The previous petrol-electric model proved popular with company car buyers, thanks to its reduced running costs, and now it’s the time for the latest generation 3 Series to benefit from a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
The hybrid setup, which we’ll come on to later, is undoubtedly the biggest difference to this 3 Series, as elsewhere it’s business as usual. Visually, the only thing highlighting that this car is an ‘e’ is the charging flap in the front left wing and the badging, although many owners choose to take the badges off to make it even more indistinguishable.
But is it worthwhile to choose this version over the standard petrol and diesel offerings?
The plug-in hybrid setup utilises a normal 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but combines this with an electric motor and a 12kWh battery.
Together, 289bhp and 420Nm is produced, which is enough to push the 330e from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds and onto a top speed of 143mph. BMW also offers a new function, known as ‘XtraBoost’, which can send an additional 38bhp to the wheels when needed.
The hybrid setup is smooth and the switch from electric to petrol power feels effortless.
Ride and handling
The initial silence produced from the electric motor is the immediate thing you notice about the 330e. If you’ve never driven a hybrid or an electric car, it’s worth experiencing this just for the sheer effortless nature at which the electric power is delivered. It certainly helps to allow for a more relaxed driving experience – particularly at lower speeds and around town where the refinement is superb.
While the batteries add a considerable amount of weight to the 3 Series, the 330e is very good at hiding this with a good ride and well-weighted steering. It also doesn’t feel like there’s any additional body roll in the corners, either – showing how well BMW has kept the driving experience of the 3 Series intact.
Interior and equipment
The 3 Series’ interior is one of the best available for under £50,000, with a spot-on driving position, a superb infotainment system (one of our favourites) and a beautifully designed and well-built cabin.
The 330e gains some hybrid-specific functions and menus, placed next to the gear lever, while the digital dials also relay charging information and the number of miles remaining in electric mode.
One of the few negatives about the 330e is its reduced boot space next to the normal 3 Series, which drops from 480 litres to 375 miles. While it should leave enough space for most, it does take quite a large chunk out of the rear storage area.
Standard equipment on the SE includes LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, a reversing camera and cruise control.
Sport adds leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels and heated sport seats, while range-topping M Sport versions bring sportier styling pack, further connected features, a 12.3-inch digital cockpit and sports suspension.
The 330e sits in the 3 Series range between the 330i and 330d, with prices starting from £37,875, and rising to £39,980 for the range-topping M Sport version.
While prices for the 330e start might look expensive, it’s worth considering some of the impressive savings on running costs with this model. BMW claims it can achieve a remarkable 138mpg on the combined cycle, along with CO2 emissions of 39g/km – making this an ideal model for business users wanting to cut down their company car tax.
The 330e can also run on electric power for a claimed 41 miles – meaning that for drivers with shorter commutes, this version is ideal.
The 330e is likely to be another hit for BMW, as more drivers seek to make the switch to electrified motoring and reduce their running costs. The biggest positive about this car is that there are very few downsides next to the normal 3 Series, as it remains great to drive and features a stunning interior.
The 330e is undoubtedly one of the most convincing plug-in hybrids on sale today.