Used BMW 3 Series Touring 1999 - 2005 review

Category: Estate car

The BMW 3 Series Touring is reasonably practical, has a fine drive and holds its value very well.

BMW 3 Series Touring (98 - 07)
  • BMW 3 Series Touring (98 - 07)
  • BMW 3 Series Touring (98 - 07)
Used BMW 3 Series Touring 1999 - 2005 review
Star rating

What's the used BMW 3 Series estate like?

As long as you don't think you're buying a workhorse estate, the BMW 3 Series Touring is fine. It may be bigger than previous models, and compare well with rivals from Audi and Mercedes, but this is no Volvo. It only brings a slight increase in practicality over the saloon.

Fortunately, you don't sacrifice sharp handling. Compared with the previous model, this car's sporting edge was softened slightly so it could compete with the comfort and refinement of the likes of the Mercedes C-Class Estate. However, it remained the best car in its class to drive, with a fantastic blend of ride, handling and well weighted controls that none of its rivals could touch.


The BMW 3 Series Touring is reasonably practical, has a fine drive and holds its value very well.

  • The Touring adds practicality to the 3 Series range without sacrificing the saloon's excellent drive
  • It's not great at carrying big loads and it's quite expensive on the used market

Build quality is as good as you could expect of a German prestige car, and equipment levels are good across the range.

Ownership cost

What used BMW 3 Series estate will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a BMW 3 Series estate?

The only trouble with the Touring is that, like any 3 Series, it's so desirable – which means it's an expensive used buy.

However, once you have one, running costs aren't too bad. Four-cylinder petrol cars (especially the later models) return well over 30mpg, and even the six-cylinder models aren't too far behind, as long as you drive gently.

In the 320d, you'll see mpg as high as the upper 40s, and even the 330d returns over 40mpg, which is remarkable in a car that hits 60mph in just over 7 seconds.

Insurance won't be cheap, with no models below group 10, but that's no worse than rivals from Audi and Mercedes. Perhaps most surprisingly, maintenance costs aren't steep, either. Figures from Warranty Direct show that average bills on BMWs are on a par with those for VWs.

Our recommendations

Which used BMW 3 Series estate should I buy?

There isn't a bad BMW 3 Series Touring – or even a disappointing one. The best two are the petrol 318i and the diesel 320d, with the 318i's lower prices making it our preferred option. However, if you cover high mileages or regulary carry big loads, the better economy and greater pull of the diesel car may be more attractive.

Each engine has its own strengths, but the 1.9-litre unit in the 316i is weak for a car of this size, and the 320d is worth the extra over the 318d. Gearboxes aren't a worry: manuals are slick, autos smooth.

On most early models, trim comes in (unbadged) standard or SE forms, but Sport and ES gradually joined the range over the years. On early cars, the SE's extra equipment makes it the one to go for, but on later cars, ES is the top choice - it has much of the SE's attractions at a lower price.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here


What alternatives should I consider to a used BMW 3 Series estate?