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Car reviews - BMW - 3 Series - 330e

Our Opinion

We like
Quiet cabin, ride quality, relatively smooth driveline transition, solid performance
Room for improvement
Lost boot space, only sedan body style offered, enviro-friendly power plan needed for true green status


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3 May 2016

FOR some, the absence of stand-out styling to advertise a planet-saving choice at the BMW dealership might be a problem – the brand's i3 and i8 models stand out like the proverbial but not so its latest electrified model.

The new 330e is unremarkable in its appearance, betraying its better fuel economy only by way of a flap on the front left hand fender for plugging into the power supply and a handful of badges on the exterior.

The positioning of the charging flap is perhaps not ideal, limiting the choice of parking position relative to a charging point, unlike the Audi A3 e-tron that has its plug point tucked away behind the four rings of the radiator grille.

Inside, there’s an eDrive button to switch between the drivetrain modes and an additional screen in the trip computer to show where the gains in fuel economy are made and from where the propulsion is being sourced.

The features list and cabin trim mimic its 330i sibling, so the cabin is comfortable, spacious without being cavernous, leather trimmed, well set out and controls are easy to use.

Bootspace is reduced in terms of depth because of the battery’s installation, dropping in size from 480 to 370 litres, which the brand claims is still enough for two golf bags.

The BMW staffers also claim a real-world range of around 37km, which was tested through the German-built 330e’s natural habitat – inner-city arteries choked with traffic.

In theory, given the 2.1 litres per 100km claim and the 41-litre stainless-steel pressurised fuel tank (required for emissions-free status to limit fuel vapour release), the 330e offers what BMW describes as a “realistic” every-day range of 600km.

Progress through Toorak, followed by Melbourne’s Chapel Street and down through St Kilda Beach was quiet and emissions-free, with the electric side of the drivetrain providing smooth, swift and unfussed acceleration.

The hybrid re-engineering beneath the skin has prevented BMW from fitting the sports automatic that is in the 330i also absent from the ‘e’ model is the adaptive suspension, so conventional dampers have instead been installed and tuned for the altered weight distribution.

The result is a chassis that has a ride comfort bias, a tune that BMW could do worse than consider installing in more of its mainstream range, as the ride quality of the hybrid is very good, despite the presence of 40-profile front and 35-profile rear run-flat tyres on 19-inch wheels.

A serious stab of the accelerator fired the petrol motor into life and it was a reasonably smooth transition into internal combustion propulsion, although it didn’t need the centre display graphic to inform the driver of petrol useage.

The petrol powerplant, the twin-scroll direct-injection variable-valve turbo four from the 1450kg 320i, toils diligently at hauling the extra weight of the hybrid, which is 1660kg, 165kg heavier than the 330i on which its features list is based.

While there were limited opportunities to explore the handling side of the equation, there’s little extra weight shift that betrays where the 80kg battery has been placed the steering is light and direct and it doesn’t feel nose-heavy.

While we didn’t make the maximum claimed range – the battery was at about 83 per cent when the drive began – the 330e finished the short city loop through Melbourne’s suburbs and CBD with 4.7 litres per 100km showing on the trip computer.

Given the brand has both petrol and diesel engines that are frugal on fuel, BMW admits this new hybrid model will not suit all driving tastes and terrains – long-distance cruising and highway work lends itself to the BMW turbo-diesel range, some of which gets close to the aforementioned fuel economy number, if not the CO2 emission.

But if you’re signed up for green energy at home and are in the market for an executive express with a conscience, BMW has priced the 330e to make it a viable and frugal proposition.

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