There’s something quite classless about the BMW 3 Series Touring.
Beloved by everyone from country gentry to suburban parents, it ticks almost all of the boxes for almost all potential customers.
It has done this for a long time, too: BMW is now into the seventh generation of the 3 Series, and we’re still scoring it as highly as when the original first appeared back in 1975.
The 3 Series Touring is up there as among the finest estates to drive. It impresses ahead of rivals such as the Audi A4 Avant, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volvo V60, with accurate, direct steering and high levels of grip. Buyers can also choose to have their 3 Series Touring fitted with BMW’s excellent xDrive four-wheel drive system, while the gearbox is either a slick six-speed manual or the effective eight-speed automatic from ZF.
With road and wind noise barely perceptible, its refinement is also the best in class – as you would expect, given the estate is identical to the 3 Series saloon apart from in the cargo hold. That said, there is the caveat that the ride isn’t the most comfortable in the segment.
The petrol models start with the 318i, whose turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder 154bhp engine delivers a 0-62mph time of 8.7sec and a top speed of 137mph. This sits below the 320i (184bhp, 7.5sec, 143mph) and the 330i (255bhp, 5.8sec, 155mph). If you need practicality but even more power, get yourself an extra pair of cylinders with the 369bhp M340i (369bhp, 4.5sec, 155mph).
Those with motorway commutes might be drawn to the diesels. The range opens with the 148bhp 318d. Our testers awarded the 320d saloon five stars and the estate just half a star less, impressed among other things by its return of 0-62mph in 7.4sec and around 50mpg. They also lauded the more powerful, six-cylinder 261bhp 330d, describing its blend of performance and economy as “world class”. But if your preference skews towards the former criterion, the 335bhp M340d might be for you.
For those who more often than not drive around town, there’s also the 330e plug-in hybrid. This mates a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to an electric motor and a battery for a combined 252bhp and 0-62mph in 6.0sec, and it is good for between 32 and 37 zero-emission miles.
BMW offered three trim levels at launch, starting with SE Pro, which included 17in wheels, a 10.25in infotainment display, satellite navigation, cruise control and a rear-view camera.
Second-rung Sport added 18in alloys, leather upholstery and heated sports seats, plus changes to the body (note the black grille and air intakes).
M Sport topped it off with more aggressive exterior styling, M Sport suspension and brakes and enhanced infotainment (not that the dial-controlled iDrive system needed much improvement, already being among the best on the market).
Keep an eye out for cars fitted with desirable options. The Premium Pack added electric front seats and adjustable lumbar support, while the Technology Pack included wireless phone charging, a head-up display and a terrific Harman Kardon sound system. The Visibility Pack, meanwhile, added Laserlights, which provide twice the high-beam range of the standard LED headlamps.
Need to know
The estate’s practicality is a key selling point over the saloon. The 500-litre boot bests the C-Class Estate (460 litres) and A4 Avant (420 litres). This is despite the wheel arches intruding into the rear space. The V60 beats all three with 529 litres.
Residual values are strong. Used prices start from just under £30,000. The petrol and diesel M340 offer the biggest savings and are available from £41,000.
What Car?’s Motability review showed the 3 Series offers good access, thanks to its wide-opening doors, which open to 71deg, equal with the Passat’s and ahead of the 65deg offered by the A4’s. It sits low, though, with the driver’s seat 510mm off the ground. If you use a wheelchair, the boot is accessible, being 625mm from the ground.
Replacement engine: The most significant recall for the 3 Series has been for a crankcase bearing bushing that might not have been pressed into the engine correctly. This affects cars built between 11 March and 9 July 2019. So significant is it, in fact, that it requires a new engine to be fitted.
Replacement battery: Plug-in hybrids built between 3 March and 22 September 2020 could be affected by debris in some of the battery packs, caused by the welding process during production. This can result in a short circuit and could mean that the battery pack needs to be replaced.
320d: The mid-range diesel provides the best blend of usable daily performance and affordable economy. It was a popular choice among new buyers, so there are plenty to choose from on the used market.
M340i: This M-flavoured model is the most powerful 3 Series Touring that you can buy and the best for pure driving enjoyment. It also sounds almost as good as it is to drive.
Our top spec
Sport: This second-rung trim offers desirable equipment such as heated sports seats and gives the car a more purposeful look while avoiding the firmer M Sport suspension.
Ones we found