First drive: the BMW 330e, a plug-in 3-Series

Why are you reviewing a normal-looking BMW 3-series?

BMW 330e PHEV (Image: BMW)

BMW 330e PHEV (Image: BMW)

Because it’s got a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, that’s why. But it’s not like the 225xe people carrier, which is a natively front-driven car. That car’s hybrid system adds an electric motor at the back for the bonus of 4WD.

This 330e, on the other hand, is natively rear-drive. It uses a motor hooked directly to the flywheel driving through the regular automatic gearbox, so it’s still rear-drive only. So closer to BMW’s tradition.

OK, got it. Any numbers for me?

It uses a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol engine with 184bhp. Add the e-motor to the equation, and you have 252bhp in all. Because the electric motor is geared one-to-one with the engine, its contribution is there for you all the time (the 225xe’s rear motor has a single-speed transmission and its effort falls away to nothing at motorway speed). So the 330e has the poke of a 330i petrol, and gets to 62mph in 6.1sec. Hot hatch quick.

Does it feel as lively as the numbers suggest?

Pretty much. There’s a smooth urge at mid revs thanks to the ever-alert electric torque. The petrol engine is quiet, but its tone is boring and grumbly. But nothing like as loud as the diesel engine you’d be buying instead.

In town, you’re often propelled by uncannily smooth and silent e-drive. Provided the battery has charge, the electric motor, at 88bhp, is plenty powerful enough for urban use without troubling the engine at all.

And the economy?

Officially, 149mpg and 44g/km.

Read more: Top Gear

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