From £23,085
An intriguing route to high performance and low emissions, but a 330d makes more sense and costs usefully less

Our Verdict

BMW 3-series

The BMW 3-series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder

What is it?: 

One way to consider BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3 is as a faster, more economical version of the six cylinder 335i M Sport. 

A hybrid performance car may seem odd when your usual thought is of a Prius, but that’s how BMW pitches this undeniably rapid machine, which knocks off the 0-62mph dash in 5.3 seconds. And impressively, scores 139g/km and 47.9mpg. 

The £37,540 335i, by contrast, needs 5.9sec for the same feat, emits 186g/km of CO2 and returns 39.2mpg combined. So far, so good.

Trouble, there’s another way to consider this car, which is as an alternative to the 330d SE. Also a six, it costs £6945 less at £33,280, puts out 129g/km of CO2, returns 57.6mpg and accelerates to 62mph in 5.6sec. 

So why does BMW bother with the complexity of a hybrid to achieve numbers inferior to its excellent diesel? Partly because of the diesel-unfriendly US market, and partly because it feels it must be present with this technology, which it now offers in four models, three of them here.

What's it like?: 

But the hybrid 3’s technical intrigue may make it possible to ignore this troubling comparison. Apart from the pleasure of enjoying a smooth-revving petrol six, and one that’s hooked to a particularly effective eight-speed transmission, there’s the excitement of harnessing the 54bhp electric motor to provide an extra surge of acceleration. It’s like having an F1 KERS system kick in as you power past a dawdler on the A1, and certainly has you recalibrating your view on hybrids.  

Or you can go for the economy kick, engage the Eco Pro setting to give you fuel-eking hints and tips, call up the bar graphs indicating fuel economy and petrol engine usage on the infotainment system, see how little you can use the six during the next minute, and what that does to your consumption. And on a daily commute that could be fun. There’s also entertainment to be had from the Three itself, which serves the same excellent steering, the same (mostly) cushioned ride and similar, well balanced handling. For complete in-bend composure you must order the optional adaptive dampers, which better control the hybrid’s roll. 

Other entertainments include seeing how far and fast you can go on electric power alone (2.5 miles and 37mph are the maximums), besides trying to feather the brakes without jerking your occupants’ heads, this challenged heightened by the not always seamless transition from regenerative braking to the hydraulic sort. 

Should I buy one?: 

This fault apart, the ActiveHybrid 3 is an impressively well-integrated and satisfying machine to conduct. It doesn’t really make sense against the 330d, but its technical sophistication and engaging multiple modes may outweigh that objection, even if the forecast life of its expensive A123 battery pack is only 10 years. 

BMW ActiveHybrid 3 SE

Price: £40,225; 0-62mph: 5.3sec; Top speed: 155mph; Economy: 47.9mpg; Co2: 139g/km; Kerbweight: 1595kg; Engine: 6-cyls in-line, 2979cc, electric motor; Power: 335bhp at 5800-6000rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 1200-5000rpm; Gearbox: 8-speed automatic

Join the debate

Comments
15

5 July 2012

I think the general opening gambit of whats the point is spot on, certainly for us Brits. How about adding it to the 330d or the 320d. This would make more sense to me. I have said it before and I'll keep saying it, that the hybrid/electric (etc) seems to exist at either end of the market. Both in terms of price and of performance/economy.

5 July 2012

I agree with audiolab - in the UK there certainly seems to be no point.

What I keep wondering is why nobody seems to use a diesel engine in a hybrid as it must surely be more economical as well as having lower CO2.

6 July 2012

toptidy wrote:

What I keep wondering is why nobody seems to use a diesel engine in a hybrid as it must surely be more economical as well as having lower CO2.

Apart from Peugeot, Citroen and Volvo, of course.

6 July 2012

A diesel engine is exensive. A hybrid system is expensive. A diesel hybrid is damned expensive.

Everybody whinges about the cost, so a diesel hybrid is not a great commercial solution ( though great for CO2). I guess that PSA do not make money on their diesel hybrids...so why do it?

14 August 2012

toptidy wrote:

I agree with audiolab - in the UK there certainly seems to be no point.

What I keep wondering is why nobody seems to use a diesel engine in a hybrid as it must surely be more economical as well as having lower CO2.

Diesels have much higher NOX emissions than petrol. Diesels fuel is dirty, that is less refined and releases more pollutants into the air. Thus diesels need particulate filters and NOX catalysts. Many already equire adblue and more will as new legislation is rolled out. A diesel is more complex than a NA petrol. So id you look at Lexus and Toyota hybrids there are fewer moving parts than on a turbo diesel. Thus greater reliability can be expected.

 

11 September 2013

6 pot petrol BMW is what BMW was all about.

The 6 & 4 pot diesel and 4 pot petrol cars are really not all that exciting.

The economy around town on short journeys is little different .

The worry is withing 10 years a diesel will need major expensive work as mentioned by another poster which makes the diesels not all the economical.

I've had my fair share of BMW diesel problems and I'm now keen to go back to petrol especially as my mileage has halved.

also diesel is set to get even more expensive vs petrol that the current 40-50p an imperial gallon more.

If the activehybrid was the same price as a 335i it would be the one to buy as it's now £5,000 cheaper S/H than a 335i it's a no brainer...

TBC

6 July 2012

Surely this must be one of the weakest arguments I have ever heard for a 'hybrid'. 2.5 miles in electric mode only, so how short a commute would you need to make any difference to the environment? And if your commute was that short, why not walk and live for another 10 years?

Additionally how many 'old ladies & school children' will you plough through while you 'call up the bar graphs indicating fuel economy and petrol engine usage on the infotainment system, see how little you can use the six during the next minute, and what that does to your consumption.'

Can't imagine what it would do for your life expectancy when the mother of the child you just ran down gets her hands on you.........

6 July 2012

I think a diesel would make more sense in the UK, but the 330d doesn't offer the performance to compete with this, so hopefully a 335d will be on the way soon.

6 July 2012

Any ideas on just how expensive the aforementioned battery pack is that needs replacing every 10 years? more than the residual value of the car itself at ten years old probably...

14 August 2012

Why worry about the price of a batterya fter 10 years? Less than the cost of a turbocharger or any of the multiple high cost items that can fail on turbo diesels

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