Review: BMW 330e

Review: BMW 330e
Review: BMW 330e

Would a diesel BMW 3 Series be a better choice than this plug-in hybrid version?

BMW’s 3 Series has always been about the driver experience. Super-low emissions haven’t really had a look in – until this 330e plug-in hybrid came along.

Teaming a 184bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with an 87bhp electric motor, a 7.7kWh battery and an electric-only range of 25 miles, all in a 3 Series chassis, sounds like a potentially ideal solution. But would you still take a 330e over a diesel?

Let’s have a go in this one and find out. Looking at the spec, you’d think the 330e’s extra 190kg over the equivalent petrol 330i would change the car’s feel. In fact, the integration of the hybrid driveline is so well done you can’t tell the difference. The steering remains as tactile as ever and any loss of agility is marginal at best.

BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport

Price: £37,685
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol, 7.7kWh lithium ion battery
Power: 249bhp
Torque: 310lb ft
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
0-62mph: 6.1sec
Top speed: 140mph
Economy: 134.5mpg
CO2, tax band: 49g/km, 9%

The ride quality has suffered a bit though. A regular 3 Series is less harsh and jostly on bad roads. You wouldn’t call it uncomfortable, but we’d recommend avoiding the stiffer M Sport suspension and large 19-inch alloys fitted to our test car. Smaller wheels are available – 18-inch alloys are standard on the M Sport, 17-inchers on trims below that) – and should improve matters.

You can also de-tick the M Sport suspension box without financial penalty, but you’re not allowed to add the adaptive suspension that’s an option on conventionally-fuelled 3 Series cars. The 330e’s selection of drive modes don’t help with this ride issue as they only affect the steering and throttle responses and the deployment of electric power, not the suspension.

That’s pretty much the end of the baddish 330e news vis-a-vis other 3 Series models. This is a quick, silken and quiet machine boasting an indiscernible transition from electric to petrol power when you give it the giddy-up.

Those 25 claimed miles of electric-only power are more likely to be 18 real-world miles, and the headline figure of 134.5mpg will be nearer to 50mpg on standard motorway trips.

Aesthetically, the cabin will be familiar to any 3 Series driver or passenger. A few small eDrive badges, plus modified instrumentation displaying range, battery life and brake regeneration status, are about the only differences. That apart, it’s the usual well-equipped BMW proposition. All the e models get the brilliant iDrive infotainment system with sat-nav, along with DAB radio, Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control.

You will notice a big difference in the boot, however. It’s about 100 litres smaller thanks to the battery that’s installed in the back of the car. The resultant 370 litre space is smaller than a Golf’s.
So, is the 330e worth buying? As is the case with most plug-in hybrids, it’s hard to justify it as a private buy as long as the still-excellent diesel 320d remains in the range, even after you take the available government grant of £2500 out of the equation.

Getting one as a company car is different. If the attributes of a plug-in hybrid suit your lifestyle, the 330e stacks up very well on price against rivals like the VW Passat GTE, Audi A3 Sportback e-tron and Mercedes-Benz C 350 e. It’s also in the top echelon for driver involvement, infotainment system and cabin quality. Just bear in mind the fact that you’ll struggle to make best use of the battery power if your main activity is pounding up and down motorways.

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