2019 BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid PHEV review - prices, specs and release date

Has adding a 200kg hybrid system to create the BMW 330e made the perfect company car, or ruined the driver appeal of the 3 Series?...

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Boyan Marinov
13 August 2019

2019 BMW 330e front three-quarter driving

Priced from £37,875 | Release date Sept 2019

Fusion food. We've all heard of it, but do you know what it actually is? Put simply, it’s using different culinary traditions and combining ingredients in unusual ways. And although you might expect something like a Kenyan Scotch egg to be truly repugnant, it can be exceedingly tasty when done well.

You can look at the latest BMW 330e as the fusion food of the car world, combining BMW's tradition of making sharp-driving cars with the latest advances in plug-in hybrid technology. From mid-2020, you’ll be able to get a 330e Touring should you need a bigger boot.

The '30’ designation of the 330e highlights how it produces similar power to the petrol 330i and diesel 330d, albeit with the help of an electric motor, hence the ‘e’. Compared to the previous 330e, this latest one has almost double the electric range which means you get an impressive official combined fuel consumption figure of 138mpg. The CO2 emissions are just 37g/km, astonishing given the performance on offer, translating to low BiK rates for business users. It’s therefore no surprise that BMW banks on every fourth 3 Series sold to be a 330e.

bmw 330e gray driving rear

2019 BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid PHEV on the road

Like the 330i, there isn't a large straight six under the bonnet of the 330e, but a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol making 181hp. Right behind the engine is a 111bhp electric motor which sends the combined power of 248bhp via an eight-speed automatic to the rear wheels. The 12kWh battery is stored under the rear seats in order to give you the most boot space.

With a 0-62mph time of six seconds, it's difficult to imagine you'd need much more performance in everyday driving. Unlike some cars, the 330e actually feels even quicker than the numbers suggest thanks to the instantaneous power delivery of the electric motor helping the petrol engine. The hot-hatch-baiting performance combined with the 330e's impressive electric-only range makes it a rather appealing fusion on the face of it.

The best way to experience the 330e is to make good use of the different driving modes. Left in Hybrid mode it switches between electric and petrol power smoothly and can prove rather efficient. We saw about 65mpg on the trip computer after three hours of mixed driving with a charged battery. There’s only a slight abruptness to the engine joining the party when you floor the accelerator, although it’s not enough to ruffle any feathers or spill your coffee.

Switching to Electric mode allows you to travel in silence with a smug grin on your face at speeds of up to 85mph. In this mode, the 330e accelerates with enough conviction so you rarely feel like you need more power in everyday driving. This mode is ideal for the morning commute when you just want to waft along in near-silence. Plug the 330e into a regular 3.7kWh Type 2 charger at home and it will go from flat to 80% charged in just over two and a half hours.

On the way back from work, it's worth selecting Sport with XtraBoost mode. Not only does the engine’s response gets sharper and you get an amplified engine note pumped through the stereo but also the electric motor is now used to give you extra power. As a result you get 288bhp for 10 seconds at a time which makes the 330e accelerate quicker than a 330i in city speeds up to 40mph. That’s thanks to the instantaneous power delivery of the electric motor boosting the petrol engine off the line. An added bonus is sharp throttle response that allows you minute control over the 330e’s acceleration.

The 330e is about 200kg heavier than a 330i which translates to more body lean in corners and a fraction less grip when you’re pushing really hard. Keep your speed to normal levels and the 330e’s body movements are controlled, manageable, and if you consider yourself a keen driver, predictable as well. Despite the added weight, the 330e retains the sublime balance of the regular 3 Series.

Our test car was fitted with relatively small 18-inch wheels and BMW’s optional Adaptive Suspension. With this system equipped you pretty much get the best of both worlds. Select Comfort mode and there is a pleasing fluidity over undulating roads while body roll is still kept in check. Go to Sport mode and you get a bit more bounciness over small bumps but the trade off is better body control in fast direction changes. You can get xDrive four-wheel drive as an option for more traction and stability on slippery roads.

bmw 330e interior dashboard

2019 BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid PHEV interior

While the 330e looks pretty much identical inside to most other 3 Series at a glance, there are some details that are easy to miss. For example, you get handy readouts on the digital dials behind the steering wheel that are unique to this hybrid version. These show you how much charge you have in the battery or how far you can press the accelerator before the petrol engine kicks in. You also have different buttons on the centre console for the different driving modes and there are also aluminium inserts with a futuristic tetragon effect. If you find the design too modern looking, you can go for something more traditional such as wood.

You can get the 330e in any of the three trim levels available for the 3 Series. However, all 330e models can get the interior to a pre-set temperature for a specific departure time. This is done using the BMW smartphone app so you get into a warm/cool car depending on the season – you have to have a charged battery for this to work though. Also standard is the Parking Assistant which can find and steer your 330e into a suitable parking spot. 

One optional feature that’s pretty neat is the BMW Drive Recorder – it uses the cameras around the car to record video in the case of an accident should you need to resolve an insurance dispute. The Drive Recorder is standard if you go for the optional top-spec infotainment system with a 10.3-inch screen instead of the 8.8-inch fitted as standard.

Our test car had said top-spec system fitted and it’s our favourite on the market. What we like is the physical rotary controller positioned near the gear selector that both systems get. This allows you to flick through menus without taking your eyes off the road for an extended period of time, unlike the touchscreen-only Audi A4. Furthermore, using the BMW system is intuitive and you can personalise the home screen to your liking. 

Next to premium alternatives such as the C-Class or A4, the 3 Series is the most spacious of them all but the differences aren’t huge. There’s plenty of space upfront in the 3 Series, with a great driving position while two-six footers in the back will fit perfectly fine. What's not so good is that you lose around 100 litres of boot space compared to a non-hybrid 3 Series. In more practical terms that’s about two carry-on suitcases less in the back of the 330e which could be a deciding factor if you frequently do airport runs with a car full of people.

For more information about the 3 Series such as practicality and equipment details, make sure to check out our in-depth BMW 3 Series review.

Next: 2019 BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid PHEV verdict 

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