BMW IS BACK WITH A TOUR DE FORCE

Ger­man car­maker’s lat­est model of­fers a stronger pack­age for those who don’t like to pack light

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JONATHAN CROUCH

CON­VEN­TIONAL wis­dom dic­tates that es­tate cars are de­signed for peo­ple who can’t fit all the para­pher­na­lia of mod­ern life in­side a con­ven­tional saloon or hatch­back model. You’d cer­tainly imag­ine that an es­tate would re­quire a lot more space than the saloon on which it is based in or­der to jus­tify its own ex­is­tence but, par­tic­u­larly in the com­pact ex­ec­u­tive sec­tor where BMW’S 3 Se­ries Tour­ing com­petes, it isn’t al­ways that straight­for­ward.

It will be a sur­prise for most peo­ple to learn that many com­pact ex­ec­u­tive es­tate cars are only frac­tion­ally roomier than their saloon equiv­a­lents and some even have less space out back. In this case, you get only 15-litres more boot ca­pac­ity than you would in the saloon, de­spite a near-£1,500 price premium.

But then you don’t buy a car of this kind for its lug­gage-cram­ming tal­ents. Yes, you want a bit of prac­ti­cal­ity but if you’re a typ­i­cal cus­tomer, you’ll be more in­ter­ested in the fact that the es­tate bodystyle is a lit­tle more ‘ life­style’ and a lit­tle less ‘field sales’ than a saloon is per­ceived to be. BMW has traded on this for years with the 3 Se­ries Tour­ing, as has Audi with its A4 Avant and Mercedes with its C- Class Es­tate. With both th­ese two Ger­man ri­vals now use­fully im­proved, BMW needed to up its game. Let’s see if it has.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

The well-versed themes of the 3 Se­ries are present and cor­rect in this lat­est gen­er­a­tion Tour­ing. The car in ques­tion is rear wheel drive, it fea­tures a very metic­u­lously bal­anced weight dis­tri­bu­tion, and, as a re­sult, BMW is keen to po­si­tion this Tour­ing as the best model to drive in its class. What has changed in re­cent years is a clearer fo­cus on ef­fi­ciency and this gen­er­a­tion Tour­ing cam­paigns with some hugely im­pres­sive en­gines.

De­sign and Build

It won’t sur­prise you to learn that from the front bumper to the B-pil­lar, the 3 Se­ries Tour­ing is iden­ti­cal to the saloon ver­sion. From the side, this gen­er­a­tion 3 Se­ries Tour­ing is de­fined by a sweep­ing sil­hou­ette, with a gen­tly slop­ing roofline and glasshouse that ex­tends to the rear of the ve­hi­cle. The head­lights have also been tin­kered with, LED in­di­ca­tors now act­ing as eye­brows across the top of the light units. The cabin has had a sim­i­larly light touch ap­plied to it, with a splash of chrome here and a high-gloss sur­face there.

This lat­est Tour­ing model of­fers only a nom­i­nal in­crease in car­ry­ing abil­ity over the saloon ver­sion, but the en­trance aper­ture is a lot big­ger, al­low­ing you to trans­port bulkier ob­jects that much more eas­ily.

Mar­ket and Model

The cost to get your­self this Tour­ing es­tate ver­sion of the 3 Se­ries — rather than the saloon ver­sion — is just un­der £1,500. That means pric­ing that starts at around £26,500 for the petrol range and just un­der £29,000 for the diesel line-up. The Tour­ing range shares the same trim struc­ture as the saloon mod­els, SE, Sport, Lux­ury and M Sport. Equip­ment lev­els have been beefed up (as they needed to be) and all ver­sions of this car get a very com­plete tally.

Even in SE trim, this runs to al­loy wheels of at least 17-inches in size, a chrome-trimmed ex­haust, LED day­time run­ning lights, LED rear lights, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing and auto head­lamps and wipers. In­side, you’ll find two-zone air con­di­tion­ing, Blue­tooth, cruise con­trol, a BMW Busi­ness Nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, a high qual­ity stereo sys­tem with DAB tuner, a multi-func­tion leather-trimmed steer­ing wheel and BMW’S ‘Emer­gency Call’ sys­tem, there to au­to­mat­i­cally alert the emer­gency ser­vices should you have an ac­ci­dent.

Cost of Own­er­ship

BMW has con­cen­trated on im­prov­ing the ef­fi­ciency of the 3 Se­ries Tour­ing and there are ben­e­fits right across the board. The three-cylin­der petrol en­gine in the 318i vari­ant records CO2 emis­sions that can be as lit­tle as 133g/ km in man­ual form, or as lit­tle as 129g/ km with the eight-speed Step­tronic trans­mis­sion fit­ted, a big im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous BMW 316i. Fuel con­sump­tion is equally im­pres­sive, with the 318i Tour­ing re­turn­ing 49.6mpg in man­ual form. Of course, most UK cus­tomers will look to the diesel en­gines and they’re not go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed. For ex­am­ple, the 316d Tour­ing man­ual model re­turns up to 64.2mpg in man­ual form, with CO2 emis­sions of 116g/km.

Sum­mary

The 3 Se­ries Tour­ing has long been one of the quiet achievers in BMW’S model range. It might just be the low­est key car the Ger­man gi­ant sells but it’s also one of the most im­pres­sive. Look be­hind the low-key styling and you find a car that does so much so well.

What’s more, es­tate car buy­ers usu­ally have a sense of the prag­matic and will ap­pre­ci­ate the great strides BMW have made with this im­proved ver­sion in terms of ef­fi­ciency. It used to be that noth­ing re­ally got close to a 3 Se­ries in this re­gard. The gap has nar­rowed in re­cent years, but this 3 Se­ries Tour­ing still as­ton­ishes in of­fer­ing sports car straight line speed with su­per­mini fuel and tax bills.

Plus ,of course, this model re­tains its unique sell­ing point, some­thing that no other pres­ti­gious com­pact es­tate in this seg­ment can of­fer — rear wheel drive. If you’re an en­thu­si­ast, you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the ben­e­fits at once the first time you throw the car into a cor­ner. Even if you’re not, you might no­tice more re­spon­sive­ness through the turns than you might usu­ally ex­pect from a car of this type. With con­tenders in this class so closely matched, it’s the sort of thing that might tip the bal­ance BMW’S way. Try a Tour­ing and you’ll see why.

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