BMW's latest plug-in hybrid in just Three-mendous

CarsBy Robbie Farrell
The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid
The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid

BMW 320i/330e

I have always had a Love-Hate relationship with the 3-Series BMW. Back in 2007, I bought a brand new model and absolutely hated it. It was sold within seven months!

Then, in 2012, I was invited to the international launch of the sixth-generation 3-Series model in Barcelona – and it blew me away.

It was a million miles away from the fifth-generation model I had previously owned, and put BMW back on top in the premium segment.

Since then, the 3-Series has been given a minor makeover in the looks department to keep it fresh and it now has a range of petrol, diesel and even plug-in hybrid engines to match.

So with a move slightly back towards petrol, I got behind the wheel of two 3-Series BMWs in the shape of the 320i and the 330e plug-in hybrid.

You all know how fond we are of petrol cars here in Motormouth Towers.

There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you put your foot to the floor and get that instant reaction that no diesel can match.

And, with the new BMW 330e, you get the best of both worlds.

The 2.0-litre petrol and electric engine working in tandem will give you a whopping 252bhp – whereas the pure 2.0-litre petrol 320i can only manage 181bhp.

The 330e is fitted with a 95bhp electric motor that sits directly behind the engine, while behind the rear seats you will find the lithium-ion battery that powers it.

According to BMW, you can travel up to 35km in pure electric mode and can go at speeds of up to 120kph before the petrol engine kicks in.

So, for someone like me who has a 28km return journey to the office each day,

I should be able to get in and out of town on one full charge without having to use a drop of juice.

Unfortunately, the figures didn’t seem to add and I couldn’t get in and back without the use of the petrol engine.

However, I was very surprised with the fuel consumption I was getting.

Most car companies will tell you that you get 3.5l-4.5l/100km on their ‘claimed’ ranges, but we all know this is never the case in everyday driving conditions.

The testers must be travelling around the smoothest roads or test tracks at speeds of 20km per hour if they can reach these numbers.

In the BMW 330e, I was actually only using less than 2l/100km on my daily commute. In the 320i, I was getting nowhere near that.

However, there are drawbacks too. The 330e has a smaller boot (down by 100 litres) in comparison to the 320i due to the battery pack in the rear.

On the flip side, the 330e is only €170 per year to tax, whereas the 320i will cost €280.

It also begs the question if you would be bothered to charge it up every night before you hit the hay and make the most of this futuristic technology in terms of fuel consumption.

I know I did each night and I was definitely reaping the rewards. 

On the road, there is still nothing that can match the 3-Series in the handling department.

Yes, the Audi A4 and even Mercedes C-Class have more modern interiors, but they still can’t cut it with the 3-Series on the road.

And I should know. I drove it on the Circuit de Catalunya a few years back and was blown away by the grip and traction it has.

I am still on the fence when it comes to plug-in hybrids, but this one is top notch if you use it properly.

With the €2,500 VRT rebate and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant of €5,000, you can get behind the wheel of the entry-level SE model for €41,030. 

That’s around five grand less than a diesel 320d SE, while the entry-level 320i petrol auto costs €42,878.