BMW 3 Series Estate (2010 - ) review
Read the BMW 3 Series Touring estate (2012 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drivesThe Auto Trader expert verdict: 4.6 The BMW 3 Series Touring estate is one of the most convincing cars on sale, barely putting a foot wrong. It’s practical, economical and exciting to drive.
- Even quick versions are economical
- Bigger boot than Audi A4 Avant
- The best handling in its class
- Entry-level diesels lack performance
- The price of options can quickly add up
- Its looks don’t suit everyone
At a glance
Even from a distance, this model is instantly recognisable as a BMW 3 Series Touring. The propeller badge, kidney front grille, ‘Hofmeister kink’ rear window line, swept-back rear-wheel drive stance and sharp lines of its ancestors are all present and correct. In fact, the only car you might mistake this for is the 5 Series Touring, as it's quite a long car.
With every 3 series being fitted with an ‘iDrive’ controller on the central console, many traditional buttons have been removed from the dashboard, giving it a clean design, with the focus on the main climate controls. A widescreen display is positioned on top of the dash, close to the driver’s eye line, and gauges are lit in BMW’s traditional orange glow. The cabin trim impresses, feeling both expensive and robust. It’s sure to look great for years to come.
Head- and leg room in the back is pretty good for the class, while the boot measures 495 litres with the back seats in place. The 40:20:40 rear seats are designed so four adults can sit in the car with skis or snowboards between the back seats. Fold them all flat and total load space is 1,500 litres. It’s an impressive showing, beating the Audi A4 Avant (490- to 1,430 litres) and is only just behind the Mercedes C-Class Estate (490- to 1,510 litres). The tailgate is electrically operated as standard, from the key or boot button, but an optional Smart Opener feature allows a foot placed beneath the rear bumper to open the boot automatically. The rear hatch also features an opening window, which can be handy if you want to place something quickly in the boot, or you are in a confined garage.
Ride and handling
The 3 Series has built its reputation on being the keen drivers’ choice, thanks to its rear-wheel drive chassis. Nothing changes here, as this is still the class leader by some margin. More impressive, however, is the fact that ride comfort and refinement are excellent, too. Versions with the largest alloy wheels will still thump through the worst pot holes, but no longer feel as fidgety as some BMWs of old. Suspension stiffness is dictated by the trim level you choose, with adaptive damping and Variable Sport Steering also available as options. The latter makes the steering more responsive, with less input required during cornering. Overall, the 3 Series feels more sporting than the Mercedes C-Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant, which are both highly competent, but start to feel out of their comfort zone when driven hard.
Power currently ranges from a meagre 116bhp in the 316d Touring, up to a robust 258bhp in the six-cylinder 330d, which can hit 62mph from rest in just 5.6 seconds. The big news is the prevalence of four-cylinder turbocharged engines, found under the bonnet of the petrol 320i, 328i and diesel 316d, 318d and 320d models, as the trend towards economy and downsizing continues. The petrol models have 184 and 245bhp and feel quick and smooth enough to not disappoint, but lack the creamy delivery of the six-cylinder engines found in the previous model. The 320d is likely to remain hugely popular, and is a fantastic all-rounder, thanks to its ability to cruise effortlessly but also pick up the pace when required.
Strangely the 316d, 318d and 320d all return very similar 60mpg fuel economy and 123-125g/km emissions, so you are just paying for performance. Even the 330d returns a highly respectable 55.4mpg and 135g/km, despite its sports car performance. The petrol engines average between 41.5- and 45.6mpg and emit between 145- and 159g/km of CO2, making it clear why BMW sees smaller turbocharged units as the future for petrol.
In our time with the 3 Series Touring, it felt extremely well engineered and sturdy, with no causes for concern. However, Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index places BMW quite low in its manufacturer standings, because when repairs are needed, they tend to be more expensive.
Standard fitment includes front, side and curtain airbags and three-point harnesses for all five seats. There are also ISOFIX mounting points for child seats in the rear of the car. The 3 Series saloon has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and as both this and the Touring are identical from the nose to the windscreen, the Touring should perform just as well.
Trim levels include ES, SE, Sport, Luxury, Modern and M Sport, with even the entry-level model getting 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome tailpipes, air-con, iDrive, keyless start, cruise control, USB audio interface and 40:20:40 folding rear seats. SE adds front and rear parking sensors, two-zone air-con and auto lights and wipers. Sport accentuates the driving appeal of the 3 Series, while Luxury is cossetting, Modern is stylish and M Sport adds a dose of attitude.