New 2019 BMW 330e hybrid review

A new BMW 330e plug-in hybrid goes on sale in July, and we’ve driven a pre-production model

BMW 3 Series hybrid
Car type Electric range MPG CO2
Plug-in hybrid 37 miles 138mpg 39g/km

Having introduced BMW’s 3 Series customers to electrification and delivered significant tax breaks for drivers prepared to plug in their cars, the outgoing BMW 330e plug-in hybrid has done a wonderful job for the German manufacturer.

A new version goes on sale in July – only a couple of months after the standard petrol and diesel models land in showrooms – with prices starting from just under £40,000.

In anticipation of this summer’s launch, we travelled to Munich for a test drive of the new 3 Series PHEV.

In terms of style, it’s almost impossible to tell the new 330e apart from its internal combustion-engined siblings. BMW has ditched its iPerformance badges in an attempt to make its electrified vehicles more mainstream, and the only clue to the 330e’s plug-in credentials comes in the form of the extra filler cap secreting the charging socket.

Inside it’s much the same story, with the only difference being a small blue bar on the dials and a new button on the centre console. Driving modes – specific to the hybrid variant – include Sport, Hybrid and Electric, in addition to a Battery Control function which can be used to top up the battery to a defined level of charge.

The BMW 330e combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a total of 249bhp, while an ‘XtraBoost’ function adds another 41bhp (for a total of 289bhp) at the touch of a button. BMW says the new car is 30% quicker than the outgoing model, with electric-only range leaping by 50% up to 37 miles on a single charge.

CO2 emissions of 39g/km put the 330e in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax bracket of 13%, a status it maintains in this financial year through to 2020. Business users and fleet managers take note.

Official fuel economy stands at 138mpg, although in the real world this will decrease considerably. Our test route took in a mixture of urban and rural roads, and even with spirited driving, you’ll get more than 20 miles of electric-only range out of the battery.

Drive carefully around town, and closer to 30 miles seems realistic. The new 330e will also do up to 68mph in electric mode, before needing help from the petrol engine.

The new BMW 330e receives BMW’s Anticipatory Hybrid Drive set-up, which uses information from the sat nav to figure out when best to use power from the battery. EV mode will engage automatically in urban environments or in heavy traffic, and it’s a system that works seamlessly in the background.

Capable of 0-62mph in six seconds flat and with a top speed of 143mph, the 330e promises performance on a par with the petrol-powered 330i. And while you’ll have a hard time noticing the boost provided by the XtraBoost system, the 330e feels as fast as the figures suggest with Sport mode selected.

Like the petrol car, the four-cylinder engine sounds strained under hard acceleration, although this plug-in hybrid feels like any other 3 Series when speed is built at a more relaxed rate.

At low speeds around town, the 330e is immensely quiet, although the 18-inch wheels and winter tyres do kick up some road noise. The suspension does well to absorb the worst bumps in the tarmac, and it feels just as good as the diesel 320d at motorway speeds.

BMW has done well to hide the 330e’s extra bulk: no figure has been given for the weight of the battery, but the fact that the outgoing 330e was 160kg heavier than its 330i sibling gives you some idea of the extra mass this new version will be carrying. Even so, the 330e betrays very little body roll, even maintaining its composure in fast corners.

Meanwhile, the 3 Series PHEV is almost as practical as the petrol and diesel versions, with good space in the rear promised thanks to the wheelbase increasing by 41mm over the outgoing 330e. The boot is a useable shape, although it’s 105 litres smaller than the one found in the diesel 320d due to the batteries beneath the floor. The seats fold in a 40:20:40 formation, and it’s possible that a more practical 330e Touring estate will join the line-up further down the line.

All in all, the BMW 330e has improved in virtually every area. The extra purchase price may put some buyers off, but the potential of lower running costs and useful electric range will certainly tempt others; low-mileage business users in particular may prefer this over the diesel.