What's the used BMW 3 Series estate like?
The BMW 3 Series saloon has defined the compact executive car class for many years now, so it’s not surprising that those buyers seeking out a classy estate of equivalent merit flock to the Touring version. It embodies all the good qualities of the saloon, with a dose of extra practicality thrown in.
This sixth-generation version is roomier than 3 Series' of old, too, so it now makes even more sense as an estate car. In fact, its boot is roughly the same size as its main rivals, the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate, though it’s worth noting that it can't match the capacity offered by the Skoda Superb Estate and the Volkswagen Passat Estate.
There are a wide range of petrol engine options, starting with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that was introduced as the 134bhp 316i (but was later renamed 318i in a 2015 facelift), which is surprisingly willing, considering its small size. Then there are the 2.0-litre 181bhp 320i, 242bhp 228i and 248bhp 330i, with the high-performance, 3.0-litre six-cylinder 302bhp 335i and 321bhp 340i versions completing the lineup. Diesel options, which have always been the better sellers, include the economical 114bhp 316d, 148bhp 318d, 181bhp 320d and 218bhp 325d, as well as the more powerful 3.0-litre, six-cylinder 254bhp 330d and 309bhp 335d models.
As for trim levels, all 3 Series' are well equipped, with the excellent iDrive infotainment system and alloy wheels, climate control and a multi-function leather steering wheel coming as standard even on the cheaper ES versions. SE trim adds dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. Pre-facelift cars were also available in Modern, Sport and Luxury trims, whereas M Sport models have 18in wheels, lowered and stiffened suspension, sports seats and sporty styling tweaks.
However, the main attribute of the 3 Series Touring is the way it drives. It’s rear-wheel drive and offers a great driving experience, steering and handling with just enough precision for a keen driver. There’s also an excellent four-wheel drive option: the xDrive. It rides well, too, though versions without the optional adaptive suspension can be a bit too firm; especially so with the M Sport suspension, which we'd avoid.
Inside, there’s the quality you expect from the premium BMW badge, with an upmarket interior and that much-lauded iDrive infotainment system controller. Overall, it is a much plainer design than the glitzy C-Class, but it does feel far better screwed together, coming close to the quality feel of the superbly finished A4.
Also, the 3 Series misses out on the standard-fit lumbar adjustment thah comes as standard on its main rivals. Still, there is plenty of adjustment to help you find a comfortable driving position, although, whatever way you sit, you'll have to get used to the restricted rearwards visibility due to a small back window.
Passenger accommodation is pretty good for those in the second row; head and leg room are more generous than its closest competitors can offer. Load-lugging is made easier by a flexible 40:20:40 split folding rear bench and standard fit electric tailgate. The boot isn't as long as the one found in the A4, nor does it have a handy cover that rises out of the way automatically, but the 3 Series has greater underfloor storage to hide things away, plus the rear window can be opened to stuff in smaller items if you can't open the whole tailgate.