BMW 3 Series Touring (2012-2019) Review
With upmarket build quality, a premium badge and a big dose of driving fun, the practical 3 Series Touring is an impressive family estate
Strengths & weaknesses
As a smart-looking posh estate car that delivers driving fun and plenty of space for you, your family and all your luggage, the BMW 3 Series Touring adds up to a highly compelling package.
Although it was on sale for seven years, this version of the 3 Series Touring felt fresh, capable and up to date even when it was phased out in favour of the redesigned model in 2019. So if you go for an older 3 Series Touring, you won’t feel short-changed.
True, it faces stiff competition for your custom from the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class Estate, as well as posh family SUVs such as the Mercedes GLC and even the BMW X3, but the 3 Series Touring remains an impressively capable car.
It comes with a range of engines that include the 116hp 316d, 150hp 318d, the 320d that comes with power of up to 190hp and 221hp 325d four-cylinder diesels plus the 258hp 330d and 313hp 335d 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesels.
Diesel sales far outnumbered petrol models during the course of this version of the 3 Series Touring’s time on sale, but petrol-powered versions, although rarer, are every bit as appealing. The 1.5-litre 316i (later renamed the 318i) kicked things off with 136hp. 2.0-litre petrol models include the 320i (184hp) the 328i (245hp) and the 330i (with 251hp and replacing the 328i). At the top of the tree is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. In earlier models this is the 306hp 335i, but in later versions the power is upped to 325hp and the name badge changes to 340i.
BMW’s aim with the 3 Series Touring is to make a practical family car that’s fun to drive, and it certainly succeeds with this model. Whichever engine you go for it’s entertaining from behind the wheel, and it handles corners with very little body lean - which should please keen drivers. Both manual and automatic gearboxes are smooth and satisfying to use, and the four-wheel-drive versions - branded as ‘xDrive’ by BMW - offer the added security of more traction in slippery conditions or on low-grip road surfaces such as muddy tracks and gravel.
Some models come with adaptive suspension, too, so you can adjust how compliant or firm you want the ride to be, depending on your mood. Trim levels are a little complicated due to the availability of various option packs, but they essentially boil down to four choices: ES, SE, Sport and M Sport.
The most basic ES models get 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control, a digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control. Upgrade to SE and you’ll find automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, plus dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors.
Sport trim adds some gloss black detailing outside, dashes of red trim inside and sports seats, while M Sport models get 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, firmer suspension and a sporty-looking styling kit.
Complicating the 3 Series trim levels is the fact that, before 2017, there were also ‘Modern’ and ‘Luxury’ models. ‘Modern’ is roughly equivalent to the Sport trim except with matt chrome trim inserts, while Luxury-spec cars get an upgraded leather interior and wood trim for the door cards and dashboard.
Regardless of trim level, the interior of the BMW 3 Series Touring feels well built and deserving of the premium BMW badge. It’s very user-friendly, too, with the rotary 'iDrive' controller making it easy to access the car's media system, including stereo and sat-nav functions while on the move.
Should I get a BMW 3 Series Touring?
✔ Really enjoyable to drive
✔ Feels like a premium product
✔ Impressively efficient diesel engines
✘ Low-end versions not especially well equipped
✘ Other estates have bigger boots
✘ No plug-in hybrid option in estate form
If you’re a keen driver and reluctant to sacrifice a fun driving experience for boot space and room for the family, then you should certainly have the 3 Series Touring on your shortlist.
In fact, the 3 Series Touring will fit the bill for people with many different motoring requirements. If value for money is top of the list for you, a 316d ES or 318d ES will fit the bill, although it has to be said that SE and M Sport trims were much more popular when these cars were new, so are easier to find second-hand.
If you want a real performance kick, then it’s worth seeking out a 335d diesel or a 335i or 340i petrol - though the latter two are quite rare.
And for all-round ability, then a 320d M Sport with the optional xDrive four-wheel-drive system takes some beating, balancing sharp looks with impressive fuel economy, and enough performance to satisfy keen drivers.
- Models explained
- Trim levels
- Hybrid/Plug-in hybrid
- Batteries and range
- Charging/Charge time
- Best 3 Series Touring for...
- Boot space
- Should I buy used?
Which BMW 3 Series Touring to buy: trim levels
|ES||Limited stock: The most basic 3 Series Tourings aren’t hugely generous in the equipment they offer, but they do get a smallish 6.5-inch central media system, digital radio, cruise control and single-zone climate control.|
|SE||Limited stock: Automatic lights and windscreen wipers, plus dual-zone climate control are the key additions if you step up to the SE models, as well as rear parking sensors. On the used market, these are much more common than ES versions, too.|
|Sport||Limited stock: Sport doesn’t offer an enormous amount more in the way of goodies than the SE trim, but it is, as the name suggests, a little more sporty. This is because it gets sports seats, red interior trim highlights and black exterior trim instead of chrome|
|M Sport||Limited stock: M Sport is the most common trim level, and includes sports suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels and a sporty-looking body kit. This makes M Sport the choice for those who want racy looks along with a more engaging drive.|
Best BMW 3 Series Touring engine
BMW has built its reputation on the quality of its engines, and pretty much every engine available in the 3 Series Touring is impressive for a variety of reasons. It would be easy, too, to recommend the super-powerful six-cylinder diesel 335d or petrol 340i, as they provide genuine sports car performance and an engaging drive.
But really, the sweet spot of the range is the 2.0-litre diesel 320d. This engine provides ample power, meaning you benefit from strong, flexible performance at motorway speeds and for overtaking, while at the same time being able to achieve 50mpg fuel economy with relative ease.
Best BMW 3 Series Touring model for…
The more performance-focused models are exciting to drive, the diesels are impressively economical and the various trim levels cater for both more comfort-oriented tastes and for those after a more sporty driving experience. So, whatever you're after, there should be a suitable 3 Series Touring.
|BMW 320d SE Touring: If you’re on a bit of a tight budget, it’s still worth steering clear of ES models - SE is more generous with standard equipment, and there aren’t that many ES models available. It’s worth stretching to the 320d if you can, too; the lower-powered diesels are much less satisfying to drive.|
|BMW 320d Sport Touring. All estate BMW 3 Series models make great family cars, but the 320d mixes decent performance with excellent fuel economy, while the ride in Sport trim will be a little more comfortable for passengers.|
|BMW 340i M Sport Touring: There is no such thing as a Touring version of the M3 (the most high-performance version of the 3 Series) for this era of Touring, so the most powerful choice is the 340i. You won’t feel like you're short on performance though - with 325hp it can go from 0-62mph in less than five seconds.|
|BMW 316d Touring: The 116hp 316d might well be impressively economical, but it isn’t really powerful enough to make this version of the 3 Series Touring sufficiently interesting to drive - especially if you often carry lots of passengers or heavy loads.|
BMW 3 Series Touring rivals
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The key rivals to consider if you are looking at the BMW 3 Series Touring are the Audi A4 Avant and the Mercedes C-Class Estate. You’ll get an equally upmarket-feeling experience from all three, and both the Audi and the Mercedes offer just as broad a choice of engine options and trim levels. The Audi offers marginally the most boot space, though.
However, the Mercedes is the only one of this German trio to offer plug-in hybrid power, with both diesel and petrol choices available, depending upon whether you do most of your driving around town, or want to cover lots of long journeys as well as being able to use electric power in the city.
Another posh estate car that gives you a plug-in hybrid option is the Volvo V60. The version on sale before 2018 has too small a boot for many drivers and lags behind the 3 Series in terms of design, but the redesigned model launched in 2018 is much more up to date and fresher looking. Like the Mercedes, it’s available with plug-in hybrid power as well as conventional petrol and diesel engines and its boot is a good size - the largest of all its direct rivals.
Other cars you might want to consider are posh SUVs such as the BMW X3, Volvo XC60 or Mercedes GLC, though high-riding models such as these typically come with a price premium, use more fuel and are less sporty to drive.
BMW 3 Series Touring practicality: dimensions and boot space
BMW 3 Series Touring dimensions
At 4.6m long, 1.8m wide and 1.4m tall, the 3 Series Touring is very similar in its vital statistics to rivals from Mercedes and Audi, although both the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class Estate are slightly longer (by around 10cm).
This makes the 3 Series Touring a moderately large car, which has obvious benefits in terms of interior space (although the redesigned model sold after 2019 has better rear-seat space) but does mean it’s fairly bulky on the road. Many models have parking sensors fitted, however, so look out for those if you’re concerned about squeezing into tight parking spaces.
|Length 4,633mm||Width 1,811mm|
|Height 1,429mm||Weight 1,465kg - 1,735kg|
BMW 3 Series Touring boot space
A volume of 495 litres is a reasonable amount of room for the boot. It’s around 15 litres more than the equivalent 3 Series saloon can muster, and you get the extra practicality of the hatchback tailgate, which makes it more usable still when it comes to loading large items. There’s also the fact that the rear seats split into three sections that can be folded separately, which is helpful if you have longer loads, but still need to use one or even two rear seats.
This version of 3 Series Touring has about the same amount of space as you’ll find in rivals from Mercedes and Audi, but the post-2018 Volvo V60 outdoes the 3 Series, with 529 litres of space on offer.
|Seats up 495 litres||Seats down 1,500 litres|
BMW 3 Series Touring reliability
Reliability hasn’t always been a strong suit of BMWs in recent years, but the ones built between 2012 and 2019 seem to be pretty well regarded overall.
The model came 29th out of 75 models surveyed in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power reliability survey, for example. And while that’s not a stellar performance, it should be enough to provide you with reasonable assurance of trouble-free, reliable motoring.
BMW 3 Series Touring warranty
BMW’s standard warranty only lasts for three years, so won’t be relevant to this version of the 3 Series Touring, as all of this generation are now over that age. However, BMW does offer extended warranties on its cars from new, so you may find one with a longer warranty added on.
While the 3 Series Touring is a relatively reliable car, it's not perfect and if you'd value extra peace of mind when getting a used car then you could also consider paying extra for an aftermarket warranty.
|3 years||Unlimited miles|
AVERAGE REPAIR COST PAID BY WARRANTYWISE: £721
Used BMW 3 Series Touring: should I buy one?
This version of the BMW 3 Series Touring was a popular body style of one of BMW’s most popular cars during the time it was on sale, mainly because the 3 Series excels in so many ways.
The overwhelming majority of models are diesel-powered, and of these the 320d engine is the most common. But that’s a good thing, because it’s the one that most effortlessly blends impressive fuel economy with strong and flexible performance.
Petrol-powered 3 Series Tourings are also very capable cars. The smaller-engined 320i, 328i and 330i offer peppy performance, along with a smooth and hushed engine plus fuel economy that’s not far off what you’ll get from a diesel. If you have a bit more budget to play with, then the six-cylinder 335i and 340i models are fast and fun, but they are rare.
Petrol versions are more common post-2016, and will often have done lower mileages than diesel examples, so if you can find a suitable one, it could be a good choice.
The fact that BMW is a premium brand can mean that initial list prices may seem high compared with similar cars from non-premium car manufacturers, but the fact that the 3 Series is desirable means that it holds onto its value well as used car. As a result, PCP finance monthly payments can be relatively affordable, because these are based on how much value a car is expected to lose during the finance contract term.
Best BMW 3 Series Touring deals
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If you’re considering earlier examples of this era of 3 Series Touring then diesel models will represent easily the biggest choice. If maximum fuel efficiency is important to you, then the 318d and 320d will be the ones to seek out, but the six-cylinder 330d and 335d provide seriously punchy performance without sacrificing too much in the way of fuel-efficiency.
Diesel models will be the best choice for high-mileage drivers, but if you do fewer miles it might well be worth seeking out one of the petrol-powered models, especially the six-cylinder 340i, as this is refined but exciting to drive.
In terms of trim levels, M Sport specification is the best-equipped and arguably the best-looking, with larger alloy wheels and an aggressively styled body kit, and M Sport trim is available with most engine options, too.
The sporty suspension you get with M Sport cars can be rather firm and uncomfortable on rough roads, though, so it’s worth considering a Sport or an SE trim car if you’re after a smoother ride. Technically these are ‘lower-spec’ models, but they’re still well equipped, especially if the original owner of the car has gone delving into the extensive list of optional extras.
*Representative PCP finance - 2018 Ford Fiesta 1.0 ST-Line Hatchback:
|PCP representative example||APR rates available|
|Cash price £12,000||APR 7.90%||Value of loan||From|
|Fixed monthly payment £218.12||Annual mileage of 8,000pa||£25,000+||6.9%|
|Total cost of credit £2,755.55||Term 48 months||£12,000-£24,999||7.9%|
|Optional final payment £4,285.79||Loan value £12,000||£8,000-£11,999||8.9%|
|Total amount payable £14,755.55||Deposit £0||<8,000||9.9%|
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.
Fun to drive, and with an upmarket feel, there are few more impressive posh saloons than the BMW 3 Series