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Used hybrids: BMW 330e vs Volvo S60

Buy either of these two premium plug-in hybrids at a year old and you'll save more than £11,000, but which is the better option?.....

New BMW 330e vs new Volvo S60

The contenders

BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport (M Sport Plus Pack)

List price £42,190

Price today £31,000*

Available from 2019-present

The plug-in hybrid version of the iconic 3 Series saloon looks extremely compelling on paper.

Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design Plus 

List price £49,805

Price today £34,000*

Available from 2019-present

More expensive to buy but delivers terrific performance and a large saving on the new price. 

*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

If you like the idea of an electric car but have doubts about whether such a vehicle will fit into your lifestyle you could always dip your toes in the future with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Like electric cars, these can manage average-length commutes on battery power alone. But if you need to make a longer journey or simply didn’t have a chance to charge the battery, there’s still a good old petrol engine to help out.

One such car is the BMW 330e, which takes all that we love about the regular BMW 3 Series executive saloon and then adds in the ability to travel up to 35 miles on battery power alone. Thanks to a combined 288bhp when its engine and rear-mounted electric motor team up, it offers surprisingly punchy performance, too.

However, on the power front it can't hold a candle to the rapid Volvo S60 T8. This understated Swede pumps out a mighty 386bhp and yet still promises 33 miles from a full charge.

Both cars are a bit pricey bought new, but if you were to buy either of them at just a year old you'll bypass that heavy first-year depreciation and save yourself a very healthy sum of money indeed. But which is the better all-round plug-in hybrid? 

BMW 3 Series 330e driving


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Official electric-only ranges are often hard to achieve in real-world driving, and so it proved in our tests. The 330e managed 26.5 miles and the S60 24.8 miles – each car some way behind its official figures, but still enough to handle many commutes.

To make sure the petrol engine stays switched off, you need to put these cars in their pure electric driving modes. However, to keep fuel consumption as low as possible, both cars are intelligent enough to know when they can power themselves using mostly electric power anyway, as long as you’re driving gently and there’s a reasonable level of charge in the battery. 

Once the battery is out of juice, the petrol engine cuts in. Don’t expect spectacular fuel economy at this point, because both cars are quite a bit heavier than their conventional counterparts (blame the batteries and electric motors), but the 330e managed a respectable 37.2mpg in our tests, compared with the S60’s 36.0mpg.

The S60’s economy seems all the more remarkable when you consider the acceleration it can muster when its petrol engine and electric motor are working together. Floor its accelerator pedal and, after a short delay while the automatic gearbox readies itself, it sprints off down the road like a true performance car. On a mildly damp road surface it managed 0-60mph in just 5.3sec.

Volvo S60 driving

Not that the 330e is exactly sluggish; it still managed to hit 60mph from a standstill in 6.2sec. Its two power sources work together more adroitly than the S60’s, too, with a smoother transition between battery and petrol power and to both working in tandem.

If you enjoy your driving, the 330e is the better choice, too.  Granted, it isn’t quite as agile as regular petrol or diesel versions of the 3 Series, but it still tucks its nose into corners eagerly and feels neatly balanced through bends and out the other side. The S60 grips the road almost as hard, but responds more ponderously when you ask for a quick change of direction and there’s more body lean when that happens. Its steering isn’t as accurate as its German rival’s, either.

Then again, you’ll appreciate the S60’s generally softer ride. On gently undulating roads and motorways, it’s considerably comfier than the firmer-edged 330e. That said, the S60 tends to shudder and crash more over broken asphalt and potholes, while the 330e always maintains its composure and deals with such obstacles quicker and more effectively. It’s worth noting that the M Sport Plus Pack version on test here came with adaptive suspension and 19in alloy wheels; regular M Sport cars got an even firmer suspension setup, albeit with slightly smaller (18in) rims.

The Volvo S60 is the slightly more peaceful cruiser, subjecting you to considerably less tyre roar than the BMW 3 Series 330e at a steady 70mph and only slightly more wind noise. Its petrol engine sounds coarser when you’re accelerating hard, though.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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