This is my second 320ix BMW and I love them. They hug the road, pick-up is remarkable, the interior is roomy and the design is the best around, but of course design is subjective. I like the smooth flowing lines of the interior and the classic outside shape. Road noise factor is pretty good but I wish it was better, I like a quiet ride. I like the AWD so I can get around in the snow and ice. Option packages are good but I think a bit pricey. I do wish it took "regular" grade gas and not mid grade for obvious reasons.
I got a manual transmission 330i. It's a great car that is actually addictive to drive, but it's that comfortable and it's technology is lacking a little and you pay too much for options that are usually standard on much cheaper cars. As an example, you don't get Android auto at all, you don't get easy access or lumbar support unless you buy the premium package. You don't get a blind point assist as well.
330i xDrive SULEV 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A)
If you've driven a previous generation 3 series, and fell in love like I did, this car may disappoint you. My 2011 BMW 328i xDrive wasn't perfect by any means - uncomfortable seats, crappy MPG, and nearly exploded on NJ potholes- but it had a "soul". The steering was weighted perfectly - no gimmicky sport/comfort/ ECO pro mode, brakes had a nice bite, and car always felt confident going twice the recommended speed limit through exit/on-ramps. Throaty inline 6, and I could go on... this new model may appeal to Lexus/Mercedes-Benz owners - shiny, colorful displays, and cool lights. The car is definitely more comfortable to drive around town (softer suspension and electric steering). MPG improved greatly (average +10 mpg compared to older model). That's all I can say- I guess BMW is trying to appeal to the mass market buyer. Until the 3 goes back to its roots, I'm planning on buying an Audi next.
I have just had my 340xi a couple of days. Estoril blue, beige interior. The manual transmission is like butter. I even like the rev matching after getting used to it. New I drive is much better than previous versions. Only slight negative is the steering, the feel of my old 2009 328 was better. Every thing else is a definite upgrade. I will update later after more time with the vehicle. Now after 3000 plus miles, the car seems better than ever. I am using the sport mode more that causes the car to respond more like my old 2009. The gas mileage is pretty good at 27 combined. The only negative I have found is sometimes the trunk seems to open by itself, I do not know if it has to do with the sensor. It turns out to be the remote. I got a case for the fob and it has corrected the problem. After 8 months, this is the best car I have owned.
I wasn't even thinking about the BMW 3 series -- I was looking at the GS350 FSport (MT gave it a glowing review!), the Giulia (CR's example seemed to live in the shop from day one), S6 (close to M5 speed but much less expensive), ATS-V, GT350, used Cayman. My goal was to replace my RX-8 R3, mainly because I want to have my family of 5 all fit in the fun car, and the RX-8's constant need to downshift was not fun anymore after 5 trouble-free years. Therefore I quickly ruled out the Cayman, GT350, as well as then ATS-V sedan (kids still need boosters, and most have a very wide bottom). I drove the S6 first. It's such a quick car, the dual clutch was fast and smooth, and the interior was such a nice place to be! However, it is realistically a $78k car with some options, and it did not feel like a $78k car. Then the GS350 FSport -- it drove like a slightly updated version of my 2009 G37 -- little more numb, cool new gadgets to play with, same acceleration, ridiculously difficult to use "mouse" controller. It wasn't even that quiet cruising on the highway, which was supposed to be THE highlight of a Lexus. Then I thought I'd go for the M3, but happened to see a 340i xDrive at the same dealer, with a STICK! It was $64k sticker, with red leather, M Sport Trim, bunch of driver aides and tech stuff. Edmunds' own long-term 340i seemed to garner mostly positive reviews, so I was excited and tested it. I won't bore you with all the details of the purchase experience, but they knocked $9k off (nobody knows how to drive stick anymore?), decent deal on the RX-8, and made me wait over an hour to "prep and detail" the car. The biggest impressions so far, after about 500 miles: 1. The M Sport steering wheel is VERY nice, looks great (I stare at it far more than the exterior of the car, so exterior styling ranks very low in my book) and feels nice in the hands. 2. The clutch uptake is lazy (I am coming out of an RX-8, so this may not be fair to the BMW, but I hate it). 3. The gearing is wayyy too tall (performance of the manual tested elswhere is quite a bit slower than Edmund's long-term 340i auto), so despite the mountains of low-end torque, it doesn't give you that "kick" on takeoff. 4. The suspension is MAGICAL -- it stays relatively flat in corners but still soaks up bumps well. In contrast, the G37's suspension is firm enough to make the ride uncomfortably busy on New England roads, but does not keep it as flat while cornering. The GS350 is slightly better. Only the S6 is similar. 5. Getting on the gas out of a corner is so much fun, and the AWD system inspires a lot of confidence! 6. The steering is the same for the 340 as the S6 as the GS350. They are all pretty accurate, all very numb, and the "sport" setting just add effort without making it any more accurate or giving it any feedback. I agree with another reviewer here about the huge difference in handling compared to previous generations of BMWs -- I drove a 2009 328 xDrive when it was new (first time driving a BMW), and immediately was knocked over by the handling! I realized what all the fuss was about! 7. Nobody ever compliments the 3 series for how quiet it is inside. In then end, I went for the 340i because it felt like it was at least 80% as capable as the S6, had the same bland handling, had a manual that wasn't available with the S6, so it was a much better value. Again, the ATS-V was out of the question because the back seats are too small for 3 kids with boosters; the Giulia consistently showed major quality issues that will ruin your driving experience (MT had an article about stranding in the middle of an intersection!!!); every other 5-seater had the same boring steering; so, I never thought I'd say this, but the BMW was a great value!