Don’t ever tell the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology you’re throwing a surprise party.

Once again, images of a vehicle – this time the 2023 BMW 3 Series – have been revealed by the government department prior to its official debut.

The facelifted 3 Series is expected to be officially revealed later this year.

The pictures, shared across Chinese media, depict four variants: the 330i, plus the China-exclusive, long-wheelbase 320Li, 325Li and 330Li.

All four versions feature largely the same front-end styling, with a restyled front bumper featuring a trapezoidal air dam with a hexagonal insert, bookended by slim, vertically-oriented cutouts.

The headlights are more uniformly shaped and have a slimmer look, along with restyled and repositioned daytime running lights.

Unusually, one of the models features an entirely chrome waterfall grille, another features only a chrome outlined grille, while the other two feature black grilles with chrome elements inside. Despite this, all feature the same bumper design, which appears to be that of an M Sport variant.

Currently, BMW offers the 3 Series with three different front-end treatments – Sport, M Sport and Luxury Line – which each feature different bumper designs to each other.

It’s unclear whether BMW is simplifying 3 Series styling exclusively for the Chinese-built model, or if we’ll see these unified faces in markets such as Australia.

Down back, there’s a restyled bumper with a large diffuser. The reflectors are now vertically-oriented and positioned lower in the bumper, though somewhat surprisingly the tail lights are little changed.

There are also some different wheel designs on the updated 3 Series. Overall, the changes are reminiscent of those doled out to the recently updated X3 and X4, and yet there’s visual distinction between the updated 3 Series and the new i3, a Chinese-exclusive, electric 3 Series.

The Ministry images don’t show the interior, however the new i3 has been revealed with a version of BMW’s new “curved dash” motif, something the brand has been rolling out throughout its range.

This comprises a large digital instrument cluster and central touchscreen, situated within one housing.

The i3 also features the latest version of BMW’s operating system, OS8.0.

Spy photos appear to confirm the 3 Series will follow the i3 in getting this new set-up.

The Ministry’s listing notes three different petrol powertrains: one with 128kW of power, one with 150kW of power, and one with 200kW. These likely correspond with the 320Li, 325Li, and 330i/330Li, respectively.

Currently, BMW Australia offers the 3 Series with a choice of three turbocharged four-cylinder engines, one of which has a plug-in hybrid system, plus an inline six.

Of note, the four-cylinder 320i produces 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque, while the 330i pumps out 190kW of power and 400Nm of torque.

The updated 3 Series will go up against the recently introduced W206-series Mercedes-Benz C-Class, while a new Audi A4 has been spied and is expected to launch in 2023.

Come 2025, BMW will have a similarly-sized electric sedan for all markets. It’ll debut the Neue Klasse EV architecture and will be built in Hungary.

To the end of April 2022, the 3 Series is still outselling the C-Class, with 1000 sales against 891 for the Benz. However, both have been overtaken by the Tesla Model 3, of which 4469 have been sold this year.

MORE: Everything BMW 3 Series

William Stopford

William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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