Euro NCAP allowed BMW to retest the 3-series after it improved side impact protection and attended to a door latch release problem. Even so, the car only just did well enough to merit a four-star rating. The driver risked chest injury in the frontal impact, and protection for his legs was mediocre. In the side impact, he risked abdominal injury. Finally, protection for pedestrians was also disappointing.
The front seat belts were fitted with load limiters and pre-tensioners. But despite these the driver suffered a quite high chest loading. The knee impact area had hard points that could damage his knees and thighs. The centre rear belt was lap-only and provided inferior protection to that of a three-point belt. .
The driver’s head and pelvis were well protected, but the load on his abdomen was high. The rear of the door-mounted thorax airbag did not fully deploy which allowed his two top ribs to be loaded by the side wing of the seat, while his abdomen was loaded by the thoracic airbag, supported by the seat wing. A head protection airbag ‘tube’ is fitted as standard and this performed well in the pole test. A rear door latch released and Euro NCAP allowed a retest following a process change to correct this.
The 3-series has a passenger’s front airbag as standard, which poses a danger for a child placed in a rear-facing restraint on the front seat. There was no clear and permanent warning of this danger and BMW needs to take this matter more seriously. BMW Junior-Seats with ISOFIX fittings were used. These failed to contain the children’s heads in the tests with the exception of the younger one’s in the frontal impact. The ISOFIX mountings were designed to prevent the seats being used with only one side engaged, to discourage misuse. However, the belt routing labels were incorrectly coloured and not permanent.
The 3-series did little to protect pedestrians: its front was very uncompromising. Only the bonnet where a child’s head would most likely strike gave any cushioning.