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 saloons

  • The Jaguar XE - the big cat's new compact exec
    Jaguar's new four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine comes with either 161bhp or 178bhp outputs

    Jaguar XE

    1
  • BMW 3 Series saloon
    BMW 3 Series is priced from £24,975

    BMW 3 Series

    2
  • Ford Mondeo Titanium 180PS

    Ford Mondeo

    3
  • The 2015 Audi A4

    Audi A4

    4
  • 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

    5

First drives

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