BMW 3 Series Touring estate

£26,405 - £41,665

There are a number of significant reasons why the BMW 3 Series estate (known as the Touring) has been leaving most of its rivals trailing for the past two decades. Its mix of performance, handling, ride comfort and fuel economy is wrapped up in a stylish and upmarket exterior that really does give you the feeling that you’re driving something very special indeed.

The BMW 3 Series Touring used to be seen as a bit of a ‘lifestyle’ estate, which basically meant the boot wasn’t big enough. Not so these days, because boot space is the best in the class, with 495 litres on offer with the seats up, and 1,500 litres when they’re folded.

The 3 Series Touring is easily big and practical enough to cope as a family's sole means of transport. Even a fairly big dog will be quite happy in the boot, too. As with its 3 Series saloon counterpart, the Touring is the sharpest-handling, best-driving compact executive estate you can buy.

There are a choice of powerful yet efficient four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines on offer, but the best news is that our preferred option, the 2.0-litre diesel 320d Touring, is pretty economical too.

Most versions are rear-wheel drive, but the impressively smooth BMW xDrive four-wheel-drive system is a £1,500 optional extra on some models and is a serious answer to the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Evoque. It could be worth the extra money if you live in a rural area where winter access is an issue.

The Touring is available in SE, Sport, M Sport, Modern and Luxury trims.

The 3 Series should be as safe as a room full of pillows, too. Crash-test body Euro NCAP has tested its saloon sister car and given it a full five-star rating. It achieved a particularly high score for adult occupant protection.