledge the significant portion of its customer base that use a smartphone powered by Google, with Android Auto remaining absent.

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While the 3 Series may not feature quite the same level of glossy piano-black or textured metallic panelling as you’d find in an 8 Series or an X5, feeling short-changed in terms of both perceived and real quality seems an unlikely eventuality. This rings particularly true when you compare the 3 Series with its closest rivals: it’s simply leagues ahead of an Alfa Romeo Giulia, and only the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 offer comparably impressive material fit and finish. It’s a smart cabin, this, in both a visual and tactile sense.

The driving position is typically spot on. Our test car came equipped with the £1700 Premium Package, which introduces electronic adjustability and additional lumbar support to the already comfortable front sports seats. Thus equipped, the task of finding that Goldilocks-zone seating position between pedals and steering wheel is dispatched with a few prods of a switch.

As for space in the back, the trusty road test tape measure put typical rear leg room at 780mm. That’s still less than is offered by the C-Class, but the BMW trumps the Benz as far as head room is concerned. In any case, there’s more than enough space here to comfortably accommodate two taller adults – though squeezing three across the rear bench is an undertaking best reserved for shorter hops. A 480-litre boot is par for the course. Both the A4 and the C-Class offer the same amount, as does the previous F30 3 Series.