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BMW 3 Series Touring Review


The BMW 3 Series is, by a nose, the best premium executive car you can lease. No ifs, no buts. Yes, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is very good and the Audi A4 is undoubtedly very competent, but the 3 Series is the one to have. It drives like a dream, it looks and feels classy, and the technology on board is first rate.

So when BMW adds a bigger boot to all those qualities, you expect the result to be pretty epic. The 3 Series Touring is exactly that. Despite being oomier and more practical than its saloon car sibling, it’s still brilliant to drive, it’s still luxurious and it still looks great. It isn't perfect, but in the right trim and with the right engine, it’s very, very close.

Review Sections

  • At a Glance
  • Key Features
  • Performance & Drive
  • Running Costs & Emissions
  • Interior & Technology
  • Practicality & Boot Space
  • Safety
  • Options
  • Rival Cars
  • Verdict & Next Steps
  • Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5

    At a Glance

    This is the premium executive estate car to rule them all. It’s simply a big-booted version of the 3 Series saloon that is so popular with customers, and it inherits all its sibling’s talents. The driving experience is unbelievably good, with poise, balance and agility, as well as a pliant, supple ride. If you want your posh family car to handle, get yourself one of these.

    Then there’s the cabin, which is first class. The seats are soft and supportive, the dashboard is beautifully built and all the switchgear feels substantial and well engineered. You even get some clever technology in the digital instrument cluster and the iDrive infotainment system, which remains one of the best fitted to any car on the planet.

    But all those qualities are already present in the 3 Series saloon. The estate adds a bigger boot that’s easier to use, with a better shape for carrying bulkier objects. And it does that without really compromising the looks. The 3 Series isn’t breath-takingly pretty, but it looks smart and stylish in a modern sort of way.

    Key Features

    Although the 3 Series’ biggest attribute is the way it drives, the BMW has plenty of other things going for it. Chief among these is the iDrive infotainment system, which is streets ahead of pretty much anything else on the market. It gives you a choice of methods to control the screen, and that gives you the chance to use it without taking your eyes off the road. It might sound like a minor thing, but it has a potentially enormous safety advantage.

    Other useful additions include the optional head-up display, which is well worth specifying, and the shortcut button for the Active Guard safety tech. Gizmos such as the lane departure warning system can be somewhat irritating – particularly on country roads – and the shortcut button gives you a simple way of switching things off and on. A little configuration might be required before you set off for the first time, but once you get used to things it will become second nature.

    Performance & Drive

    The 3 Series engine range is extensive, and that’s a bit of a headache for would-be customers. That’s because BMW engines are almost always fantastic, and choosing between them is a bit like choosing the best square in a bar of Dairy Milk. You want all of them, but you have to pick one.

    Entry-level cars come with the 318i engine – a 2.0-litre petrol with 156hp and a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds – but you can also have the 184hp 320i or the 190hp 330i. They’re all 2.0-litre engines, with only the range-topping M340i offering a silky smooth 275hp 3.0-litre petrol engine with six cylinders and four-wheel drive.

    Then you’ve got the diesel options. You can have the 2.0-litre, 150hp 318d or the more powerful 190hp 320d, which is also available with four-wheel drive. Then there’s the 330d, which is the one you want (insert asterisk here). It’s a glorious six-cylinder engine with 265hp and the option of rear- or four-wheel drive. It’s refined and economical, but it’ll also get you from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. You can have a more powerful version of the same engine in the 340hp M340d, but there’s no need. The 330d is more than fast enough.

    If you’re wondering why we felt the need for a caveat alongside the 330d, it’s because of the 330e. It’s the plug-in hybrid option, mixing a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to provide 292hp and an all-electric range of up to 37 miles. Strangely, it isn’t as refined as the M340i when you’re going fast, but it is nearly as quick. It still gets from 0-62mph in less than six seconds. If you’re a company car driver, you’ll want to ditch the 330d in favour of this.

    But whichever you end up with, you’ll have perfectly adequate performance, a supple ride and absolutely brilliant handling. The 3 Series comes with beautifully well weighted steering and a superb suspension set-up that makes the car feel agile and lithe. It’s as though it’ll turn around your hips. There are sports coupes and roadsters that don’t drive as well as this big, luxurious estate car.

    Despite being a hoot on your favourite back road, the 3 Series is also good at the grown-up, boring stuff. It’s very comfortable on the motorway or in town, and the bodywork is well controlled in corners. It doesn’t pitch or roll when you brake or corner, so it’ll reduce the chances of your passengers going down with motion sickness.

    Running Costs & Emissions

    On paper, the 330e plug-in hybrid is the only choice to keep running costs down. Officially, it’ll return between 176 and 202mpg, although that assumes you’ll do mostly short journeys and charge the on-board battery regularly. If you do lots of longer trips, it’s worth considering a diesel that will manage economy in the mid ‘50s.

    But if you’re a company car driver, the 330e is realistically the only option. The all-electric range means it’s in the 11% company car tax bracket for 2021/22. Even the most efficient diesel engine, the 318d, incurs tax at a rate that’s almost three times higher. No matter what the economy, that plug-in hybrid powertrain is always going to be the top contender for company car drivers.

    Interior & Technology

    The 3 Series Touring has much the same cabin as any other BMW product. That means it’s beautifully made, with glorious build quality and high-class materials. It’s an ergonomic triumph, but a stylish and well engineered one. Chrome and leather dominate proceedings, and you get two screens to keep an eye on everything.

    The digital instrument cluster is a neat addition, but it hasn’t been executed that well. It’s a very sharp display, but the way it presents information is flawed and it’s all a bit cluttered and confusing. It’s a good idea, but one that requires some fine-tuning before it can be considered a total success.

    More impressive is the iDrive infotainment system, which combines modern graphics with an intuitive control system in the centre console. There’s a kind of wheel-cum-joystick to control the whole system, but you can use your fingers on the touch screen if you prefer it that way. The disadvantage, of course, is that approach means you have to look at the screen. Learn your way around and the control wheel will allow you to use the system without looking away from the road.

    Practicality & Boot Space

    In many ways, it’s the boot space that makes this car desirable. After all, if you don’t want the space, you just lease a saloon. Thankfully, the 3 Series’ boot stacks up, with 500 litres of space when it’s packed up to the window line. That’s only slightly more than a 3 Series saloon, but it’s the shape of that space that counts. Whereas filling the saloon is like stuffing War and Peace into a letterbox, the estate simply gobbles it up. The tailgate opening is massive, and because it’s more cubic in shape, it’s better for trips to the tip or transporting antique wingback chairs. No, it’s best you don’t ask.

    In the cabin, the space on offer is broadly similar to the saloon. There’s a similar amount of legroom and headroom isn’t vastly different, although some taller passengers might feel a little less claustrophobic thanks to the Touring’s higher roofline. But generally speaking, the estate feels more adaptable and more usable than its ‘three-box’ sibling.


    The 3 Series is an incredibly safe car. Like so many of its rivals, it boasts a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, but that’s faint praise for a machine that scored so highly. This is a car that scored 97% for adult occupant protection and 87% for both child occupant protection and vulnerable road user protection. In comparison, the Audi A4 scored 93% for adult occupant protection, while the Mercedes-Benz C-Class scored 92%. In fact, the BMW outscored or matched both the Audi and the Mercedes in every single area. Yet all three cars have five-star crash test ratings.

    If that doesn’t reassure you, we don’t know what will, but it’s worth mentioning the 3 Series’ attempts to ensure you never need that accident protection. The car comes with BMW’s Active Guard Plus technology as standard, giving you plenty of safety gizmos designed to stop collisions happening. Lane departure warning is standard, along with a system that can brake automatically if the car detects an impending collision. Go crazy with the options list and you can add even more goodies.


    The 3 Series Touring range consists of five different tiers, with each version getting more equipment and more sporting intent. Things kick off with the SE Pro, which comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery and climate control, as well as a digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. You get the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration technology, too, and there are front and rear parking sensors, plus a handy reversing camera.

    Climbing to the next rung of the range gets you the Sport Pro with its larger 18-inch alloy wheels and leather upholstery, as well as heated front seats. But the mid-range M Sport is one of the most popular options. That car gets all the Sport Pro’s equipment, but adds some sportier styling, including more aggressive bumpers, blue brake callipers and sports seats.

    Above that, you get the M Sport Pro Edition with its 19-inch black alloy wheels and glossy black exterior trim that gives it a more menacing appearance. That distinguishes the Pro Edition from the even sportier M340 range. Available in petrol or diesel form, the range-topping model provides a halfway house between the M3, which is now so hardcore it’s essentially its own model, and the more conventional 3 Series models.

    That car is marked out by its Cerium Grey exterior trim features, as well as its M Sport suspension, M Sport braking system and various other performance-orientated upgrades. The engines are unique to the M340 models and cannot be specified in conjunction with any other trim level.

    Once you’ve picked a model from the list, you’ll need to pick your way through the options list. Handy additions include the Technology Pack with its head-up display, wireless phone charging and Harman Kardon sound system, as well as the Comfort Pack, which includes a heated steering wheel. There are some great paint colours to choose from, too, including the gorgeous Tanzanite Blue and the equally lovely Portimao Blue.

    Rival Cars

    They say saloon and estate cars are being killed off by hatchbacks and SUVs, but that simply isn’t true. In all its guises, the 3 Series is one of the UK’s best-selling cars, despite competing with a host of worthy rivals. The obvious competitors are the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate and the Audi A4 Avant, both of which are enormously popular in their own rights.

    There are good reasons for that. Both are very appealing models, but each has its own exclusive traits that will either attract or repel customers. If you like style, comfort and quiet good looks, the C-Class will suit you best. If you prefer technology and build quality and minimalism, the Audi will be the car for you.

    If neither option appeals, you could also consider the Volvo V60 – Sweden’s answer to the executive estate cars. The Volvo also majors on style and comfort, but it doesn’t have the handling prowess or the engine range to be more than a likeable alternative to the ‘big three’ in this segment. Whether the same will be said of the jaw-dropping Genesis G70 Shooting Brake, only time will tell.

    Of course, you could just bite the bullet and lease the 3 Series. It’s the best car in this class when it comes to handling, and it kind of splits the difference between the C-Class and A4 in every other area. It’s awesome.

    Verdict & Next Steps

    Perfection is hard to find, and especially so in the automotive sphere. But in the BMW 330d xDrive Touring, we have something incredibly close to the holy grail. The 3 Series estate is brilliant in any guise, but the 330d is the one to have. It matches a smooth, powerful and economical engine with a glorious chassis, fabulous interior and plenty of space. It’s classy and composed, with the xDrive all-wheel drive system ensuring it feels sure footed even in bad weather. If you want one car to do pretty much anything, this is it.

    Where to next?

    View latest BMW 3 Series Touring leasing deals - guide price from £328.28 per month inc VAT**

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    *Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW 3 Series Touring

    **Correct as of 25/08/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,954.56 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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