None of these cars is bad to drive. In fact, they're all highly accomplished around town as well as up and down the motorway.
The Volkswagen is comfortable, the 3 Series is the most fun and the 5 Series is the one to go for if you spend a lot of time cruising at high speed.
It isn't surprising that the Golf is the slowest of all three at 122bhp the 1.4-litre petrol has 55bhp less than the 2.0-litre diesel the BMWs share.
Since the smaller BMW is lighter than the 5 Series, it's fastest from 0-62mph at 7.5sec. The 5 Series time of 8.6sec is 0.9sec better than the Golf's 9.5sec. Top speeds are 124mph for the Golf, 146mph for the 3 Series and 144mph for the 5 Series.
The Golf is the smallest car of the lot, that's clear, but it's not far off the 3 Series in the cabin.
Its boot space of 350 litres with the seats up is beaten by both BMWs 110 litres in the case of the 3 Series and 170 litres with the 5 Series. Unless you can find the BMWs fitted with the folding rear seat option, the VW trumps them both with 1305 litres of room with the boot extended.
The Golf and 3 Series both got five stars in Euro NCAP crash test, while the 5 Series netted four.