The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.5
The BMW 3 Series Touring is a practical estate car with a twist, delivering the space, adaptability and user-friendliness you’d expect of a car of this type but with an underlying focus on delivering a sporty driving experience. It’s also packed with technology, even if some of the best stuff is reserved for more expensive models or on the options list. With engines to suit all requirements, a desirable badge and sleek looks it’s a worthy alternative to the default SUV or crossover.
Reasons to buy
- Impressive quality
- Really sharp to drive
- Large, practical boot
At a glance
Running costs for a BMW 3 Series
While the outright purchase costs of the 3 Series Touring are high when compared with similarly sized cars from mainstream brands, they’re on a par with direct rivals from the likes of Audi and Mercedes. So are the car’s all-important resale values, which means your investment will be just as well-protected come resale time. Or, if you buy on finance, these robust residuals will help keep monthly payments a bit lower.
Meanwhile, BMW’s engines are some of the most efficient in the class, meaning good real-world economy and lower tax bills for company car drivers. If there’s one complaint it’s that the plug-in hybrid option offered on the saloon version of the 3 Series isn’t available for the Touring. Meanwhile, BMW’s servicing packages also help owners keep tabs on running costs through the life of the car.
Reliability of a BMW 3 Series
Being so new, there isn’t sufficient reliability data available from the latest 3 Series to be able to make an informed judgement. Look at the record of the previous car, though, and you might be a little worried. Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index gives this model a distinctly below-par score, and BMW sits disappointingly low down in the manufacturer rankings, too (although in fairness, so do Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar).
More concerning, BMW has finished stone-dead last of all ranking manufacturers in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 versions of the JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study. On the brighter side, our owner reviews paint a far rosier picture of BMW ownership, with very few problems reported, and like all BMWs, the 3 Series comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty that includes BMW Emergency Service.
Safety for a BMW 3 Series
The 3 Series Touring’s saloon brother has just received a top score in the latest safety tests, with particular praise for its adult occupant protection. Child passengers and pedestrians are also well protected should the worst happen.
The new car has all the airbags and active safety equipment you would expect at this price level as standard, including a system that detects other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians and applies the brakes automatically if necessary. It can also warn the driver if they are straying out of their lane, and help them steer back into it if needs be. The car can also warn the driver about changes in speed limits and automatically reset the standard speed limiter to suit. You do need to pay extra for the full, semi-autonomous ‘Professional’ driver aids package though, this including active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, cross traffic alerts and more besides.
Meanwhile, TV news loves showing BMW drivers stuck in the snow in winter travel reports – if you live somewhere where weather can close in and don’t want to be that person you can opt for four-wheel drive on some models too, though the options are more limited than the saloon. It’s standard on the M340i and optional on 320d and 330d.
How comfortable is the BMW 3 Series
Even in its most basic form, the interior of the BMW 3 Series is very high in quality, with tactile materials and slick switches used throughout. The driving position is quite low down, but comes with a lot of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. The seats are wonderfully supportive, too, and leather upholstery is standard on most versions.
Boot space is critical in any estate car, and the good news for the 3 Series Touring is that its 500-litre loadspace holds a slim advantage over those of its two main rivals, the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class Estate. A bulky bootlid can be tricky to open in a tight parking space, so the 3 Series has a rear window that opens independently of the rest of the tailgate that allows you to drop smaller bags in easily. It’s a really handy touch.
The way the 3 Series behaves on the road depends largely on the specification of the car. Even with the least hardcore of the various suspension setups fitted, the car has a very sporty character. It’s grippy, controlled and keen to change direction, and the crisp, feelsome steering also helps makes it really enjoyable to drive on a twisty road, more so than any of its rivals. Be aware, though, that even with the most forgiving setup, it’s still not as smooth as some rivals, especially on the larger wheel options. M Sport specification also adds a firmer-still sports suspension, though this can be mitigated by going for the optional adaptive dampers you can switch to a more comfortable mode if required. It’s well worth the upgrade if you can afford it.
Features of the BMW 3 Series
BMW uses the familiar SE, Sport and M Sport line-up for the 3 Series, though each is offered with tempting packages that group together various extras for a reasonable price. The 3 Series SE includes alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, three-zone climate control, cool ambient lighting inside, a snazzy ‘light carpet’ outside to light the way to the car in the dark, heated front seats, parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and touchscreen infotainment with sat-nav, Bluetooth and lots more.
The Sport model adds exterior and interior embellishments, a larger fuel tank and leather sports seats, while the M Sport variant gets a lot of extra equipment, such as a head-up display, gesture control and the digital instruments, along with a much sportier appearance inside and out.
Power for a BMW 3 Series
No version of the 3 Series is slow, and there’s a wide range of engine options, from the 320i petrol and frugal 318d diesel, to the M340i high-performance variant.
The 330i shares its turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with the 320i, and it delivers more satisfying go, capably playing the understudy to the overtly quick M340i. The latter is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that sounds fantastic and produces 374 horsepower for some serious pace.
If thriftiness is more important to you (as it is to most 3 Series buyers), then diesel power is hard to ignore. The entry-level 318d will be powerful enough for most drivers, with keen responses from the middle of the rev range and upwards, but many buyers will favour the more powerful 320d, and we can see why. It pulls more effectively, making your progress much more relaxed, and it also disguises its considerable performance with its quietness and civility.
We suspect that, for many, it'll deliver everything you need in an estate car. But if you're hankering for more power still, then the 330d kicks things up a notch further, with huge muscle available throughout the entire rev range and a super-smooth power delivery. At a price.