BMW 3 Series Touring review
The BMW 3 Series estate takes the saloon's winning formula of performance, handling and economy and adds a large dose of practicality
The BMW 3 Series Touring is the estate version of BMW’s compact executive. 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 BMW's impressively smooth xDrive four-wheel drive system is a £1,500 optional extra on some models. The Touring is available in SE, Sport, M Sport, Modern and Luxury trims.
Our choice: 320d SE Touring
The BMW 3 Series Touring sticks to a proven formula when it comes to looks. The nose and grille is the same as the saloon, while the rear end is similar to the larger BMW 5 Series Touring. It looks smart, but isn’t very adventurous, but then the same could be said for its main rivals, the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class Estate. Inside, the cabin looks quite smart thanks to a standard colour infotainment screen mounted above the dash which scrolls through all the car’s settings via the iDrive control wheel. A recent update to BMW's ConnectedDrive system now means its even easier to use and looks great too. However, the 3 Series' dashboard isn't the most ergonomic in the class, and it takes some time to get used to where certain buttons or functions are hidden.
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. 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.
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. Isofix 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.
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, while the rear glass opens independently, so you can drop items in the boot without opening the tailgate. 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.
Every engine in the 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.