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First drive: BMW 3 Series 330e SE plug-in hybrid car review

BMW 330e
BMW

Review

One in every 10 examples of BMW's 3 Series model sold in Britain could soon have a hybrid powertrain under its bonnet.

Officials at the German manufacturer are confident that a significant number of buyers choosing the executive saloon will acquire the latest petrol-electric version after it goes on sale in the spring.

"Our volume aspirations have yet to be confirmed because we're still in discussions with some of the residual value forecasters, but I expect this car to account for a minimum of 5% of 3 Series volume in a full year," said Mark Costello, product manager for BMW UK.

"Last year, we sold more than 23,000 examples of the saloon, which is at the heart of BMW. It is our core model and I think it's possible that this version could soon be accounting for a share of up to 10%."

At the vehicle's launch event, he claimed the new car's practicality, electric drive range and overall operating economy offered "compelling" advantages over rivals – the Mercedes-Benz C350E in particular.

"Because it has an extra 40hp, the Mercedes-Benz has slightly better acceleration, but our car has an EV range of up to 25 miles compared with 19 miles, 370 litres of boot space compared with 340 litres and lower fuel consumption," said Costello. "Significantly for the corporate sector, it retains its sub-50g/km emissions status irrespective of trim level and wheel options and will also come in at a considerably lower price, so I think the combination of all these factors will make a big impact."

In addition to winning conquest business, Costello is expecting the 44g/km hybrid to offer strong competition to BMW's current CO2 champion, the 320ED.

"Fleet users will work out which version best suits their needs and purchase decisions will reflect type of use," he said. "Diesel remains the most efficient choice over high motorway mileage, but we're optimistic about the future of hybrids: it's the powertrain for operators who are able to make as much use of electricity as possible to maximise fuel savings."

With neutral weight distribution, the 330E retains the balanced handling, road holding and stability of its traditionally-powered stablemates and the car is no slouch with zippy acceleration and a potential 140mph top speed.

Instant maximum torque in the default electric mode provides impressive take-off from rest and all ratios of the eight-speed Steptronic transmission are available with both power sources.

Electric drive gives a 75mph top speed while a choice of operating modes provide a range of options for efficient mobility. Standard equipment includes LED rear lights, front and rear parking aids, sat-nav with a 6.5-inch colour screen and twin-zone air conditioning.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

BMW 330e first drive | does PHEV make more sense than diesel?

The second generation 330e offers company car drivers an electric-only range of 37 miles and CO2 emissions of 39g/km

BMW 320d long-term test | one of our favorites despite minor niggles

The 3 Series remains a benchmark in this class. Better-looking than its predecessor, it features more interior space and higher levels of equipment, with precise, progressive handling.

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