I was surprised to see that F30s are now down to under £6,000 on AutoTrader. co.uk, and I’ve been told that £4,500 will buy an early one in the auctions, albeit with a few miles on the clock (a 12-plate, solid black 318d with 150,000 miles and basic SE trim on 16in wheels but, even so, a nice enough thing if it all checks out). But is an early F30 a better bet than a late E90? There’s no doubt that in the last three years of the E90 (the LCI version), BMW really improved this model. The early ones, with the spartan interior, that weird-looking grille and some truly ghastly colours (what was that light metallic blue-green-grey called?), are just about in banger territory, now with a few hovering around the £1,000 mark.
The 318i and 320i with the N43 engines are best avoided really – they do nothing as well as a 318d or 320d, use more fuel and can rack up some scary bills, although they don’t all go wrong. No, a late 2.0d is a great car and the Efficient Dynamics model with those smart alloys in a good colour (white or a Le Mans blue look nice), are worth having and they don’t look similar to an M Sport at first glance. Timing chain issue apart, they’re a good reliable car in general. The F30, though, is just a nicer car. It rides better, has a better interior but, of course, suffers with a few troubles – condensation in the headlights and knocking steering racks are the main ones.
Left: A late, LCI E90 3 Series was much better than the early examples… Right: … but not as good an all-round proposition as the F30.