BMW 3 Series Estate (2008 - 2013) review
Read the BMW 3 Series Touring estate (2005 - 2012) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
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The BMW 3 Series Touring is sleek and expensive to look at and is devoid of styling gimmicks. Like all high-quality things, it doesn’t need to shout about its value. This true even of the lower-spec editions, while more expensive models get bigger alloy wheels and sportier exterior detailing, ensuring they look more purposeful while remaining discreet.
The interior design is much like that of the exterior. You’ll find lots of high-quality materials and it all looks very well made. For many years now BMW has been at the top of the pile when it comes to ergonomics and clarity, with everything easy to find and easy to read. Cars fitted with the optional iDrive system recieve a centrally-mounted information screen, which works brilliantly.
BMW’s focus with the 3 Series is on something that’s as good to drive as it is to look at, so it isn’t the last word in carrying capacity. With the seats up it’ll accommodate 460 litres and with them down that jumps to 1385 litres. Both of these figures are a little behind arch rivals the Audi A4 Avant and the Mercedes C Class estate, but the less prestigious Ford Mondeo is much more spacious with its respective capacities of 542 and 1733 litres. The BMW’s boot is also awkwardly shaped, but the rear window opens independently of the tailgate, which is a useful touch.
Ride and handling
The 3 Series’ rear-wheel drive chasis ensures it handles superbly for such a practical machine. With perfectly weighted steering that offers lots of feedback, the 3 Series is great to drive, but this isn’t at the expense of a comfortable ride. Even on the 18-inch wheels of the M Sport edition the ride isn’t jarring, but things are predictably more comfortable when smaller wheels are fitted.
There’s no such thing as a slow 3 Series, with even the entry-level 141bhp 318i capable of 130mph and 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds. The smallest diesel engine, the 141bhp 318d, can also achieve 130mph, while the 168bhp 320i tops out at 140mph. The 181bhp 320d raises this to 145mph, but even better is the 201bhp 325d, with its 149mph and 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. The 241bhp 330d is limited to 155mph, as is the twin-turbo 335d, which can sprint to 62mph in 6.2 and 6.1 seconds respectively. Top of the pile though is the 302bhp 335i, which can does 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds.
With the 3 Series more common than you might think, these cars depreciate like any car, although they tend to lose their value at a slightly slower rate. However, fit lots of options and you’ll lose a lot of cash, so think ahead. With stop and start standard on most models, CO2 emissions are as low as 120g/km. That’s for the 318d, which can average an impressive 62.8mpg. The fleet-favourite 320d can average 58.9mpg and 128g/km while even the seriously fast 330d can manage 47.9mpg and 155g/km. Equivalent figures for the 318i are 44.8mpg and 147g/km while the 320i returns 44.1 mpg and 149g/km.
There’s a reason why BMWs are so costly to buy – they’re engineered to a very high standard. Problems are unlikely to occur, and if they do, BMW dealers are among the best in the business at getting them sorted. You pay for the privilege of BMW ownership, but the result is an experience that’s usually pretty painless.
BMW prides itself on making some of the safest cars on the road, which is borne out by the current 3 Series Touring carrying a five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating. It was the saloon which was tested, but with its tough structure and ample safety kit the Touring should look after its occupants just as well in a crash. Standard kit includes front and side airbags for those in the first row plus curtain airbags for everyone. Those in the front also get anti-whiplash head restraints while the car features tyre pressure monitoring, anti-lock brakes, traction control, ESP (electronic stability programme) and a multitude of other electronics to help prevent a crash.
There’s a bewildering array of trim levels, with ES, Exclusive, SE, M Sport and Sport Plus to choose from. The entry-level ES comes with a six-cylinder CD/tuner, air-con, electric windows all round, 16” alloy wheels and a multi-function steering wheel. Moving up to SE trim adds front and rear parking sensors, 17” alloys, upgraded cabin lighting and extra interior detailing. Exclusive brings metallic paint and leather trim while the Sport Plus has sports seats, 18” alloys and cruise control.
The BMW 3 Series Touring is beautifully built, superb to drive, has decently strong residuals and is fairly practical too. But if carrying capacity is your priority you might need to move up to a 5 Series.