24: BMW 3 Series – Still the leader of the pack in premium sports saloon

Top cars for 2018: For the best of the bunch look opt for the plug-in hybrid 330e

 

The mighty 3’s position at the top of the sports saloon leaderboard has come under considerable pressure as the likes of the Audi A4, Merc C-Class, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS300h and now even the Alfa Giulia lay siege to it.

The 3 has just enough left in it to keep its nose ahead of the chasing pack, though, thanks mainly to the fact that it’s still brilliant to drive (although no longer the best - that is a fight between the Jag and Alfa now).

The cabin, in spite of updates, is now ageing a bit badly, and is well behind the efforts of Mercedes and Audi, while the 2.0-litre diesel 320d is no longer the paragon of refinement and performance that once it was.

The 330e plugin hybrid has some interesting tricks to play, though, offering some limited zero-emissions running on a full charge, and not being overly thirsty (circa 45-50mpg) when driven as a straightforward hybrid.

Right now it’s the pick of the 3 Series range, and it’s only frustrating that it doesn’t come as a Touring estate model. 320i is also a great choice for those keen to trade away from diesel power. The M3 is bonkers fast and loud, but has fallen a touch behind the likes of the AMG C-Class, Audi’s RS4, and even the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio in terms of its appeal.

Best model: 330e M-Sport

Prices start from: €36,570

Finance package from: €498

CO2 emissions: 44-204g/km

Sum-up: Still the king, but the space behind the throne is getting crowded.