The packaging of the 2015 BMW 3-Series never fails to remind you that it's first and foremost a sport sedan. Although thanks to the addition of both Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo (GT) models the past couple of years, there are plenty of ways that active families can find the best of both worlds—and fit some practicality and comfort in with driving enthusiasm.
The 3-Series now holds four adults with relative comfort, although we wouldn't ask tall people to ride in the back seat for long without some horsetrading with front-seat passengers. The 3-Series isn't a limo in the back, but it'll hold coworkers well enough for a quick lunch trip or fit kids just fine.
Front-seat passengers get the most room, with big seats capable of holding just about any body type. The seats are widely adjustable, and even the base seats have extendable thigh support and strong side bolsters to keep bodies in place. Sport models feature upgraded seats that are just as supportive.
We've found that the cargo area is sized well, but a small opening may frustrate some looking to stuff larger items into the trunk. In premium models, the trunk can be opened by waving a foot underneath the rear bumper if the keyfob is nearby.
The reality check comes in sizing up the exterior. At about 183 inches long—a few inches longer than the previous version—the 3-Series sedan is still very much compact by U.S. standards. In its last redesign, the 3-Series got a couple of extra inches of length and wheelbase, although that didn't punt it anywhere close to midsize.
What is closer to mid-size, on the inside, is the BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo. Despite having similar angles to the sedan, the 3-Series GT is almost completely different with a redesigned roofline, a higher hood, and repositioned seats. The GT is a taller-riding car with a different driving position than the 3-Series sedan, but boasts more leg room in the back and more cargo flexibility. The sloping roof cuts into some usable cargo space, and some head room for rear passengers, but the wagon can pick up where that shape may leave some shoppers short.
BMW equips most versions of the 3-Series with its iDrive system, which uses a controller placed in the center console to control infotainment and vehicle functions. It's easier to use than maligned versions in earlier vehicles, but we still recommend spending time with the dealer to go through functions and systems to come up to speed. What we do like very much, however, is the capacitive touch pad atop the controller—a cool feature that allows you to trace out letters, for destination entry, for example.
In all versions of the 3-Series, the ride quality is well sorted and superb. The base suspension setup in the 328i is the most isolated thanks to a taller sidewall on its tires, but opting for bigger wheels or sportier tires doesn't spoil the ride much. That much can't be said about some of the BMW 3-Series' rivals, which can be harsh on firmer tires.
Having said that, the 3-Series can be a little harsher on coarser pavement, but not as bad as others in the class such as the Lexus IS or Infiniti Q50.