PETROL-ELECTRIC hybrid cars have been around for a while, but technology keeps moving on and there are now an increasing number of plug-in hybrids, re-chargeable at home or at public charging points.
BMW is well-established in this expanding market with models such as the i3 and i8, and now there is also a version of its iconic 3-Series, the 330e.
It is a plug-in hybrid with all the cachet of a BMW but the environmental credentials of a supermini. Base price is £34,235 (€37,991) including UK Government grant, but with a variety of options my Sport test model was £42,350 (€47,108).
It was lavishly equipped and included a premium satnav system, reversing and wing-mirror cameras, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated sports seats, cruise control, automatic dual zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, and M Sport suspension.
Powered by a 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine, an electric motor delivers 87 hp of the 249 hp. It is mated to a superb 8-speed automatic transmission with well-spaced ratios and a smooth shift action.
Running in electric mode wherever possible the 330e switches to internal combustion seamlessly, and you can run the car in electric-only mode for up 25 miles at city speeds at the touch of a switch. Domestic re-charging takes just two hours with a special wall box, or three hours from a home plug-socket.
Plug-in hybrid it is, but don’t expect it to be slow, the 0-60 mph time is a searing 6.1 seconds, top speed 140 mph. Official fuel economy is 134.5 mpg combined but in real-world driving expect about half that but still impressive for such a fast, powerful car and emissions are just 46g/km.
The car has elegant styling which complements its prestige persona. The cabin is beautifully designed for both comfort and driver-focus. The dashboard is laid out for ease of use and seating is very comfortable, with ample room for all occupants.
Boot space is smaller than a normal 3-Series but still substantial at 370 litres.