From £23,085
Practical 3-series estate loses some of the saloon’s edge, but engine and transmission impress with controlled pace and economy

Our Verdict

BMW 3-series

The BMW 3-series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder

What is it?: 

Following our overseas drive, this 330d offers our first taste of BMW’s new compact estate on home soil, and also our first chance to sample a six-pot diesel engine in the sixth-gen 3-series.

At launch, there is also a pair of two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged cars available: the 181bhp 320d oil-burner and 242bhp 328i petrol option. Very soon, lesser versions of the same engines will wear 316d, 318d and 320i badges and offer 114bhp, 141bhp and 181bhp respectively, as in the F30 saloon.

What's it like?: 

Our cosseting 330d Luxury is one notch below top dollar at £37,200, though a staggering options tally adds a third more. We’ve previously established the Touring’s practical credentials – an electric boot with separately opening rear window, 40:20:40-splitting rear seats, and front and rear parking sensors are standard-fit for the moment – but reversing and surround-view cameras, roof rails and added storage nets also comprise a (small) portion of our car’s extras. A £700 electric towbar would add further utility.

Power is up just 12bhp over the last 330d Touring to match the 530d estate’s 254bhp, and still peaks at 4000rpm, but torque jumps 29lb ft and chimes in 250rpm earlier than before at 1500rpm, with maximum twist still available to 3000rpm. The new, compulsory, eight-speed auto gearbox’s two extra cogs may explain why weight drops by just 10kg despite mass-saving tactics elsewhere, but performance and fuel consumption both improve markedly: 0.7sec is knocked off the 0-62mph metric, while the F31’s claimed urban economy matches the E91 auto’s combined figure at 44.8mpg. Overall returns improve by nearly a quarter to 55.4mpg, while emissions drop from 165g/km of CO2 to 135g/km, easily beating the last car’s manual choice into the bargain.

That’s no doubt aided by standard-fit start-stop, but the single chassis wag during shutdown and ensuing vocal start-up shimmies soon wear thin in incremental traffic. Idle is bassy but not intrusively loud, while rising revs produce a purposeful, but still obviously oil-burning thrum, with lots of turbo whistle off-throttle. When cruising, the engine is barely audible, revealing some roar and whine from the 18in runflats. In torrential Autoroute rain, the 330d didn’t miss a beat, maintaining isolated luxury amongst the interior’s wood and leather and excellent stability. Brakes remained reassuringly short in pedal travel and sturdy in response.

The single twin-scroll turbocharger minimises lag well, offering impressive throttle response, unobtrusively marshalled by the smooth eight-speed gearbox that is more comfortable here than in the 328i. Likewise, variable weighting (standard) and variable ratio (optional) embellishments don’t taint the faithful and commendably feelsome electric steering.

In damp conditions, full-bore starts interrupted traction, but on the move on twisty B-roads grip was strong. Despite the Touring’s sturdier rear suspension setup, more pronounced lateral body movement with the £750 adaptive dampers in either normal or sport mode means it can’t recreate the nimbleness of the 185kg-lighter 320d saloon, but primary ride is excellent, and sharp bumps merely disturb rather than upset. It feels the bigger, heavier car it is, the paucity of lag perhaps adding to its more mature nature, but agility is still excellent for its class.

Should I buy one?: 

The 3-series Touring retains the talent that led the saloon to score a full five star rating when we tested it earlier this year. The Touring adds a useful amount of extra space, but is still great to drive.

The 330d isn't perfect though. Two causes for disappointment were the tight rear legroom for one 6ft 2in occupant behind another, and a very ordinary reported average of 36.9mpg between west London and Paris, despite mostly motorway miles.

Richard Webber

BMW 330d Touring Luxury Price £37,200; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 5.6sec; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2 135g/km; Kerb weight 1680kg; Engine 6 cyls, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Power 254bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 413lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

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Comments
18

29 September 2012

"....Two causes for disappointment were the tight rear legroom for one 6ft 2in occupant behind another, and ...."

Why would a car that is supposed to be a "compact" sports saloon need to accommodate one six footer behind another, in limo like comfort ? Has the 3-series not grown big enough for you guys at Autocar?

If you regularly need rear room for one tall person sitting behind another, surely you'd go for a 5-series touring instead.

29 September 2012

Or you could look at an X1 plenty of room in them. There are other car brands of course. Though as a tallish individual, I usually find the problem is headroom rather than legroom as they tend to position the rear seat cushion so children can see out of the windscreen.

29 September 2012

Overdrive wrote:

"....Two causes for disappointment were the tight rear legroom for one 6ft 2in occupant behind another, and ...."

Why would a car that is supposed to be a "compact" sports saloon need to accommodate one six footer behind another, in limo like comfort ? Has the 3-series not grown big enough for you guys at Autocar?

If you regularly need rear room for one tall person sitting behind another, surely you'd go for a 5-series touring instead.

completely agree. I'm 5'11" and can easily and comfortably sit behind myself in my e90 so two 6 footers behind each other in an F30 shouldn't be a problem. We're not talking limo space but it'll be enough for most people and if it isn't big enough buy a bigger car.

On a more general note I think this new estate looks great. For me it's probably the first 3 series which looks better as an estate.

 

5 October 2012

I have thew 330D M Sport touring on order, drove one for two days, my MPG was 53MPG which for every day driving was "OUTSTADING". as for leg room I am 6 ft., and I could easily get behind my seat set-up with 6 inchs to spare!!, what are you talking about?.

The stop/start system is great and queit and as for "Turbo whine" HA HA you must be joking NO such noises the car runs queit and great. Performance is "exceptional". I think you must have driven a duff car.

 

29 September 2012

How Autocar could expect the fuel consumption figures to be near to the purported figures of the manufacturer? In fact, having worked in the motor trade, it sets the scene for disgruntled customers returning their vehicles to service departments for consumption analysis due to variance. I would of thought that nearly 37mpg from a 3 litre diesel on a mostly brisk run, combined with some heavy town work would of been quite reasonable? Despite having an 8 speed gearbox, which is not necessarily the byword for economy, due to repeated jumping between gearchanges, i would say 37mpg is not bad at all. 

29 September 2012

I'm sure this is great and better than the car it replaces but I think the front end looks terrible. Probably to do with pedestrian crash protection or something but I think the old models front end looked better. (The E46 even nicer)

29 September 2012

 

Very little description or enthusiasm for  what is probably going to be one of the best diesel engines in the world. Be interested to see what other reviewers say about the eagerly awaited 3 litre diesels... our old 330d was incredible but looks slow and thirsty compared to this version!

KPB

1 October 2012

clbmw wrote:

 

Very little description or enthusiasm for  what is probably going to be one of the best diesel engines in the world. Be interested to see what other reviewers say about the eagerly awaited 3 litre diesels... our old 330d was incredible but looks slow and thirsty compared to this version!

Totally agree - staggering lack of description for what must be a stunning engine.

30 September 2012

The issue isn't the 37mpg return nor is it the fact that 55mpg will never be achieved by 99% of drivers. 

It's the fact that the official figures give no clue as to the real world economy. My petrol V5 Passat returned it's official mpg. My old 1.8 Rover Vi did the same. My current 120d does about 49mpg on the same journey, a good 10mpg less than the official figure (I'm actually averaging 47 because I'm driving it faster!).

I've come to the layman conclusion that modern turbo engines are far, far more sensitive to driving conditions than NA engines of the past. Something needs to be sorted.

Anyway, front end of the 3 series doesn't currently work for me at all. 254bhp and 37mpg does!

www.thecarexpert.co.uk/forums

30 September 2012

Who buys a BMW for fuel economy?

 

I know, I used it to convince myself to spend the extra money on purchasing the car too but I was lying to myself and so were you.

Honestly, I find my car (e90 320d) noisier, firmer, smaller and less reliable than many of my friends/colleagues find their market rivals.

All of this would matter if it weren't for the fact that I can outrun them, outbrake them, outcorner them and crucially have a bigger smile on my face than them.

I don't understand why anyone would spend so much extra money on a BMW unless they were still a boy-racer at heart! If it's a badge you're after; buy an Audi. Afterall, they're crap to drive but look 'really cool'.

BMW could release their next generation of cars with MPG ratings of 1 for all I care.

 

Oh, and I'm 5'6" so my rear passengers have nothing to worry about!

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