The sixth generation BMW 3 Series has aged very well indeed and still looks quite contemporary today, but with the latest version of the larger 5 Series having been doing the rounds for a couple of years, Munich’s mid-size compact executive saloon was definitely due a new model. How does the F30, which is new from the ground up and now available for leasing on business contract hire, compare?

Is the new BMW 3 Series bigger?

Yes, slightly, and company car drivers who regularly ferry colleagues around during the week and the kids at the weekend will welcome the new 3 Series’ modest growth, 1.6cm wider and 8.5cm longer with a 4.1cm longer wheelbase. While the 3 Series was never as snug as the Jaguar XE to start with, its drivers will now benefit from increased shoulder room, rear passengers will definitely appreciate the extended legroom on offer, and everyone gets more headroom.

What does the 2019 BMW Series look like?

From the front, it’ll be hard to tell it apart from the latest 5 Series at a glance, which is great news for business contract hire drivers wanting to drive a car that is as prestigious as possible. With a much more imposing grille than the 6th generation model it replaces, the new BMW 3 Series for 2019’s bumper apron flicks up into each headlight cluster, while the fog lights and air intakes are blended together in a clever T-shape on SE and Sport models, which BMW says echoes the design of aircraft jet engines and classic racing cars.

New BMW 3 Series saloon 2019 lease - rear lights darkThere’s not much difference from the side profile apart from a welcome dose of added muscularity, but the darkened rear light units with an L-shaped signature look mean, classy and expensive. A new paint colour called Portimao Blue metallic is offered for M Sport guise.

How has BMW improved the new 3 Series’ interior?

Just like the new, chunkier and more confident 3 Series looks like a slightly smaller 5 Series on the outside, which is no bad thing at all, the dashboard is very similar, too. Compared to the previous 3 Series, the new model looks more minimalist and integrated, the dashboard fascia lines are much more rakish and various controls have been repositioned for even better ergonomics. The start/stop button is now positioned next to the iDrive controller, while the parking brake is now electronic.

A new range of interior trims has been introduced including open-pore fine wood and aluminium mesh effect, the restyled multifunction steering wheel now incorporates thumb rests, and BMW’s other little changes will make a big difference, from parents’ ability to fit three child seats across the rear bench that splits and folds 40:20:40 as standard, to a taller back door aperture making the car easier to get into and out of.

New BMW 3 Series saloon 2019 lease - interior dashboard screen iDriveDoes the new BMW 3 Series have a larger boot?

The previous 2011-2018 BMW 3 Series offered a 495-litre boot, which might initially make the 480 litres presented by the new model for 2019 seem a trifle disappointing, but the old car’s luggage capacity was inclusive of underfloor storage compartments, whereas hidden trays and partitions to the tune of 36 litres are actually incorporated in addition to the new generation’s 480 litres, effectively meaning 516 litres in total.

How have trim, specification and equipment changed with the new 3 Series?

SE is again the entry-level variant but is far from it in reality, now coming as standard with adaptive LED headlights along with cornering lights and eyebrow indicators, ambient lighting in no fewer than eleven different colours, electric folding wing mirrors, enhanced acoustic glazing, three-zone air conditioning, BMW’s latest reversing assistant technology with camera, and even an 8.8-inch central instrument cluster as part of BMW Live Cockpit plus. Externally, SE models get 17” alloy wheels and front LED foglights.

More athletic body-styling and larger alloys unsurprisingly set M Sport versions of the new BMW 3 Series saloon apart on the outside, but the reality is that drivers spend most of their time looking at the interior, with standard-fit Live Cockpit Professional translating into a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.3-inch central display and also BMW’s latest OS 7.0-powered iDrive system along with Intelligent Personal Assistant.

Vernasca is a new type of leather upholstery trim introduced for the new BMW 3 Series and it features by default in Sport and M Sport cars, with four colours to choose from plus sophisticated quilting and seam patterns.

New BMW 3 Series saloon 2019 lease - iDrive mesh inlay trim interiorWhat noteworthy options are offered with the new BMW 3 Series?

Some of our business contract hire customers may fancy the optional electric glass sunroof, music-lovers can indulge in the 464-watt Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, and hands-free opening and closing of the boot is always a welcome practicality for anyone who carries a lot of equipment or paperwork around, but we reckon Laserlight will be one of the hottest options added to leasing orders for the new BMW 3 Series.

Automatic control of high and dipped beam is commonplace nowadays, but Laserlight, which is part of the Visibility Package, varies its beam selectively and can reach around 530m despite being non-dazzling, meaning it looks awesome but is also safe. BMW’s latest-gen’ head-up display is also optional, and we’re pleased that the brand has simplified everything for the new 3 Series into six main packages based around ten options, all given a tell-tale name such as Comfort, Connected, Technology and Driving Assistant Professional, which groups together various semi-autonomous functions.

What is BMW’s new Intelligent Personal Assistant?

Showcased via the new 3 Series and revolving around a ‘Hey’ command like many other marques’ systems, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can be given a name, which could prove rather interesting or eyebrow-raising, and will answer questions or help out with stuff ranging from “what messages do I have?” and “is the oil level okay?” to “I’m cold” and even casual conversation. The system will learn the driver’s typical routes and preferences, resulting in it cleverly lowering the window as the car approaches a car park barrier, for example.

Is the new BMW 3 Series safer than the previous model?

Yes, it most definitely is, with Active Guard Plus as standard, encompassing lane departure, collision and pedestrian warnings plus city braking, while the optional Driving Assistant Professional package adds warnings for driving the wrong way and which vehicle has priority, along with Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go.

The new BMW 3 Series is also more secure and better protected from being stolen, at a time when relay transmitter thefts are increasingly making headlines. The car’s key incorporates a movement sensor that continuously monitors whether it’s being carried on someone’s person or has been left somewhere static, in which case it seamlessly switches into standby mode and turns its signal off.

What engines are available for the new BMW 3 Series?

Company car drivers leasing a new 3 Series on business contract hire will tend to opt for the economical but punchy 318d producing 150PS and 320Nm while averaging upto 58.9mpg, or the 190PS/400Nm 320d that is also available with xDrive for added four-wheel drive traction and still manages to keep CO2 emissions as low as 118g/km. The 330d sits at the top of the diesel lineup from launch and its 265bhp combined with 500Nm torque propel it to 62mph in 5.5 seconds on paper.

Negative press and governmental discouragement over diesel engines may result in some company car fleets looking at whether a petrol BMW 3 Series is viable, and the 184PS/300Nm 320i has the same 7.1 seconds 0-62mph time as its diesel counterpart, while the 330i straight-six produces 258bhp and 400Nm.

Fleet managers keen to embrace plug-in or electric cars will be able to lease the 330e with a claimed battery range of 35 miles, CO2 emissions of 39g/km and an XtraBoost function pushing power temporarily up to 293bhp. The new BMW 3 Series PHEV won’t be eligible for the government’s plug-in car grant (PiCG) but is attractive for business drivers from a tax perspective.

The range-topping M Performance M340i xDrive will arrive in July and we expect it to appeal more to personal contract hire (PCH) drivers.

New BMW 3 Series saloon 2019 lease - rear Portimao Blue metallicWill the new BMW 3 Series handle even more sharply?

Yes, it should do, thanks to weighing 55kg less than the previous model, while its aerodynamics have been painstakingly tweaked by Munich’s engineers, and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) comes as standard. Lift-related dampers make their BMW debut in the new 3 Series saloon, which is 25% stiffer overall. M Sport models can be specified with Adaptive M suspension with variable damping, while the M Sport Plus package includes beefier brakes.

They’ve done it again

BMW has clearly made the segment’s finest-handling saloon better than ever through even more attractive and imposing styling, much-needed interior improvements, some remarkable new technology and typically ruthless German efficiency. It maintains the 3 Series’ position as much more driver-focussed than the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class saloons and Vehicle Consulting’s business leasing and personal contract hire team will be happy to help you navigate the different prices, deals, offers and options available.