We were impressed by the updated petrol saloon. Now for the plug-in hybrid estate

Given that the BMW 3 Series variants offered since 2019 have been the most successful in history, with 1.1 million sold, you can forgive BMW for not making many changes for the refreshed models.

Even so, the 2022 cars incorporate useful improvements – which seem to work especially well in arguably the most versatile and economical variant, the 330e Touring xDrive. It has the short-haul economy of a PHEV, the versatility of a wagon and great all-weather traction via a mostly unobtrusive electronically managed four-wheel drive system.

The visual changes aren’t dramatic: some alterations to the twin kidney grille, thinner headlights and new air vents low down on the front of the body, where the foglights were.

Bmw 330e xdrive touring 04 front tracking

In the cabin, it’s the fascia that gets the biggest changes, a gigantic central touchscreen and a slightly smaller digital display ahead of the driver for essential instruments. Thankfully, the 3 Series keeps its iDrive controller and the stereo still has the classic on/off/volume knob.

This M Sport edition is extremely well equipped, but there’s still a blizzard of available options. Our test car’s base price ran to £49,055, but its extras (including red brake calipers, adaptive headlights, a heated steering wheel, adaptive suspension and a Harman Kardon hi-fi) pushed that up to £57,410.

Bmw 330e xdrive touring 11 dashboard

The engine is the same 182bhp 2.0-litre petrol four used in various lesser models, but it’s accompanied by a 108bhp electric motor in the gearbox (fed by a 12kWh battery), putting up to 288bhp under your foot, including a 10-second overboost worth 10-15%. That has the potential to deliver 0-62mph in 5.9sec and a 139mph top speed.

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The electric-only range is put at 32-34 miles, which probably means up to 30 miles in the real world.

According to the practically meaningless statutory MPG rating, you will get between 148.7- and 176.6mpg out of this 330e, but mid-40s is more likely in normal driving that mixes city with motorway. However, as with other PHEVs, if you drive it only on short hauls and make it frequently charged, it will sometimes use no petrol at all for extended periods.

The driver can choose between two levels of regenerative braking, which almost removes your need to use the friction brakes, the penalty for which is a detectable step when you brake harder and one mode of retardation is joined by the other. It’s more a curiosity than a problem.

The 330e is a fine car to drive: neat, neutral and very grippy in bends, with communicative steering as usual. It’s powerful, too, even if the four’s sound can’t hold a candle to the sporting sixes BMW continues to make.

The ZF eight-speed gearbox is its usual immaculate self: quick and smooth to change, responsive both to the paddles and (slightly more slowly) to the kickdown. Mostly it’s just unobtrusive. Small wonder BMW doesn’t sell a 3 Series with any other form of transmission.

The 3 Series has grown over the years, but there’s still a pleasant compactness to the Touring. It faithfully delivers the quality, sophistication and sportiness that we’ve long come to expect from 3 Series variants, and overlays all that with extra practicality and all-weather capability. It’s an excellent do-it-all choice.

Bmw 330e xdrive touring 16 back static

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Oxxie 5 December 2022

I hope they've made better sense of the driver's instrument panel. For the 2019 model BMW placed the blue high-beam warning light to the far left of the display, hidden behind my left hand for most of the time.

I would like to extend my sincere apologies to those drivers fortunate enough to have survived after being forced off a country road by my high beam. My thoughts also go out to the family and friends of those who were less fortunate.

For personal reasons, I'm not willing to provide my registration, name, address or driver's licence number. Please direct your claim(s) to "The Idiot who thought it was more important to put widgets in a driver's view" c/o BMW's Munich HQ. Germany

The same address can also be used to claim the inevitable damages sustained while scrabbling under the wheel trying to find a fog light switch within a bank of very similar switches, or for any fines acquired while fiddling with the unnecessary block of tiny buttons that govern the settings of the car world's most frustrating speed limiter (Hint for BMW : Put it back on a stick.

You're welcome

ps. Why does our government fine drivers for looking at their phone when a moden BMW dashboard is a far greater distraction?

The Apprentice 20 November 2022
We had a few fleet drivers pick 3 and 5 PHEVs for their obvious company car tax dodging purpose. But they were a disaster really, beyond their small EV range fuel consumption was diabolical leaving drivers out of pocket as our normal fuel rates didn"t cover it. There are PHEV's now that switch to a fairly good hybrid operation beyond EV range so are still viable. I know many RAV4 PHEV owners comfortably in the 40's even on long trips. The BMW's were struggling to keep in the 30's.
clbmw 19 November 2022

Stunning car. Just hard to get my head around that my last new BMW 3 series 10 years ago with a similar number of options was 23k cheaper, and cost 10k to buy out the contact... BMW's prices are astronomical these days.

Anton motorhead 19 November 2022
As are most other car prices these days. Apart from that the 330e sounds like a nice car and it's still pretty. I hope BMW won't spoil the design of their next 3-series like they have done with so many other models.
Oxxie 5 December 2022

The black plastic gril needs to go. It's ghastly.

BMW can't do grills or bonnet/hood catches that don't break.

Oxxie 5 December 2022

You're paying for an army of programmers to create a bunch of useless widgets, offering unwanted services which you can subscribe to (for a fee)

Otherwise it's a lovely car