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BMW 3 Series vs. BMW 4 Series: which is better?

Choosing between the BMW 3 Series and BMW 4 Series? See the highlights of each model in our 3 Series vs 4 Series comparison

A comparison of the BMW 3 Series and BMW 4 Series front profile

The BMW 3 Series and 4 Series models are two cars that each have their own loyal following.

While the 3 Series has decades behind it, the 4 Series is the newer sibling that has been quick to gain a cult following.

You can grab a used BMW for less than a brand-new model as well - ideal if you want to stick to a budget.

They’re both impressive cars – but which one is the one for you? See the highlights of each model in our 3 Series vs. 4 Series review.


A comparison of the kidney grille on the BMW 3 and 4 Series

Both the 3 Series and 4 Series come in a range of shapes and sizes. The 4 Series is available as a striking Coupé, Convertible, and Gran Coupé, as well as the electric i4 spin-off.

The 3 Series is just as varied, with its own Saloon, Coupé, Convertible, Gran Turismo hatchback and Touring estate.

You won’t be disappointed with any of the models in each range – they all have that typically aggressive BMW look that we’ve come to know and love.

The iconic kidney grille is flattering on the front, and we particularly love the blend of sharp edges and swooping curves that BMW does so well on all of these models.

Between the 3 Series and 4 Series, the best-looking one will be down to your personal preference.

What are they like to drive?

A comparison of the BMW 3 and 4 Series driving

The 3 Series is a great middle-ground between a car you can still use daily and the sports car you’ve always dreamed of. There are some powerful engines on offer, without being too much for daily life.

The 4 Series is equally as impressive – it’s nippy and comfortable to drive, with the M4 offering 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds.

The M3 Competition model shaves that down to four seconds, and some say it has the sportier overall feel when compared to the 4 Series. Handling is brilliant and the automatic gearbox is especially impressive.

There are economic diesel models available in each lineup. The 4 Series 420d model is fitted with mild-hybrid tech that can boost you to 60.1mpg.

Interior and technology

A comparison of the interior in the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series model

Both the 3 Series and 4 Series get an interior that’s not just gorgeously designed, but comfortable to sit in. The cabin in each is well laid-out and filled with leather and metal details, and the dashboard designs are mostly identical.

The central infotainment screen in both cars differs with the trim level you choose. The latest M Sport variations get a 12.3-inch setup that sits on top of the dash and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The age of the model you choose will decide whether you get a digital or analogue instrument cluster. You’ll also have access to the innovative iDrive system that will keep you up to date with the car.

As a whole, the 3 Series and 4 Series are similar inside, and you might want to pick your favourite based on space and practicality.

Choosing a used BMW 4 Series or 3 Series is a great way to secure a higher spec with more features at a lower price than brand-new. Shopping used could help you get a flashier model that's still within your budget.

Bootspace and practicality

A comparison of the backseat and bootspace in the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series

Inside both cars is a range of cubby holes and storage solutions, so they’re well-suited for busy motorists on the go.

The bootspace available across the range will vary with the model you choose. In the 3 Series Saloon you’ll get 480 litres, dropping to 400 litres if you choose the 330e plug-in hybrid engine.

The 4 Series Coupé offers 440 litres, with 470 litres on offer in the Gran Coupé model.

In the Touring options, the 3 Series has 495 litres, and the 4 Series offers 470 litres.

Switch to a convertible and you’ll get 370 litres in the 4 Series and 350 litres in the 3 Series. This writer has lived with a 3 Series Convertible, and the boot worked just fine for daily life but might embarrass you in an IKEA carpark.

There are also ISOFIX car seat points in each model, so no matter how flashy they feel you can still justify these as family cars.

Read our in-depth car reviews:

Safety and reliability

The 3 Series and 4 Series models were both awarded a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP on their most recent test, so you know they can protect you in the event of a crash.

Adult occupants in the 4 Series Coupé scored an impressive 97%, while child occupants scored 83%. It’s worth noting that it’s common for child occupant ratings to be lower than adults.

The 3 Series was also impressive – 97% for adults and 87% for children, so fared slightly better than the 4 Series with standard equipment.

Both cars score well for reliability too, with positive reviews from consumer reliability surveys.

It’s worth bearing in mind that BMW models can be more expensive to upkeep as parts are usually pricier, and you may want to visit a specialist.


BMW 3 Series Saloon

Length: 4713mm

Width: 1918mm

Height: 1433mm

Boot space: 480 litres

BMW 4 Series Coupe

Length: 4794mm

Width: 1887mm

Height: 1394mm

Boot space: 440 litres

Verdict: BMW 3 Series vs. BMW 4 Series: which should you buy?

The BMW 3 Series and 4 Series are similar cars, so there are a few things you’ll need to consider when making your choice.

You’ll love the look of both convertible options but might prefer the 3 Series Saloon for a bit more space. They’re all gorgeous models, and the interior is similar across the board, too.

The 4 Series Gran Coupé is a spacious option and offers slightly different styling than the rest of these models. This one is a great middle-ground between the standard 4 Series and the 3 Series Saloon.

When it comes to the drive, there are no questions as to why the 3 Series has been coveted for so long. It’s an exceptionally agile car that still fits into daily life.

For a 4 Series alternative, try the Audi A5 or the Mercedes CLA, while the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class provide worthy competition for the 3 Series.

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