Fanciers of BMW’s most popular model, the 3 Series, now have the choice of a new variant that adds style and practicality: the 320D Gran Turismo.

The Gran Turismo (GT) will be the answer for many drivers who want more space and flexibility than a sedan without having to drive a station wagon.

The normal 3 Series sedan body has been stretched between the front and back wheels to make the GT. The roofline is eight centimetres higher and slopes to the back in fastback style. The doors have sporty frameless windows and at the rear there’s a large hatchback opening. The morphed proportions of the familiar 3 Series look unusual at first, but work well. While the GT’s image is sporty the reality is a particularly roomy, practical family vehicle.

Rear leg and head room are improved, but the biggest gain is in the boot. Normal load volume is 520 litres, but this more than triples to 1600 litres when the back seat is folded. Both figures are more than the 3 Series Touring station wagon offers.

The back seat is split 40:20:40, allowing the passenger/cargo space to be configured different ways for different loads. Surfers would be able to lock their boards safely inside. The boot has lashing points, bag hooks and under-floor storage, making it extra-practical.

The ultimate aid is a hands-free automatic tailgate – just wave your toe near the rear bumper as though you were going to kick it and the tailgate opens automatically. With armfuls of parcels or children to herd, that’s a valuable helper!

The rest of the GT’s specifications are mostly the same as for other 3 Series variants (and remember, what we knew for generations as the 3 Series Coupe and Convertible are now the 4 Series). The 320D GT we tested came with a 2.0 litre diesel producing 135 kiloWatts and 380 Newtonmetres, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This proved a powerful and frugal yet impressively driveable combination. BMW claims 0-100 kmh acceleration of 5.4 seconds and city/highway-cycle fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100 kms. Add to this the capacity to extra luggage plus passengers in typical BMW comfort and the Gran Turismo (grand touring) certainly lives up to its name.

Three petrol and diesel engines and four specification levels are available for the 3 Series Gran Turismo, which is priced from $69,500 plus on-roads.