BMW 3 Series Touring review

Our Rating: 
2011 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The BMW 3 Series estate takes the saloon's winning formula of performance, handling and economy and adds a large dose of practicality

Versatile boot, sharp handling, low emissions
Expensive options, no self-levelling suspension

BMW’s brilliant 3 Series is our reigning compact executive champ, thanks to its blend of fun driving dynamics, strong performance, low running costs and rock-solid build quality. In Touring form, the desirable German machine adds family friendly practicality. It's the Bavarian maker's response to the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class estate.

It looks the same as the saloon from the B-pillars forward, while at the rear it gets an extended roof line similar to the larger 5 Series Touring. Boot space is the best in the class, with 495 litres on offer with the seats up, and 1,500 litres folded. As with the 3 Series saloon, the Touring is the sharpest handling compact executive estate you can buy, but it doesn’t sacrifice economy in the process.

There are a choice of powerful but efficient four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Most cars are rear-wheel drive, but the impressively smooth BMW xDrive four-wheel drive system is a £1,500 optional extra on some models and is a serious answer to the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Evoque

The Touring is available in SE, Sport, M Sport, Modern and Luxury trims. 

Our choice: 320d SE Touring

Engines, performance and drive


This is where the BMW 3 Series Touring excels. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout is designed to entertain drivers, while BMW’s Drive Performance Control system allows you to set up the steering, throttle response and stability control settings as desired.

The six-cylinder 330d diesel engine delivers huge performance, but the 2.0-litre diesel is still a decent performer and returns better fuel economy. It'll manage over 60mpg yet do everything a 3 Series should - largely negating the need for the thirstier but lively 328i petrol.

BMW 3 Series Touring interior

The range will soon be extended to include a six-cylinder 335i petrol and more efficient 320d Efficient Dynamics, but no matter which engine you choose you can be assured that you're driving one of the finest handling family cars on sale.

If you ski, or regularly drive in inclement weather, the xDrive four-wheel drive system is worth looking at. It's a £1,500 option, and primarily sends drive to the rear wheels.

However, if a slip is detected, it can send almost 100 per cent of torque to the front axle very smoothly. The only downsides are an increase in weight and slight loss of steering feel.

As you’d expect, the BMW backs up its punchy performance with class-leading handling. In fact, thanks to its combination of small wheels and softer SE suspension, the EfficientDynamics version delivers the best ride and handling balance of the entire 3 Series line-up. The steering is sharp and well weighted, while the rear-wheel-drive layout provides balanced and progressive handling. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Every engine in the BMW 3 Series Touring range comes with stop-start, which boosts fuel economy. The 2.0-litre twin-turbo 328i is the worst performer in the range, with economy of 43.5mpg and emissions of 152g/km, which are still impressive.

The 320d diesel is the engine to go for, as it returns 125g/km of CO2 and economy of 58.9mpg. If you go for the optional eight-speed auto, this figure increases to 60.1mpg.

The estate carries a £1,300 premium over the 3 Series saloon, although it’s not available with as many engines or trims, and is priced similarly to the Audi A4 Avant and slightly less than the Mercedes C-Class Estate.

Like all BMWs the 3 Series Touring also comes with fixed price servicing to help reduce running costs and will hold its value well over time too.

Interior, design and technology


The 3 Series fails to attract as much attention as its sleeker rivals like the Mercedes C-Class Estate or Volvo V60. Even so, the well proportioned and neatly finished Touring is still a handsome, classy-looking machine and, to our eyes, is more attractive than the standard four-door saloon. 

That said, some models' kerb appeal is lost thanks to small 16-inch alloy wheels. Buyers looking for more visual aggression will prefer the M Sport model, which gets a subtle bodykit, 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome-tipped tailpipes. 

Inside, the Touring looks and feels identical to the saloon model. That means you get a logically laid-out dashboard which is angled towards the driver, plus plenty of high-grade materials and impeccable fit and finish. Further highlights include the intuitive iDrive infotainment controller and the comfortable, low-set driving position. 

And while the interior can’t match the C-Class for style, it is beautifully built and thoughtfully designed. The 3 Series also comes with a decent amount of standard kit. Climate control, a DAB radio and parking sensors are all included, while Business Edition models add sat-nav, plus leather-trimmed and heated seats. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space


Compact executive estates aren’t designed for maximum carrying capacity, but the BMW 3 Series Touring performs well. The 495-litre boot is five litres bigger than the Audi A4 Avant’s and 10 litres bigger than the Mercedes C-Class’s.

All cars come with a powered boot lid as standard.Another neat feature is the opening glass tailgate – useful for loading small items. And as the BMW comes with run-flat tyres, the space that would be taken up by the spare can be liberated to create a deep hidden compartment beneath the hinged boot floor.

Unlike the 3 Series saloon, the Touring has a folding rear seat that splits 40:20:40, so the boot is very versatile. Other useful items include lashing hooks in the floor, bag hooks, a folding floor divider, cargo net, plus extra hooks so you can divide the boot from the interior whether in five-seat or two-seat modes.

Reliability and Safety


Finishing an impressive 14th, the 3 Series topped the compact executive car rankings in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey. As you’d expect, owners praised the handling and performance, plus it scored highly for reliability and build quality.

As you’d expect, owners praised the handling and performance, plus it scored highly for reliability and build quality.

The BMW 3 Series saloon has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and has a full suite of airbags, plus stability control and tyre pressure warnings as standard.

Extras offered include lane keep assist and blind spot warning, but ask yourself if you really need them, as they can quickly bump up the price.

However the optional head-up display which projects key driver info into the windscreen, is very useful and means you never need to take your eyes off the road. I

sofix child seat mounts and rear parking sensors are standard and the 3 Series Touring comes with an unlimited three year warranty and three year's roadside assistance included in the price.

Last updated: 20 Nov, 2014