I don’t know many people who dislike the BMW 3 Series… Most people who prefer to drive a compact saloon other than a Three openly admit that they at least considered buying the Munich charge. With the launch of the E46 in the late ‘90s, the Three became conservative – a well-built, dynamic and handsome car, it was less yuppie and more middle management. By contrast, the new E90 is aesthetically challenged. After the beautiful lines of the 5 Series, the new 3 Series seems watered down – some folks can stomach the front end and awkwardly angled A-pillars, but those rear lights and boot line? Ugh.
So imagine my surprise when I first took a long hard look at the 3 Series Touring – and genuinely liked it! I’m not an Estate kind of bloke (I don’t have dogs or kids), but the E90 marks the first time that the ‘wagon version of a BMW looks better than its saloon sibling. The Touring seems much better rounded off… I like the way that the blunt, tapering front end of the car flows into the elegant, if a bit fleshy, rear end (adorned with a handsome body-coloured spoiler). The short overhangs make the car appear to squat and those darn A-pillars accentuate the plunging roofline.
The 325i Touring’s dashboard continues the design language propagated by its bigger stable mates. Build quality was exemplary – as you’d expect from a car with a R306 000 price tag – and the black dashboard contrasted beautifully with the dark wood trim and light leather upholstery. As the six-speed model on test was fitted with a host of extras, including satellite navigation, I had a chance to fiddle with the i-Drive and can report it’s mercifully easier to use. In the right colour scheme, the 3 Series cabin is a delightful place… It’s pleasing on the eye with nice attention to detail where necessary.
Another highlight of the Touring was an expansive sunroof, but I fear the neat mod con limits rear headroom. Loading capacity is up over the previous model by 25 dm3 to 460 dm3, and, after folding down the 60/40-split backrest, the floor offers 1 400 dm3. There are also baggage straps, luggage nets, bag and umbrella holders, and a 12-volt power socket. It’s no problem to fold the seatbacks down and deploy the luggage net. The 325i’s not the most practical or spacious ‘wagon, but those who require maximum practicality should consider a kombi or minivan.
In terms of performance, the 325i Touring does not disappoint. Using a lightweight magnesium crankcase, the latest generation Valvetronic with bi-Vanos 2,5-litre straight six from BMW has a peak output of 160 kW (19 more than the car it replaces) and maximum torque of 250 N.m from 2 750 to 4 250 r/min.