New BMW 330e plug-in hybrid: four-wheel drive and estate versions available

New petrol-electric 330e models are available with all-wheel drive and in estate form, offering up to 201mpg and 37 miles of electric range

James Wilson
Mar 6, 2020

BMW is going on the PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) offensive with electrified versions of its popular 3 Series Saloon and Touring, which go on sale in summer 2020. Order books for the entry-level 330e saloon models have opened already, with prices starting at just under £38,000.

Typically electric cars are well equipped, with slick in-car media systems that often offer additional functions to help drivers find charging points or establish how far they can travel on the onscreen map before needing to plug in. Electric models normally cost more than pure petrol or diesel models, so buyers expect them to be festooned with lots of high-tech kit. BMW, though, is planning on offering its 330e models in a range of specifications which mirror those of the standard 3 Series, giving drivers plenty of choice.

Why is BMW doing this? All car manufacturers have to meet tight new carbon dioxide emission regulations that come at the beginning of 2021 and selling plug-in hybrids is looking like one of the best ways to meet them, with petrol-electric models offering lower on-paper emissions.

Despite offering several specifications to choose from, this doesn't mean BMW will sell you a 330e with nothing but a couple of seats, a cup holder and some wheels. All models are set to come with decent levels of equipment and an upmarket cabin. Furthermore, judging by how the other 3 Series models drive, this should be one of the most satisfying plug-in hybrid cars for keen drivers.

For more details on emissions, economy, prices and specifications, keep reading below.

Quick facts

  • Priced from £37,875
  • Full range available by summer 2020
  • CO2 emissions as low as 36g/km
  • Option of xDrive four-wheel-drive
  • Claimed economy as high as 201mpg
  • High level of standard equipment

2020 BMW 330e models and specifications

By the end of 2020 there will be plug-in hybrid versions of both the 3 Series Saloon and 3 Series Touring estate on sale. It is expected that all the standard BMW specification levels (such as Sport and M Sport) will be available on saloon and estate hybrids.

As standard, all hybrid 3 Series’ will come with three-zone automatic air-conditioning, auto-dimming rear-view and wing mirrors, a reverse parking camera and 17-inch alloy wheels. As with the regular 3 Series range, those wanting a more can go for a pricier trim level.

Sport variants bring equipment such as heated seats and larger alloy wheels, while M Sport models bring more aggressive body styling as well as BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional, which constitutes a digital 12.3-inch driver's display - in place of the conventional analogue dials - and a central 10.3-inch media system.

M Sport Plus versions go even further, bringing suspension that can be adjusted to the driver’s preferences at the push of a button, larger wheels still (19-inch) and a higher-performance M Sport braking system. There are also a number of optional extras.

These include a video recording system which can save up to 40 seconds of footage should an ‘event’ aka a crash occur and an electronically swivelling tow hitch. While on the subject of towing, from summer all 330e models will come with a towing capacity of 1,500kg. This means that towing a medium size caravan with this plug-in hybrid should be possible. 

2020 BMW 330e engines and performance

All models will use the same engine, battery, electric motor and gearbox combination. There are differences, though, with xDrive models having an extra layer of complexity thanks to their four-wheel-drive system. The engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, while the gearbox is an eight-speed automatic which actually has the electric motor integrated into it.

In total, BMW’s hybrid system produces 252hp, although the German carmaker has designed in an 'overboost' feature, which can ramp power up to 292hp for up to 10 seconds for maximum acceleration. Meanwhile, low engine speed muscle - known as torque - stands at a substantial 420Nm, which is more than a Porsche 718 Cayman sports car.

Due to the variations in size and weight across the saloon and estate models - and two- and four-wheel-drive models - there are variances in acceleration and top speed.

The fastest model (in terms of top speed) is the 330e Saloon. It can hit 143mph flat out and accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 5.9 seconds. The four-wheel drive 330e xDrive Saloon is the fastest accelerating model, meanwhile, reaching 62mph from a standstill in 5.8 seconds, albeit with a slightly reduced top speed of 139mph.

Then there are the Touring estate models, which sacrifice some performance for the added practicality of a massive boot. Two-wheel drive 330e Touring versions can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 6.1 seconds and reach 137mph. On the other hand, 330e xDrive Touring models can reach 62mph from a standing start in 6.2 seconds and hit 133mph.

When you consider that the Honda Civic Type R - one of the most potent performance-oriented hot hatchbacks - accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 5.7 seconds, BMW’s perfomance figures for the 330e range seem particularly impressive.

2020 BMW 330e emissions and economy

These low-emission models are likely to appeal to company car drivers. The reason for this is that company car tax is calculated partly in relation to cars' carbon dioxide emissions. While fully electric models emit no tailpipe CO2, plug-in hybrids offer notably lower official emissions figures than petrol or diesel models. As a result, they can be a compelling option for those wanting to save on company car tax (also known as benefit-in-kind tax), although fully electric models are even cheaper to tax.

From April 6th 2020 company car tax rates change, resulting in all plug-in hybrid 3 Series being taxed at the same rate – 12% of their respective list prices. As the two-wheel drive saloon 330e is expected to be the entry-point to the range with the lowest cash prices and emissions, this will be the best option for company car buyers looking to keep costs down.

At the same time, BMW claims the 330e Saloon plug-in hybrid is capable of up to 201mpg, which is the highest economy figure of all plug-in 3 Series models. Be aware, however, that you have to plug in the car regularly to get anywhere near this economy. Fail to do so and rely on the petrol engine and you're likely to return a fraction of this. For the full breakdown of emissions and economy figures, see the table below.

Model

330e Saloon

330e xDrive Saloon

330e Touring

330e xDrive Touring

Economy

176-201mpg

166mpg

176mpg

156mpg

CO2 Emissions

36-38 g/km

42g/km

39g/km

46g/km

 
While these all look mighty impressive, there are two caveats. Firstly, these figures are BMW claims rather than official figures. Secondly, drivers shouldn’t expect to achieve anywhere near this in the real world unless they are plugging in religiously and predominantly doing shorter journeys where the car can make the most of battery power.

Also, for values where there is a range, this is normally due to the impact of optional equipment such as larger alloy wheels or heavy kit, that requires more energy to be moved around.

To help boost economy, BMW is offering something it calls active route guidance. This piece of technology analyses a planned route to determine when to use petrol power, when to rely on charge from the battery or a combination of both to power the 330e.

2020 BMW 330e range and charge times

Similar to the performance numbers above, there is a slight variation in the electric range of plug-in 3 Series models depending on the version. Confusingly, BMW claims that the two-wheel drive 330e Saloon can come with both the best and the worst range figures - offering 31-37 miles of electric range.

Four-wheel drive saloon models are supposedly good for up to 36 miles of electric range, with Touring models (irrespective of the number of driven wheels) being claimed to be capable of up to 34 miles driving on battery power alone.

In reality, these numbers are a tad optimistic (as with all claimed range, emission and economy numbers) but they provide a good base to compare against other makes and models. When it comes to all-electric driving BMW is claiming that in hybrid mode (where both the electric motor and engine work together) 330e models can reach speeds of up to 68mph. In electric-only mode though, this increases to 87mph.

The above is all made possible thanks to a 12.0kWh lithium-ion battery pack - with kWh referring to the capacity of a battery pack. For reference, fully electric cars such as the BMW i3 and Renault Zoe come with battery packs in the 40-50kWh region.

When it comes to charging, BMW claims a 330e can be recharged from zero to full in less than six hours using a conventional household socket. For those who just don’t have that kind of time, BMW can supply an 'i Wallbox' which can cut charge times to just under three-and-a-half hours.

That said, the German carmaker is yet to confirm exactly what power output its charging wallbox would need to be to achieve such a time.

2020 BMW 330e prices and delivery dates

BMW has already opened order books for rear-wheel drive 330e Saloon models but drivers after one of the other 330e models will have to wait until summer 2020. Prices for the two-wheel drive 330e Saloon start at £37,875 for SE Pro spec, £39,275 for Sport Pro, £39,980 for M Sport and £44,180 for M Sport Plus.

Prices for xDrive four-wheel drive and/or Touring estate models will be released later in the year but as the standard 330e Saloon represents around a £7,000 price hike over the cheapest petrol, a similar increase is a good guide for now. This means xDrive saloon models will likely start at around £41,000, whereas two-wheel drive and xDrive four-wheel drive 3 Series Touring models should start at £39,000 and £41,000 respectively.

2020 BMW 330e rivals and alternatives

With the UK car industry moving away from diesel and towards electrified cars, there are a number of rivals for the 330e which are all hoping to capitalise on potential sales. Some of the most obvious rivals are plug-in hybrid versions of the Volvo S60 saloon and V60 estate plus the plug-in hybrid Mercedes C-Class.

Starting with the Volvo, prices are significantly higher (starting at around £50,000 for saloon models and £51,000 for estates) but there is also significantly more performance on offer. Aside from that, the cars are largely similar – both promise impressive economy and emission figures, both are claimed to be good for 30-something miles on a charge and both offer an upmarket and refined driving experience.

If price and performance figures aren’t a consideration, then the Volvo is better suited to those after a relaxed driving experience and the BMW for those who are looking for a more exciting car to drive.

It is a similar story with the Mercedes C-Class, although the C-Class does have one unique selling point and that is choice of fuel. Unlike most plug-in hybrids, the C-Class can be had as a petrol plug-in hybrid or a diesel plug-in hybrid - badged C 300 e and C 300 de respectively.

Prices for the Mercedes start in between the BMW and Volvo – although much closer to the former than the latter. Like the others there are saloon and estate variants with all using an automatic gearbox, promising 30-some miles on a full charge and impressive economy and emission figures (no surprises there then).

 

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