BMW 330e M Sport

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BMW's 3 Series needs no introducing - it's been a consistently excellent driver's car renowned for its quality and supreme handling for more than 40 years.

There's now a new version on the block with revised styling and improved driving dynamics and efficiency, and - as you'd expect - it's very, very good.

However, it's the newer kid on the 3 Series block - the second-generation 330e - which the powers that be at Munich expect to be a big seller these days.

The 330e comes with a revitalised plug-in powertrain capable - officially - of up to 41 miles on electric power alone, but it remains an exciting, engaging sports saloon.

And, with pricing of £39,575 for the range-topping M Sport, it's a serious mainstream contender in the 3 Series range. Especially if you've got a driveway or garage to keep the leccy topped up.

We all know the 3 Series is good so, let's get straight into the meat of things. The 330e uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in combination with an electric motor. The engine delivers 182bhp, with the electric motor adding an extra 67bhp for a total output of 249bhp.

However, the very latest 330e also arrives with a new XtraBoost mode, accessed through Sport mode, which temporarily increases power from 249bhp to 289bhp when needed. The throttle response is, quite literally, electric - an instantaneous surge of power for slick overtaking or pure fun when pulling away from the lights.

Otherwise, left to its own devices, the 2.0-litre engine drops out and leave the car to operate on electric power alone, operating seamlessly and regularly.

The 12kW battery under the rear seats is programmed to rely on electric power as much as possible. The 138mpg figure is extremely optimistic though - realistically you're looking at less than half that.

However, most people could commute in this car using nothing but battery power. While in the real world the 41-mile figure will be more like the high-20s or mid-30s, it was just about enough for me - as long as I could keep the battery charged.

Selecting the Electric mode helps keep the 330e in its zero emissions state as much of the time as possible, but the petrol engine kicks in if you go over 68mph or push the accelerator to the floor.

The great thing is, the 330e handles as you'd expect a 3 Series to, with little sign of the extra 200kg of weight added by the electric motor and battery pack. There's almost no body lean in corners and the steering is sharp and accurate. It's a delight to drive on the motorway or on winding country roads.

The mounting of the battery does eat a little into boot space, with the load area reduced by 105 litres to 375 litres but elsewhere, the 330e retains the hallmarks of the 3 Series.

The interior is attractive, comfortable and spacious with extra shoulder, knee, head and legroom room compared to its predecessor. Getting in and out of the car is also easier for the rear passengers because the door aperture height has been increased.

The 330e comes in SE Sport and the top-selling M Sport trim which features sports seats, an M Sport leather steering wheel, leather seats, heated front seats plus a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.3-inch central instrument cluster.

Standard equipment includes rain sensor, automatic headlight activation, a Bluetooth hands-free phone facility, automatic climate control - including three zones with independent controls for the driver, front passenger and rear passengers - and acoustic glass for the windscreen, driver and passenger side windows which dramatically reduces cabin noise.

There's also adaptive LED highlights and LED foglights, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warnings.

Standard specification for the new 330e also includes preconditioning of the interior with the heating or air conditioning. Energy stored in the high-voltage battery is used to power the auxiliary heating. In low outside temperatures, this means the interior can be warmed up, or cooled, with user-friendly ease before getting into the car, even when the battery charge is low.

FAST FACTS

BMW 330e M Sport

Price: £39,575

Mechanical: 289bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 143mph

0-62mph: 5.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 138

Insurance Group: 33

C02 emissions: 36g/km

Bik rating: 16%

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