The BMW 3 Series Touring (the name is BMW's word for an estate) has been the car to beat in its class for two decades. It's a brilliant all-rounder, offering an attractive blend of strong performance, driving pleasure, great styling and an enviable image. It also now has a genuinely large boot – the largest in the class, in fact – having previously fallen short in this area.
Power comes from a range of extremely efficient petrol and diesel engines, with four and six cylinders. Our pick is the 2.0-litre diesel in the 320d Touring. In standard SE trim, it returns 65.7mpg and costs £30 a year to tax. The more efficient ED (Efficient Dynamics) Plus version does a slightly better 68.9mpg and costs £20 a year to tax. It costs around £700 more than the standard 320d, but in addition to its improved efficiency it has heated leather seats.
The majority of Tourings are rear-wheel drive, but in recent years the UK has finally been able to get four-wheel-drive versions as well, badged xDrive. The system adds about £1,500 to the car's price and increases fuel consumption, but boosts grip considerably. If you live in the country or lead an active lifestyle, it could be worth investing in.
The 3 Series Touring is a sporty car, but it's also surprisingly comfortable. However, while there's plenty of space in the front, the rear is sufficient only for two adults. A bulky transmission tunnel means there's little room for the middle passenger's feet.
The Touring comes in a range of trims, starting with basic SE and rising to Luxury and M Sport. Our favourite is SE. Its standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning, electric windows, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 6.5-inch colour display and DAB digital radio. Stepping up to the Business version gets you satellite navigation, and we think this plus the 2.0-litre diesel engine is the perfect combination.
The 3 Series Touring was awarded the full five stars for crash safety by Euro NCAP and its standard safety kit includes electronic traction and stability control, hill-start assistance, rear parking sensors and tyre-pressure monitoring.
After 20 years, BMW has got rather good at building the 3 Series Touring. There are no serious reliability issues and it outperforms its closest rivals the Mercedes C-Class estate and Audi A4 Avant in owner satisfaction surveys.