Likes: BMW road manners, fun to drive factor, minimalistic approach to the interior, nice roomy boot.
Dislikes: No turbo-diesel, can get expensive with options.
Performance: The 3-series only comes in one engine, it's a smooth 3-liter six-cylinder with 230hp. There's plenty of pull, and fuel economy is decent. Some may wish the 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder with 300hp, or turbo-diesel with 265hp were offered. But keep in mind, the next generation 3-series will arrive in the US in 2013. So maybe there will be a diesel offered in that variation.
Ride & Handling: The 3-series is a driver's car. Whether you choose all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive is a mere matter of taste. The all-wheel-drive version is the more sensible of the two, but the rear wheel-drive is a real hoot to drive on twisty narrow roads. The 3-series touring has excellent body control, tenacious grip and communicative steering that feels precise.
Refinement: The 3 Series is a quiet car and makes long-distant driving comfortable. The six-cylinder engine operates smoothly, but a turbocharged engine will make the 3 a little more fun to drive. However, the engine it has is simply well made. So there really isn't much to complain about it. The suspension copes well even on some of the roughest surfaces, wind noise is well suppressed on the motorway.
Behind the wheel: BMW has a minimalistic approach to interior designs. It's luxurious looking, but it's not as flashy as an Audi. If you option for the iDrive system, you'll have a distracting and confusing to operate navigation system. It takes a little practice to get used. The driver seat is comfortable, and offers plenty of adjustment to get comfortable. The steering wheel adjust for reach and height as well.
Space & Practicality: Four passengers will fit in the cabin comfortably, a third person in the rear seat will be pushing it. The boot isn't as impressive as a Volkswagen Jetta wagon or Audi A4 Avant. However, you do get underfloor storage and a rear screen that opens separately from the tailgate.
Equipment: There's only two variations of the 3-series wagon. Both offer the same equipment. Only real difference is one has rear-wheel-drive and the other has all-wheel-drive. You'll get keyless start, leather seats, climate control, rain sensing wipers and Bluetooth connectivity. If you stay away from the options list, you'll walk away with a nice 3-series wagon at a good price.
Buying & Owning: The 3-series wagon is more expensive than the Audi A4 Avant. However, the A4 Avant doesn't offer a six-cylinder like the 3-series and isn't as fun to drive either. In fact, the 3-series wagon will hold its value well. Resale value for BMWs are very strong, so your investments are well protected. The 3-series wagon is a rare find on the used market, so it enjoys strong residual value.
Quality & reliability: This car oozes class, everything feels solid and well constructed. The plastics feel sturdy and long lasting. We won't expect anything less from BMW in terms of reliability.
Safety & Security: The 3 Series scores well in safety. Twin front and side curtain airbags are standard. As well as run flat tires, stability control and emergency brake assist. Deadlocks, engine immobiliser make life harder for thieves. However, an alarm system is optional.
The 3-series wagon is a rare gem. It offers the same blend of performance and driving abilities as the sedan counterpart, but offers a little extra cargo carrying capacity. It's more fun to drive than an Audi A4 Avant, and makes the most sense compared to the BMW X3. If the turbo-diesel were offered on wagon, it would be even more desirable. But for now, you have all the characteristics of a BMW in a family friendly package.