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First Drive: BMW 3 Series Touring

By / 8 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

SECTOR Compact executive  PRICE £30,400 – £37,700  FUEL 44.5 – 60.1mpg  CO2 124 – 159g/km

Appealing to both head and heart, with an unusual combination of high performance, luxury and low running costs on offer, the 3 Series has become a key asset in BMW’s fleet portfolio and a tough package to match. But if the saloon didn’t manage to offer everything most drivers would need, the Touring arrives in the UK from September to fill in those last small gaps.

Scandinavia may be Europe’s biggest market for the luxury estate car, but it’s a popular model in the UK, too. Previous generations of 3 Series Touring have accounted for around 20% of the total volume, and sales stick rigidly to that pattern usually until run-out. So BMW is predicting exactly the same for its latest version, expecting 8,500 UK buyers to choose the Touring in its first full year, a 21% share of 3 Series sales.

With such a tried and tested formula to work from, there aren’t any real visual surprises here. Typically BMW in its understated masculinity, it’d be easy enough to mistake this for the 5 Series, at least from the back. But while the styling is entirely predictable, it’s right on target for a loyal fanbase. No risks taken, but no feet put wrong either.

Touring models add £1,300-£1,400 to the price of a saloon, and in most cases push the car up a single BiK band, so the additional practicality adds little cost. Only three powerplants will be available at launch – the 328i, 320d and 330d – and all come under 160g/km, and are even lower with the eight-speed automatic gearbox ensuring the most efficient shifts possible.

In line with the saloon, a wider engine range will follow over its first 12 months, but UK buyers won’t get the EfficientDynamics version bound for Europe, which is a shame, and there are no plans for an ActiveHybrid 3 Touring. There’s also exactly the same range of trim levels, including the cosseting Luxury and Modern versions and the traditionally popular Sport and M-Sport with their aggressive body styling and large alloy wheels.

There’s a familiar feeling of well-engineered practicality inside and out. The independently opening rear glass is carried forward from the outgoing car, and the whole tailgate now opens electronically for all models, with an optional touchless opening system activated by swinging a foot under the rear bumper. With a low loading lip, it’s easy to hustle large and heavy items into the back.

Thoughtfulness continues inside, where BMW is one of the few manufacturers to include a storage space for the removed cargo blind under a flap at the back of the boot. The rear seat folds almost flat in three independent sections, released quickly, and the boot area is awash with hooks and lashing points for cargo nets to keep loads secure. Nets and the telescopic boot divider can be stowed under the boot floor, which is optionally reversible to include a dirt-resistant section. 

Climate control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, iDrive with a comprehensive trip computer, cruise control and ECO PRO fuel-saving modes are fitted to every model in the range, and all come with at least 17-inch alloy wheels. The obvious oversight is satellite navigation, which adds £1,550.

Upping practicality hasn’t done any damage to its driver appeal, and although BMW only had the 328i petrol to test on the launch, the 3 Series Touring should be almost as much fun with its best-selling 320d engine. It’s a convincing double-act between being a long-legged motorway cruiser and tight, responsive sports car when the mood takes you, offering brilliant ride quality and plentiful grip and power.

 

Verdict

The 3 Series Touring offers very few surprises, but that’s by no means a bad thing. This takes the best bits of the latest saloon and adds incredibly well-executed practicality to the appeal for a small uplift in price and fuel consumption. A 320d ED model would be desirable though.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.