In-depth reviews

BMW 330e Touring hybrid review

The 3 Series saloon is already a top pick in the plug-in hybrid company-car class – is the more practical Touring estate even better?

BMW 330e Touring
Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Superb handling
  • Fast and comfortable
  • Very low running costs

Cons

  • High list price
  • Interior not cutting-edge
  • Missing some boot space
ModelElectric rangeFuel economyCO2 emissions
330e Touring35-41 miles177-202mpg32-35g/km
330e Touring xDrive33-35 miles157-177mpg36-40g/km

Plug-in hybrid power has spread through BMW's range over the past few years. In common with the larger 5 Series hybrid, the 330e plug-in is available in both four-door saloon and more practical 'Touring' estate form. There's also a choice between traditional BMW rear-drive or the brand's xDrive four-wheel-drive layout.

For our first drive of the 330e Touring, we sampled it in range-topping M Sport Pro trim with the above-mentioned four-wheel drive, although it's also available in the full range of trims the 330e saloon is, starting with SE Pro and rising up through Sport Pro and M Sport.

There's no difference in drivetrain between the saloon and estate versions of the car: you get the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 182bhp, working with an electric motor for a maximum output of 249bhp and 420Nm of torque And just like the saloon, that can be boosted for 288bhp in short bursts of up to 10 seconds using a function called 'XtraBoost'.

With power going through all four wheels, the 330e xDrive Touring gets from 0-62mph in a reasonable 6.2 seconds. On the German Autobahn or other unrestricted location, it'll keep going to 133mph, but perhaps a more important figure is 87mph – its top speed in pure-electric mode.

A 12kWh battery holds enough energy to take you a claimed 34 miles without using the petrol engine, and the car can be topped up from a typical home wallbox in around three-and-a-half hours, so being able to use that full electric range every day is entirely possible.

BMW gives an official fuel-economy number of a whisker under 157mpg for our test car, although that's more of a theoretical maximum than a realistic figure that can be hit consistently, especially if you drive for long distances after the battery has been depleted. As always, it's company-car users who stand to save the most by running a plug-in hybrid like this: its official CO2 output of 40g/km and that previously mentioned electric range see the 330e qualify for the 12% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band until at least April 2024.

Another point of commonality with almost every other plug-in hybrid is that the 330e has to sacrifice some boot space to accommodate its batteries. There's 90 litres less than in a non-hybrid 3 Series Touring (410 in total), but you can still lower the back seats to free up a generous 1,420 litres when you need to.

Elsewhere, the 330e Touring strays little from the impressive and engaging driving experience of the four-door-saloon model. You enjoy the same crisp handling, well weighted steering and near-perfect balance between body control and ride comfort that has long marked out this model. Our top-spec M Sport Pro test car did have adaptive suspension as standard, though; it's an option on the regular M Sport trim level.

Around town, the 330e behaves just like a pure-electric car at low speeds, cruising around silently but for the humming pedestrian-warning noise. Leave it in hybrid mode and you'll barely notice the transition from electric to petrol power, something aided by a super-smooth automatic gearbox. Sport mode is livelier, but does cause the engine to work a bit harder: this is the only time you'll miss the smoother tone of BMW's six-cylinder engines.

Overall, then, there are very few holes to pick in the 330e Touring's case. It works perfectly as a short-range electric commuter car around town, cruises comfortably on the motorway and comes alive when you hit an interesting bit of road – all while easily carrying a family of four and their luggage. Yes, the list price looks quite high, but strong residual values work wonders for monthly finance payment, while that ultra-low BiK banding we mentioned makes this car something of a no-brainer for the company-car set.

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