Handsome Touring makes lots of sense as a 2.0-litre petrol
320i boasts the same quality cabin as other Threes
Touring cabin and boot are now genuinely practical
The BMW 3 Series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder
AT LAST THE BMW 3-series Touring is a proper estate car and not just a stylish and slightly more capacious version of the saloon.In previous models, the Touring tended to be better for journeys to the squash club than to Waitrose. True, you can still buy more estate car space for your money, but not among the BMW’s natural rivals. Mercedes’ C-class and Audi’s A4 estates now can’t match the BMW for loadspace, a remarkable change in the hierarchy.A few weeks ago we road-tested the 325i SE Touring. It had a slightly disappointing low-speed ride but the handling was every bit as good as the saloon’s and it looked better. But at £26,905 it seemed pricey, especially considering the sparse standard equipment.Cue the 320i. If performance isn’t right at the top of your priority list, this new 2.0-litre version makes a lot of sense. The 1995cc four-cylinder engine, made at BMW’s Hams Hall engine plant in Oxfordshire, pumps out 150bhp at 6200rpm and 147lb ft of torque at 3600rpm. Top speed of 137mph is only 8mph down on the 325i’s figure. The 0-62mph time is 2.0sec slower – and that’s pretty noticeable – but a 9.4sec time is still brisk enough for most drivers.Better still, the smaller-engined Touring manages a clear 10mpg fuel consumption advantage (37.2mpg combined for the 325i; 27.5 for the 325i). What’s more, losing two cylinders has more effect on the sound than the refinement. The new four-cylinder engine is smooth and quiet, even when revved hard. It comes with a standard six-speed manual ’box with a six-speed Steptronic auto as a £1490 option.Starting price for the base 320i ES Touring is £23,040, though the £24,070 SE is a better choice as it includes climate control and a multifunction steering wheel.Now you can tell the Joneses you own a 3-series Touring for its image, style, handling – and its practicality.