BMW’s best-seller has been with us since the mid-70’s.  The 3-series went into production way back in 1975.

The E21 bodyshell of the first generation 3-series came as a two-door saloon only.  The original range featured 1.6-litre, 1.8-litre, and 2.0-litre petrol engines, although these were joined by the 2.3-litre 323i model unveiled at the 1977 Frankfurt Motor Show.  A new entry level model, the 74bhp BMW 315, came along in 1981.

With the second-generation E30, which launched in 1982, the 3-series became available in two and four-door saloon form, five-door estate, and two-door convertible, as well the option of diesel power.  The range also gained a sporty M Sport version.  The E30 3-series remained in production until 1991, with the estate and convertible lasting even longer.

The 3-Series for the 90’s was the E36 bodyshell, which came along in 1990 in saloon form and gradually replaced the E30 across the whole range.  The new model also spawned the BMW Compact model, a 3-door hatchback version released in 1994.

The fourth-generation, the E46, replaced the E36 saloon in 1998, with a 5-door touring and 2-door coupe following in 2000, and the 3-door Compact a year later.  The 3-compact version was short-lived, lasting only three years before being replaced by the BMW 1-Series.  Enormously successful, production numbers reached over half-a-million vehicles per year between 2000 and 2003.

An all-new 3-Series was introduced in 2005, with many changes to the engines, transmission, and suspension, as well as a new body.  The 3-Series remained popular, entering the top ten for UK car sales.

The latest 3-Series is the sixth generation of the model, and was first unveiled in Munich last Autumn.  It will initially replace the saloon models in the range only, and arrived in showrooms earlier this year.