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In-depth reviews

BMW 330e hybrid saloon review

​​"The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid is satisfying to drive, comfortable, and affordable to run, especially for company car drivers"

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Impressive efficiency
  • Low BiK for business drivers

Cons

  • Limited EV range
  • Engine can sound strained
  • Battery pack eats into boot space

Verdict - Is the BMW 330e a good car?

If you’re considering the BMW 330i petrol model, you should definitely think about changing your order to a 330e. The latter is quieter in town and just as good to drive, plus you get instant performance from the electric motor and low running costs. Even if you’re not a company car driver, the 330e is an appealing family vehicle.

BMW 330e models, specs and alternatives

The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid is the electrified version of the BMW 3 Series and is available in saloon or estate form. Either way, it’s an alternative model in the range that uses additional electric power to achieve low running costs, especially for company car drivers. If you’d prefer a pure electric model, there’s the BMW i4 – although that also looks slightly different and is only offered with a hatchback bodystyle.

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The latest 330e uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, teamed with an electric motor. The batteries, which can be charged up using a plug at home or at work, provide an all-electric driving range of up to 38 miles.

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Most of the time it has 249bhp, but in Sport mode power can be boosted to 288bhp, provided there’s enough charge in the battery. This means it’s faster than the 330e that came before, and that lines up with the sporty ethos of the BMW brand; the 330e is more enjoyable to drive than the rival Volvo V60 Recharge Hybrid or Mercedes C 300 e plug-in hybrid models.

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The main draw to the BMW 330e is its CO2 emissions, which stand at 30-34g/km depending on both specification and whether or not you go for the xDrive four-wheel-drive model, which is heavier. Every version is appealing for company car drivers, though, as it delivers a much lower tax rating than diesel equivalents. Not only that, but this petrol-electric version is smoother, quieter and faster than the diesel versions that used to dominate the company car park.

The 330e is available in Sport and M Sport trim levels, although even the entry-level models are well-equipped and good to drive. It’s roomy inside, despite the boot space being reduced to 375 litres due to the 12kWh battery pack taking up some space, which is a common trade-off with plug-in hybrid cars. An 80 per cent charge takes two and a half hours from a home wall box, although most people will simply plug-in overnight.

MPG, running costs & CO2

BMW 330e EV range should cover most commutes, while its clever hybrid mode is efficient the rest of the time

While it’s more costly to buy outright than the diesel BMW 320d, the plug-in hybrid 330e is sure to attract business and private customers thanks to its low running costs.

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Depending on the trim and whether rear or four-wheel-drive is fitted, the 330e saloon is capable of between 36 and 38 miles of pure-electric driving, and a claimed fuel economy of 188.3-217.3mpg. Significantly, the emissions figure qualifies the car for a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating, potentially cutting a serious amount from your tax bill. Both the BMW 320d and 330i fall into the upper bandings of the company-car tax brackets by comparison.

While it’s debatable whether most owners will achieve triple-digit fuel economy figures – very much depending on their driving style and how often they charge its batteries – the 330e’s CO2 emissions will remain fixed for the life of the vehicle, so it should always be cheap to tax. Short to medium journeys suit the 330e best, so long-distance motorway drivers may still find a diesel cheaper to run. With the petrol engine fired up, we found that both versions of the 330e are capable of around 40-45mpg on longer drives.

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Charging the 12kWh battery pack to 80% takes around 2.5 hours using a 3.7kW wall box. Using a domestic three-point plug takes around 5.5 hours. It’s also worth noting that a Type 2 cable costs extra, and you’ll need one to use with public charging points.

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Most drivers will be able to achieve an all-electric range in the mid 30s, meaning it will be possible for many to cover their commute on battery power alone. Selecting the Electric mode helps keep the 330e in its zero emissions state as much of the time as possible, but the petrol engine kicks in if you go over 68mph or push the accelerator to the floor.

Engines, drive & performance

Most drivers will be more than satisfied by the BMW 330e driving experience

While the previous BMW 330e wasn’t slow, the German brand has used its latest technology to further bolster performance for this version. The changes include an electric motor capable of unleashing an extra 40bhp when the driver selects Sport mode, bumping the car’s combined power with the 2.0-litre petrol engine from 249bhp to 288bhp.

With rear-wheel drive the 0-62mph benchmark is dispatched in 5.8 seconds, with the 330e feeling as quick as its specifications suggest. Opting for BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system costs around £1,500 more across the range, and doesn’t feel hugely different to drive, but improves traction in slippery conditions.

The petrol-electric powertrain boasts excellent throttle response, with an instantaneous shove from the electric motor instantly helping the car pick up speed. Under hard acceleration, the 2.0-litre engine can sound strained, but in normal conditions, the 330e will get up to speed as gracefully as any other 3 Series. It handles like one, too, with little sign of the extra 200kg of weight added by the electric motor and battery pack. There’s almost no body lean in corners, while the steering is sharp and accurate, but the 330e’s low-rolling-resistance tyres don’t grip quite as hard as sportier tyres, while energy-recuperation technology makes the brakes feel slightly inconsistent.

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With both petrol and electric propulsion, you also have more choice over how the 330e drives via its driving modes. Left in its Hybrid setting, the on-board computer juggles power based on your driving style and even data from the sat-nav, while EV mode uses just electric power whenever you have enough charge and are travelling below 68mph. If you’re in a hurry, Sport uses the petrol engine and electric motors for maximum acceleration. You can also choose to save the battery pack’s charge for use later, relying solely on the petrol engine, but we found Hybrid quite intelligent – it doesn’t just use all the battery power straight away like in some models.

Interior & comfort

The BMW 3 Series has an attractive and comfortable interior

At low speeds the 330e’s electric motor makes it especially refined, with tyre noise becoming the most obvious disturbance as you speed up. Overall the experience is similar to that of a 320d, which makes the 330e one of the most refined models in the compact-executive class. It’s also pretty comfortable, soaking up most bumps well.

There are some comfort advantages to be found here, too, because power from the high-voltage battery can be used to precondition the 330e, warming up the interior before you set off on cold days, or cooling it down in hot weather.

The 3 Series' latest facelift ushered in BMW’s new infotainment setup, which is a big upgrade that sees a 12.3-inch instrument display flow almost seamlessly into a stunning 14.9-inch central screen. This is now one of the best systems in its class, and while the climate control has also moved to the screen – a bugbear for some – these settings are always shown at the bottom of the display, making them quick to adjust.

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Materials dotted around the cabin are as swish looking and solid as you’d expect, with sturdy plastics and plenty of metallic trim fillets to lift the ambience. The gear selector might take a bit of getting used to for anyone more used to a larger lever, but it helps free up the centre console for storage.

As part of an update introduced in 2020, the 330e can be specced with BMW Drive Recorder, which adds a series of cameras around the bodywork. This system continuously records when the car is moving, automatically saving the footage in the event of an accident.

Practicality & boot space

It's spacious inside but plug-in hybrid powertrain has cut boot space to 375 litres

In most ways the BMW 330e is just as practical as a regular 3 Series, with plenty of passenger space for adults to sit in comfort. In fact, the latest model has 41mm more space between the front and rear wheels (the car’s wheelbase) than the old model, with noticeable benefits to knee room.

The battery pack is positioned underneath the rear seats, and this does have an impact on luggage space, reducing it from 480 to 375 litres. However, the BMW has retained its usable shape, while it’s also possible to fold the 40:20:40 seat backs to create more room for bulky items.

Reliability & safety

BMW's reliability record has suffered of late, but the 3 Series should be incredibly safe

BMW finished 16th out of 29 manufacturers in our 2022 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, so only a middling result – albeit a slight improvement. The BMW 3 Series came in 32nd place in our ranking of the top 75 cars as rated by their owners, though, which bodes well – especially as the 330e’s electric components should be reliable due to the fact there are few moving parts. It’s also reassuring that this only represents a drop of a single position since 2021’s results.

The 330e should certainly be safe, thanks to a five-star rating from the independent crash-test body Euro NCAP. It comes fitted with the latest safety devices as standard, which include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warnings.

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Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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