4.5 out of 5 4.5
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

A brilliant all-rounder that's great to drive with some clever practicality features

BMW 3-Series Touring (19 on) - rated 4.5 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £32,935 - £51,780
Lease from new From £372 p/m View lease deals
Used price £20,895 - £41,890
Used monthly cost £522 - £1,046
Fuel Economy 33.2 - 57.6 mpg
Road tax cost £150 - £475
Insurance group 25 - 42 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Great to drive yet comfortable
  • Lots of smart design touches
  • High-tech throughout
  • Wide range of trims and engines

CONS

  • Non-premium rivals carry more
  • Not all of the tech works perfectly
  • Expensive, especially with options
  • Slightly bland and confusing interior

BMW 3-Series Touring rivals

Written by CJ Hubbard on

If you’re looking for an all-rounder that does a brilliant job of combining driving performance with added practicality, then the BMW 3 Series Touring could well be the estate car for you. Combining the brilliant dynamics and high quality interior of a 3 Series saloon with the family-friendly practicality of an estate car sure makes this perfect car for just about everyone.

As is tradition since the first example was introduced in 1987, the BMW 3 Series Touring is the estate car version of the 3 Series Saloon. Ever since that first one, the five-door 3 Series tended to major on style and driveability over practicality – a trade-off owners were happy with. But since the last-generation version, which grew in size, you could have both – and with the current version, BMW continues the theme – building a large, practical family estate that's also good to drive.

As usual, it's up against some very strong opposition from its premium rivals. So, the 3 Series Touring is likely to find itself on the same shopping list as the Audi A4 Avant, Volvo V60 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. But there are more mainstream (and worse-selling) rivals that are also well worth looking at – the Peugeot 508 SW is an eye-catching alternative, while the Skoda Superb Estate has bags of appeal and acres of space.

>> BMW announces new engines, hybrid technology and other upgrades for 2020

These days, a family estate car such as this is as likely to be on your shopping list alongside a bunch of SUVs, including not only the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC but also the BMW X3, Porsche Macan and perhaps even more functional alternatives like the Skoda Kodiaq. Car buyers have so much choice these days. So why should the 3 Series Touring top your list?

Excellent to drive, good choice of trim levels

As with the saloon, this generation of 3 Series Touring benefits from a large number of improvements under the skin. With increased use of aluminium throughout, the new model is lighter than the previous one (by around 10kg) despite being bigger in every dimension – including the wheelbase between front and rear wheels, which is good news for passenger space – and loaded with more high-tech kit.

At the same time, the structure is 25% stiffer overall – and as much as 50% stiffer in some areas – boosting safety, driving dynamics and refinement. A lot of the weight saving is in the suspension, and this also helps the car feel lighter on its feet, meaning that BMW’s reputation for building cars that entertain the driver is alive and well here.

We’ll go into further detail about this later in the review, but suffice to say, a well-sorted, low-slung estate car still runs rings around most high-riding SUVs when it comes to outright driving joy, and this 3 Series estate is a really top flight example of this in action.

UK trim level choice is SE, Sport, M Sport and M Sport Plus Edition – the last a particularly high-grade model tuned to the preferences of British buyers. We tend to like our BMWs particularly sporty, though this isn’t to say comfort has been forgotten. The majority of UK buyers - nearly two thirds, in fact - order the M Sport trim level, with its 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-inch infotainment screen and sportier styling details.

Engines, gearboxes and xDrive

BMW offers a wide range of engines, although not all of them are available right from launch – including the 330e plug-in hybrid, which isn’t due in Touring form until July 2020. Minimum power output is 150hp from the 318d, rising to 374hp from the M340i xDrive. Between these two extremes you’ll find the popular 320i (184hp) and 320d models (190hp), plus the more indulgent 330i (258hp) and 330d (265hp). As ever with BMW, ‘i’ indicates a petrol engine, while ‘d’ designates a diesel.

All offer a fine balance between performance and fuel economy – meaning that you’re unlikely to feel short-changed in either department, whichever version of this car you decide you can afford. Almost every model in the range comes with an eight-speed automatic Steptronic transmission as standard; the 318d and 320d come equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, with the Steptronic optional.

Most are rear-wheel drive, which is another long BMW tradition, but an increasing number of engine choices can be optionally paired with the xDrive four-wheel drive system – which does an excellent job of adding extra traction without blunting the 3 Series’ fun-to-drive handling. Amazingly, around half of buyers pick the xDrive all-wheel drive, meaning that Audi no longer holds all the cards with its Quattro technology for those who want extra grip when the going gets slippery.

Better boot space

Practically speaking, the Touring’s overall boot space may be only slightly bigger than in the previous car, (500 litres versus 495), but the area of the loadbay you use most of the time has seen a considerable improvement.

What’s more, the boot opening is larger and squarer than before to make loading easier, while useful features such as the opening rear windscreen and rear seats that fold in one movement at the flip of a lever remain present and correct.

It also offers some clever new options, including anti-slip luggage rails in the boot floor and a tow hook that hides under the bumper until needed.

Packed with driver tech

Whether you’re after enhanced active safety kit or the latest in connectivity and infotainment, the chances are it’s available on this BMW 3 Series – the firm has stuffed the thing full of high-tech capability.

There are two different levels of interior multimedia system, an ‘intelligent personal assistant’ that responds to spoken commands, the option to unlock the car using your smartphone and a digital instrument cluster that can show you what the car is sensing around it as you drive along.

This last is part of an active safety suite that tracks the surroundings to keep you in lane and a sensible distance from the car in front automatically. These are not especially new features – particularly compared with something like a Tesla – but they have been implemented very well in the case of this compact executive estate car.

BMW also offers a built-in dashcam, and has prepared the Touring for ‘over-the-air updates’ – which means on-board software can be updated without visiting a dealership, and raising the tantalising possibility of additional features being ‘unlocked’ further down the line.

All told, this is a hugely impressive machine, with a wide range of engines, trims and those all-important options. Should you take one over its highly impressive rivals?

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the BMW 3 Series Touring including its practicality, its interior, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one. We've also driven one over an extended period, so find out what we think in our long-term test.

BMW 3-Series Touring rivals

Other BMW 3-Series models: