Hybrid powerhouse

from BMW

BMW Active Hybrid 3, side
BMW Active Hybrid 3, front
BMW Active Hybrid 3, rear
BMW Active Hybrid 3, interior
BMW Active Hybrid 3, badge
BMW Active Hybrid 3, instruments, detail
BMW Active Hybrid 3, interior, detail

MENTION the word hybrid and you don't really think of a performance car - but nobody, it seems, has told BMW.

For while its new Active Hybrid 3 Series model will take you from standstill to around 37 miles per hour in sedate silence powered solely by an electric motor it's also capable of throwing you back in your seat when that motor joins forces with the petrol engine.

In fact it's capable of hitting 62 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds, which is fractionally quicker than the BMW 335i.

This supremely refined addition to the BMW stable is powered by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine and a 40kW electric motor, which in tandem produce 340 bhp.

The bonus is this car will achieve almost 48 miles per gallon - helped by the use of a stop-start system and low rolling resistance run-flat tyres - and has emissions of just 139g/km, which means it attracts only an 18 per cent benefit-in-kind company car tax rate.

And while most hybrid cars tend to loose a lot of their boot space because of the amount of batteries packed under the floor this one seems to have escaped virtually unscathed.

True the boot is shallower but only slightly, and it's still very capable of taking a full holiday luggage load.

Externally the car is set apart from other models by the large "Active Hybrid 3" lettering in matt chrome on the pillar between the rear door and the rear window as well as the matt chrome exhaust tailpipe.

Inside the name is also on the door sills and on the gear lever knob, while a quick look at the rev counter - with graphics showing the electric motor boost function and energy flow and recuperation - soon tell you this is a hybrid.

A wide range of features, however, are identical to standard 3 Series models, including the eight-speed Sport gearbox, which is beautifully seamless in its action.

As with all hybrids it remains completely silent when you push the start button but you know you are good to go when you see the rev counter needle hovering on "ready".

And if you are in town it can stay on ready - running purely on the electric motor with zero emissions - for almost 2.5 miles unless you need the extra power of the engine.

When you do dip the accelerator firmly the response is instant as the engine cuts in giving the car a powerful surge forward, although still with a high degree of silence.

The BMW 3 Series is responsible for nearly a quarter of all BMWs sold in the UK but a hybrid version has never been available here before.

Despite being a niche vehicle for the marque in Britain the company expects to sell around 100 models.

Prices start from £40,225 on the road rising to £43,225 for an M Sport derivative with aerodynamic body styling, 18-inch M Star-spoke alloy wheels and M Sport suspension.

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