From £23,085
Elegant, well-made, thoughtfully detailed and loses little to the saloon — but hardly a beast of burden.

It has been said before, but it’s worth saying again: if you want to carry big loads – really big loads – then the BMW 3-series Touring is not for you. You’d be better off with a voluminous Vauxhall Vectra estate.Open this new Touring’s tailgate and you’re just as likely to be struck by how much room is robbed by the bulky wheelarches as by how nicely trimmed this trunk is. And this despite the fact that the new Touring’s boot is 25 litres bigger (460 in total), and that with the seats flopped forward, it grows to 1485 litres, up from 1445. But as a more versatile version of the new 3-series, the Touring makes an excellent choice, not least because so little of the saloon’s dynamism is sacrificed to the realities of a trip to IKEA. BMW claims that it will lap the Nürburgring circuit in the same time as the saloon and that it is just as stiff structurally. More than that, it feels just as polished and satisfying to drive.As much effort has gone into refining the versatility of this car’s rear end, too, even if many of these details are extra. Standard are a 12v power socket, lashing points, baggage straps and hooks and an umbrella holder, while beneath the floor there’s storage where the spare would have been (it has run-flats). The rear window opens separately, the luggage blind neatly leaping out of the way, and the rear bumper has been cut away to lower the sill.An option pack includes a reversible floor section for damp loads, complete with fold-out mat to protect the back bumper from a savaging by skis, and a fold-flat, waterproof box for wet boots. There are load nets to the sides and on the floor, and you can now order a big, twin-pane glass sunroof with blind.Besides this five-door newcomer we also sampled the new, lighter 2.5-litre six, which pulls harder than previously and has a pleasingly sporty beat at high revs, if at the expensive of the turbine-like refinement of past BMW sixes. Downsides? The ride didn’t seem so great on (optional) 18-inch rims, the car tramlines a little, and as with the saloon, there’s not much stowage space up front. Which might be why you’d need a Touring.

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