What is it?
Think of BMW and which model springs to mind? We’d guess it’d be the image of the famous 3 Series that would come up immediately. Despite the increasing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, the 3 Series remains one of BMW’s big-hitters, with more than 1.1 million examples sold worldwide since 2019 alone.
Recently revamped, the new 3 Series is available with a series of punchy yet efficient engines, with the one we’re testing here – the plug-in hybrid 330e – one of the most appealing to business users. Let’s see what it has to offer.
The 3 Series might’ve been tweaked in its recent update, but it’s still very recognisable as BMW’s core model. It has gained a redesigned nose, while inside it benefits from BMW’s latest infotainment technology and ultra-wide curved screen.
But the fundamentals remain the same. Here, in Touring (estate) guise, it stays focused on practicality, with its 410-litre boot being well-shaped and easy to access. As with nearly all generations of Touring, the latest 3 Series also incorporates a clever ‘pop’ glass hatch at the rear, which means you can access the load area without having to open the entire boot.
What’s under the bonnet?
As mentioned, we’re looking at the plug-in hybrid 330e here. It uses a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with an electric motor to develop 288bhp and 420Nm of torque. It’s available both with or without BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system – we’ve got it fitted here – which brings added traction.
As well as a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds, you could see up to 188mpg and CO2 emissions of between 42 and 33g/km depending on specification. Plus, there’s the chance to drive up to 42 miles on electric power alone. All versions use an eight-speed automatic gearbox, too, while BMW claims an 80 per cent charge will take 4.2 hours via a domestic socket.
What’s it like to drive?
The 330e delivers a very attractive blend of efficiency and performance. For most of the time it’s quite happy to mix in that electrification with the petrol engine intelligently, while the chop between EV and petrol power is done seamlessly – you can’t really notice it. This isn’t a car which goads you into driving faster, mind you, and while the engine note of the 2.0-litre engine isn’t that bad, it’s just not a car which feels like it needs to be hustled.
No, the 330e is a car you drive in a more sedate manner. The steering has great balance to it, mind you, and though the suspension feels a touch firm for the UK’s country roads, it settles down nicely at a cruise. During our spell with the car we spent much of the time in battery-only mode and it’s here where it felt particularly compelling.
How does it look?
As we’ve already touched upon, BMW has updated the exterior look of the 3 Series but it’s still very recognisable. The kidney grilles have been redesigned and made larger – as is the way with current BMW models – but they’re very much in proportion with the car as a whole and don’t look too oversized. The headlights have been made slimmer – and incorporate LED technology as standard – while more areas of the car have been painted in the same colour as the body.
In Touring specification the 3 Series looks particularly sleek – in our eyes, at least. A redesigned diffuser makes it look a little sportier than before while our test car’s flat grey exterior paintwork helped to give it a stealthier appeal.
What’s it like inside?
There’s a real sense of solidity to the cabin of the 3 Series. Everything feels very well put together, with areas like the armrest and central tunnel buttons being particularly strong in this respect. There’s space, too, with decent levels of head- and legroom for those sitting in the back, though obviously, this more compact estate car isn’t able to provide the last word in outright spaciousness – you’d need to move up to the larger 5 Series Touring for that.
As mentioned, the boot is of a decent size – though it is slightly down on the regular 3 Series. The rear seats can be individually folded, too, which means that there’s more storage flexibility should you need it.
What’s the spec like?
BMW has really bumped up the level of standard equipment available on the new 3 Series, with all cars getting features such as 17-inch alloy wheels and three-zone climate control fitted from the off. The big new addition is the Curved Display, which merges a 12.3-inch driver display with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen to create one super-large monitor. It’s also really easy to use and, though it’s packed with menus and features, can easily be navigated either through the touchscreen or the rotary wheel.
Our test car came in popular M Sport specification which – as well as a £57,410 price tag – included gloss black exterior styling touches, heated front seats and acoustic glass for a quieter cabin.
The BMW 3 Series feels like a car that is well and truly in its stride. This 330e model in particular will prove compelling for business owners who will appreciate its super-low CO2 emissions and decent electric range.
But above that, the 3 Series just remains a car that is as practical as it is good to drive. Throw in some of the latest technology that BMW has to offer and you find yourself with a very appealing package.