2016 BMW 330e iPerformance Saloon Review

BMW 330e iPerformance Sport

BMW has introduced plug-in hybrid technology to one of its best-selling models, the 3 Series...

Review

What is it?

Sales of BMW’s electric car range are rising across Europe thanks to innovative models such as the i3 Hatchback and i8 supercar, so it’s no surprise that it is now introducing the technology to some of its more traditional models. The BMW 330e iPerformance is a new plug-in hybrid version of the popular 3 Series saloon and it’s the eco-friendliest version of the car ever built. With a claimed economy of 148 MPG when used in electric mode, it would be easy to assume that the 330e isn’t as exciting to drive, but it has serious performance credentials too. Can a plug-in hybrid version of the 3 Series really prove popular in Ireland however, where diesel model sales reign supreme?

What is it like?

From the outside, the 330e looks like a regular 3 Series, but eagle-eyed enthusiasts will notice ‘eDrive’ badges behind the rear windows and a filler flap up front which opens for charging the electric battery. Most manufacturers try hard to make their hybrid models stand out, but it’s nice to see that BMW has opted for subtle styling enhancements. Our test car is certainly eye catching though, finished in a lovely Mineral White paint offset against dark 17-inch double spoke alloy wheels.

Inside, the 330e is much like a regular 3 Series, except for electric mode buttons and battery power readings in the driver's display area. The ‘Sport’ version we drove features black Dakota leather upholstery inside, along with an optional Professional Media package that includes satellite navigation, real time traffic information and BMW’s excellent concierge service. It is also specced with other desirable extras such as electric front seats with driver memory and an Anthracite roof lining for an extra-luxurious feel. There are four specifications with the entry SE, Sport, Luxury and range-topping M Sport.

Underneath the bonnet is where the 330e is particularly special, combining a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor and an 8-speed automatic transmission. On pressing the start button, the 87bhp electric motor silently takes over and the 330e drives power to the rear wheels. In electric mode, it accelerates fiercely up to 100km/h before the 181bhp petrol engine kicks. It is possible to alternate between different modes of driving through a button beside the gear lever or it will do this automatically, but when both the electric motor and petrol engine run in tandem in 'AUTO eDrive' mode, the 330e produces 249bhp and can accelerate from 0-100km/h in a shade over 6 seconds!

When fully charged, it is possible to cover up to 40 kilometres in electric 'MAX eDrive' mode, which will suffice for most urban commuters. The battery can be charged from empty through a standard domestic power socket in three hours or at one of the many ESB quick charge points in just over two hours. Due to added bulk of the electric drive system, the 330e’s boot size is 110 litres smaller than the regular 3 Series saloon, which will be a drawback for some family buyers. With 200kg of added weight over the standard 3 Series due to the hybrid system, the 330e also doesn’t handle with the same gusto as the regular 3 Series, but it rides smoothly and confidently nonetheless.

Carzone verdict: 4/5

As is the case with most plug-in hybrids, the 330e iPerformance is considerably more expensive to purchase than standard petrol or diesel options. If it fits with your lifestyle and you have easy access to charge points at both ends of your commute however, it makes perfect sense. There are massive savings to be had on day-to-day running costs when it comes to fuel economy depending on the length of your journey, while annual motor tax is just €170 per year. Depending on your mood, the 330e can be extremely efficient or ferociously fun at the press of a button, and for this reason it stands apart from most other hybrids currently on the market.

Test Car Details:

Model driven: BMW 330e iPerformance

Prices from: €41,080

Price as tested: €57,111

Annual Road Tax: €170

Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol/plug-in hybrid

Power/Torque: 181bhp, 290Nm

Top Speed: 225 km/h

0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic

Body style: 5-Door Saloon

Boot Space: 370 litres

Euro NCAP Safety Rating: 5 Star