2012 BMW Active Hybrid 3 review

  • 3 Series petrol-electric hybrid driven
  • 47.9mpg and 139g/km of CO2
  • On sale September, priced from £40,225
BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series
The BMW Active Hybrid 3 shouldn’t be confused with hybrids such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Those cars are about being seen to be green as well as actually being green, whereas the Active Hybrid 3 looks like any other BMW 3 Series.

Combining a 54bhp electric motor – mounted in the eight-speed automatic gearbox – with a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine, the Hybrid 3 produces a total of 335bhp and 332lb ft of torque. It’s one hybrid that’s not short of performance.

What’s the 2012 BMW Active Hybrid 3 like to drive?
At speeds of up to 37mph, the Active Hybrid 3 can run for almost 2.4 miles on electric power alone. Of course, that’s only as long as you don’t encounter any steep inclines and if you're gentle with the accelerator pedal.

Put down your foot hard, and the electric motor assists the petrol engine, giving the car rapid acceleration – the 0-62mph dash is dismissed in just 5.3 seconds – and plenty of mid-range overtaking punch.

The 0-62mph dash is over in just 5.3 seconds - and there's plenty of mid-range punch, too

The transition between pure electric power and petrol engine-assisted propulsion is especially smooth, partially thanks to the silky eight-speed automatic gearbox. There’s just the slightest increase in mechanical noise as the petrol engine cranks into life, so your passengers should remain oblivious to the complexities of the Active Hybrid’s powertrain.

If you plot your destination using the sat-nav system, the car’s nerve centre can even take into account the various inclines along the route to help maximise efficiency. ?

Despite the added weight of its battery pack, the Active Hybrid 3 manages to ride and handle much like other 3 Series models. Consequently, if you stick with the relatively soft standard chassis set-up you’ll end up with a slightly unsettled ride at low speeds and a tad too much body roll in corners. You can, however, specify the £750 adaptive dampers, which limit body roll and help make the car feel much neater in bends.

Once up to motorway speeds, you’ll notice a bit of wind noise around the door mirrors and across the top of the windscreen, but otherwise the Active Hybrid 3 is a refined and relaxing cruiser.

BMW 3 Series
Despite the weight of its hybrid system, the Active 3 handles like any other 3

What’s the 2012 BMW Active Hybrid 3 like inside?
Aside from some Active Hybrid badging near the gear selector, and a couple of readouts on the dashboard that show how the hybrid system is working, the cabin is identical to any other 3 Series’.

There’s plenty of space for four and the quality of materials used in the construction is first rate. However, the jewel in the crown is the iDrive system, which controls most of the car’s infotainment menus and displays them on a high-definition centrally mounted 6.5-inch colour screen.

The most significant difference between the Active Hybrid 3 and a standard 3 Series is in the boot, where capacity drops by 90- itres because the battery pack is positioned behind the rear seats. The 390 litres that you’re left with is still reasonably decent, though.

BMW 3 Series
A few readouts aside, the cabin is like that of any other 3 Series varaiant

Should I buy one?
The Active Hybrid 3 is one of the finer exponents of hybrid technology, plus it averages a creditable 47.9mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2. However, it’s still hard to argue a case for choosing it over one of BMW’s brilliant 3 Series diesels.

The 330d, which goes on sale later this year, offers similar performance, yet it combines 55mpg with emissions of 135g/km and will be around £6000 cheaper. An excellent Hybrid but we’d still go diesel.

Read the full BMW 3 Series review >>

BMW 330d
Lexus GS 450h

What Car? says…

Pete Tullin

Test drive this car yourself!

We can help you arrange a test drive with a local dealer.
Just leave your details and we will be in touch to organise a convenient time & place.

Latest reviews

Free car valuations