New BMW 3 Series Touring vs rivals

7 Nov, 2012 11:00am

The BMW 330d Touring goes head-to-head with its Mercedes and Audi rivals

The ever-growing glut of crossovers, SUVs and MPVs means that traditional compact family estates are often overlooked. Yet these practical and handsome machines are every bit as family friendly and desirable as their fashionable rivals – especially when they feature a premium badge on the bonnet.

BMW is certainly hoping its all-new 3 Series Touring can make a big splash in this market. The car has a bigger boot and more spacious cabin than its predecessor, and should build on the class-leading success of its saloon brother. As with every BMW, the Touring also aims to be great to drive, well built and cost-effective. We test it in range-topping £37,200 330d Luxury guise.

However, before BMW can start popping the champagne corks, the Touring must face a pair of talented rivals. First up is our current favourite in the upmarket compact estate class: the Mercedes C-Class. It’s spacious, comfortable and beautifully built, and is the latest in a long line of fine Merc estates.

Finally, there’s the facelifted Audi A4 Avant, which promises lower emissions and sharper handling than before. It’s also the only car here with the security of four-wheel drive.


On paper, these three desirable estates are evenly matched. It doesn’t take long with a tape measure and calculator to realise that each has been carefully benchmarked against the other. Yet in the final reckoning, the BMW takes a surprisingly comfortable victory.

While it’s barely any bigger than the Mercedes or Audi, the 3 Series is faster and sharper to drive, plus it uses much less fuel, is cheaper to tax and costs less to service.

Factor in desirable details such as the separate-opening glass tailgate, and the Touring takes a well deserved win.

Separating the Audi and Mercedes is tougher. The A4 is more engaging and boasts a brilliant four-wheel-drive system, but it also has a smaller boot and is hobbled by a firm ride – and when it comes to family friendly estates, hardcore driving dynamics should take a back seat to comfort. As a result, the refined and roomy Mercedes edges into second place.

Yet both have to give best to the BMW, which in 330d form is all the compact estate you’ll need.

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The King Pin wins again.

As a former BMW owner I can safely say that a 3-series on big wide tyres is only "all you need" until it snows; in which event you also need a tow truck or a spare front-wheel-drive car.

Having driven a 3 series for the past 10 years (first an E46 saloon and now an E91 estate) here in Munich, which has lots more snow than UK, all you need is a set of winter tyres, which to be honest makes sense in winter for pretty much an type of car, even in uk.

That is absolutely correct. I used to own an AWD Subaru and in the winter it would slip all over the place on radials. As soon as I swapped out for snow tires - the thing would handle almost like it was on dry pavement again.

Who would have thought that Snow Conditions would warrant Snow Tires? (heavy on the sarcasm gravy)

the trouble with auto express is they have too much money to spend,having owned all three of these cars in the past,if you put the skoda superb estate up against these estates pound for pound and spec for spec it is easily the best car .with the superb you not only get a better car you save at least £10.000. then you can keep the other half happy as well and buy her a new car

One thing in the Audi's favour: It (surprisingly) doesn't have the silly privacy glass to spoil its looks.

Good comment!! At least theres someone with a brain out there :)