BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid Saloon (2019-present)

BMW’s latest hybrid system offers increased power and a 50 per cent improvement in all-electric range compared to its predecessor

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

An all-electric range of 41 miles
Intelligent hybrid and battery save technology
Surprisingly fun to drive

Weaknesses 

Fuel economy suffers on long journeys
Ride will feel firm for some
Boot space restricted by battery packs

The BMW 3 Series is often regarded as the benchmark executive saloon upon which others strive to beat. By combining exciting handling with well appointed interiors and the latest on-board technology, it is arguably the leader of an extremely well contested pack.

This latest generation is better in almost every way, including its plug-in hybrid offering, which now offers a 50 per cent greater all-electric range of 41-miles, increased power and a reception in fuel consumption.

Customers shopping in the executive saloon class are currently spoilt for choice, with stalwarts like Audi and Mercedes-Benz both offering excellent examples to rival the 3 Series. More recently, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo have also joined the fight with the XE and Giulia models, while Kia’s recent Stinger is the Korean brand’s attempt to push further upmarket.

However, hardly any of these marques currently sell a solid plug-in hybrid option here in the UK, with only Mercedes-Benz offering a true rival in the C 350 E. But the model is due to be replaced by an all-new EQ range of cars and tracking one down in the UK is difficult

So BMW has been extra quick off the mark to corner this market, but rather than simply offer battery power and an additional electric motor to reduce the cost of motoring to owners, BMW has cleverly integrated its new propulsion system so it adds to the overall driving enjoyment of an already highly entertaining machine.

Dubbed XtraBoost, this new feature unlocks an additional 40hp when the throttle is pressed to the floor, taking the total system power up to 293hp and ensuring the all-important 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in an impressive six seconds. Not bad considering the electrical gubbins add an extra 200-odd kilos on top of there standard saloon’s kerb weight.

Mating a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder twin-turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor also has the benefit of improved fuel consumption figures and when drive in a mix of electric and internal combustion power, BMW claims it is possible to achieve 138mpg - although we know from real-world testing that these numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Regardless, an improved all-electric range now gives a realistic number of miles with which owners can silently waft through city centres and low emissions zones without the fear of receiving fines. Better still, BMW eDrive Zones (coming as standard on all hybrid models by 2020) uses geo-fencing technology built into the advanced satellite navigation system to ensure the vehicle has sufficient range to enter the restricted area.

It does this by first recognising an upcoming restricted area and then cleverly adjusting its settings to allow the engine and regenerative braking to top up the on-board batteries. Of course, this will have an effect on fuel economy, but it can easily be enabled and disabled through the in car entertainment system.

On that note, there is no change in the top quality fit and finish of the new 3 Series’ interior, with UK customers cable to pick from the same trim level as its diesel and petrol powered counterparts - SE, Sport, M Sport.

With prices starting at a heady £37,875 for this hybrid variant, owners are naturally treated to a high level of fit and finish inside. Expect soft leather touches, exquisite stitching and top quality materials used in the buttons and switchgear. There is also extremely high levels of connectivity in the more lavishly appointed models, with natural speech voice recognition, gesture control and pin-sharp head-up displays just a few highlights.

Of course, there is a very valid point that PHEVs actually make for more polluting and less efficient vehicles when owners refuse to charge the batteries or make use of the electric drive system, but with very little impact on the driving experience and the added benefits of reduced taxation, near-silent motoring and improved fuel economy, the 330e should be a consideration fo anyone thinking of dipping a tentative toe in the EV waters - especially if the daily routine allows them to make the most of the electric system.

Last Updated 

Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 13:00

Key facts 

Warranty: 
3-years / Unlimited miles
Boot size: 
375-litres
Width: 
1,827mm
Length: 
4,709mm
Height: 
1,444mm
Tax: 
Free in the first year, £135 thereafter

Best BMW 3 Series for... 

BMW 330e Plug-in Hydbrid SE Saloon
They might be the most basic, but these models ride on smaller wheels, which might not look great but improves the ride… and fuel economy.
BMW 330e Plug-in Hydbrid Sport Touring
With its stretched wheel base and larger boot, this estate version is perfecting for transporting the family and kit around in style. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go on sale until summer 2020.
BMW 330e Plug-in Hydbrid M Sport Saloon
Ok, so there’s no actual improvement on performance over the other trim levels, but this model does come with M Sport suspension, for a much firmer, more dynamic drive.

BMW 3 Series History 

  • 2016 The first plug-in 3 Series variant goes on sale but fails to make a huge impact. Just 3,509 models are sold in the UK

  • 2019 An updated hybrid variant is offered in the latest generation, boasting increased all-electric range, improved fuel efficiency and more power.

Understanding BMW 3 Series car names 

  • 3 Series
  • Sport
    Trim
  • 4 Door
    Body style
  • 2.0-litre petrol + electric motor
    Powertrain
  • 8 Speed Steptronic
    Gearbox
  • Sport
    There are three trim levels on offer in the UK, with the range starting at SE and moving through to Sport and M Sport. However, there are plenty of options for customers to select from.
  • 4 Door
    The 3 Series comes in both estate (dubbed Touring) and saloon variants but the 330e is currently limited to just the saloon. The Touring model will follow in 2020.
  • 2.0-litre petrol + electric motor
    The 330e comes with just one powertrain option and that’s a 2.0-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol engine mated to an electric motor.
  • 8 Speed Steptronic
    Although a six-speed manual gearbox is offered across the rest of the 3 Series range, customers only get the choice of an eight-speed ‘Steptronic’ automatic ‘box here. Namely because it also houses the electric motor.

BMW 3 Series Engines 

2.0-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol engine + electric motor

As is the way with many BMW products, the 3 Series 330e is a rear-wheel-drive machine, with the electronic motor factored in to the gearbox to send additional power to the rear axle. As a result, it drives in a very particular way and any fans of spirited B-road blasts will likely have a hoot ushering the 330e along the Tarmac.

That said, it can prove a little tricky in adverse weather conditions, but engineers have added a larger section tyre at the rear to aid grip, as well as installing numerous traction control systems that can step in when things get slippery.

As you can probably imagine, the addition of battery packs and an electric motor add weight to the overall package, but it’s not enough to adversely effect the overall driving experience, while the added benefits of near-silent, all-electric motoring massively outweigh any handling shortcomings.

This latest generation 330e can also now hit speeds of up to 68mph on electric power alone, which opens up more opportunities for the EV system to be used. Plus, there are several switchable driving modes that allow for either pure EV motoring, a hybrid mode or the ability to preserve battery life for later.

On top of this, there are several sporty modes - the most powerful of which (XtraBoost) unleashes the full potential of the hybrid system, while simultaneously pumping a synthetic exhaust note into the cabin for a racier experience.

Overall, the system works extremely well, cleverly cycling between EV, hybrid and performance modes, with very little audible note to let the driver and passengers know what engineering wizardry is going beneath the bodywork.

When running on battery power alone, the cocktail of excellent engineering, high levels of sound-proofing and a very quiet powertrain mean it is possible to seal oneself away from the hubbub of daily life and cruise the city streets without so much as a murmur entering the cabin. It really is a serene and relaxing experience.

Those owners with plenty of short commutes or minimal miles to the weekly shop will benefit even more from the onboard batteries should they install a basic 7kW home charging system, which will handily top up reserves in as little as an hour. On the other hand, charging from a domestic socket is possible, but it will take just shy of three hours for a full charge.

BMW’s allegiance with ChargeNow also means owners can ‘reserve’ a nearby public charging point through the marque’s bespoke smartphone app or via the infotainment system, negating the need to endlessly circulate the town centre looking for a place to top-up the batteries.

 

Fuel

Mpg

Bhp

0 - 62mph

Top speed

2.0-litre petrol + electric motor

Hybrid

138mpg

293hp

6.0s

143mph

BMW 3 Series Trims 

SE, Sport, M Sport

The trim levels found in the 330e Plug-in Hybrid echo those of the rest of the 3 Series range but here, customers are treated to a set of BMW EfficientDynamics features that are bespoke to the plug-in hybrid model.

A hybrid-specific auto stop/start function, optimum gear shift indicator (when gearbox is in its ‘manual’ paddle shifting mode) and reduced rolling resistance tyres are just a few examples, while even the most ‘basic’ SE iterates gets things like climate control, a touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, adaptive LED headlights and a reversing camera.

These models ride on 17-inch wheels, which aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch but certainly make for the most comfortable, pliant ride. Other notable standard features include: ambient lighting inside, Parking Assistant with Rear View Camera and Reverse Assist, Sport leather steering wheel and an 8.8-inch Central Instrument Display (CID).

Step up to Sport and a more performance orientated suspension set-up is introduced, as well as larger alloy wheels and racier interior touches, such as sports seats that are heated in the front.

The top spec M Sport models receive the most dynamic M Sport suspension, an M Aerodynamics package to the exterior, Sports Seats, leather upholstery, Adaptive LED headlights and foglights, advanced parking assistance and attractive ambient lighting inside.

As with many vehicles in the luxury saloon segment, the option list will prove an extremely tempting (and expensive) read, with things like heated steering wheels, panoramic sunroofs, increased interior storage and an array of alloy wheel options all available for an additional fee.

Arguably one of the most enticing and interesting options comes in the form of Driver Recorder, which harnesses the vehicle’s many exterior cameras (used to assist manoeuvring) to record footage to an internal hard drive, which can then be downloaded via USB for viewing later.

This will come in handy for anyone who likes to capture footage of a country drive for posterity but more importantly, it automatically snares footage 20 seconds before and after the event of collision, acting just like a dash cam, without the need for additional cameras.

In the UK, this comes as part of the Park Assistant Plus Package, which sees multiple camera views beamed to the central display during low speed parking situations, and costs £650.

BMW 3 Series Reliability and warranty 

The three-year/unlimited mileage warranty is slightly more generous than the 60,000-mile limit imposed by rivals Audi but generally falls in line with most other premium manufacturers in this segment.

Previous generation 3 Series owners seem fairly happy with their purchase, with the Auto Express Driver Power 2019 owner satisfaction survey revealing that the predecessor placed at 39 out of 75 models.

That said, any work that falls foul of the manufacturer warranty could prove costly for those customers thinking of bucking the trend of three-year lease deals and opting for an out-and-out purchase or longer term PCP option.

Used BMW 3 Series 

Despite the relatively low sales volumes, it is possible to pick up enticing deals for the previous generation 330e on the used market. A quick scan of the Buy a Car website revealed high mileage top spec M Sport models (those with over 45,000 miles) were coming in under £20,000.

Even those low mileage models were a snip of the original price, with deals ranging from £22,000 to around £27,000 for the best examples. But bear in mind the all-electric range is half that of the current model reviewed here.

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