As if a five-star Autocar road test accolade wasn’t a big enough haul for 2012, the BMW 3-series is back for more. No doubt spurred on by overwhelming critical acclaim, Munich isn’t hanging around when it comes to fleshing out the meat of its big-selling compact exec range.

Having been offered a streamlined selection of models from the launch of the F30 3-series in the spring, UK buyers can now order an entry-level 134bhp 316i saloon for less than £23,000 – a sum that won’t currently buy you a top-of-the-range 1.6-litre Ford Mondeo Ecoboost. You can also buy a 320i xDrive, in which four driven wheels feature in a BMW saloon for the first time since the E34 525ix of 1991, and even a petrol-electric ActiveHybrid 3.

Now, the first six-cylinder diesel engine has been added to the range. And at the same time, we’ve been given the first alternative to a four-door saloon body style, in the shape of the added-practicality estate. This brings us neatly to a route via which we can assess the merits of a 3-series that should have performance, economy, practicality and premium allure to spare: the 330d Touring.

Top 5 Compact execs

  • BMW 3-series
    The 3-series remains strong in the areas it has always excelled but now it's more rounded than ever

    BMW 3-series

    1
  • Mercedes-Benz C-class
    The C-class shares a lot of its looks with the new S-class, furthering its desirability

    Mercedes-Benz C-class

    2
  • The Audi A4 saloon is bigger, roomier and more aerodynamic than its predecessor

    Audi A4

    3
  • The CC offers a handsome alternative to the staid Passat

    Volkswagen CC

    4
  • Volvo S60
    The Volvo S60 is offered with an impressive new D4 diesel engine

    Volvo S60

    5

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