What is it?
Of the previous-generation BMW 3 Series, how many do you think were sold with a plug-in hybrid powertrain? One in 10?
The answer is actually one in three – testament to the car’s low benefit-in-kind rate and an ability to capture the appealing dynamics of a ‘normal’ 3 Series but with a genuine environmental edge (if, that is, you could meaningfully deploy its modest 25 miles of electric range).
To that end, the recipe is largely the same, so where revised plug-in hybrid versions of the 7 Series and X5 have graduated to six-cylinder petrols, the 330e retains a detuned version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo unit found in the new 330i. As before, it makes 181bhp – a figure supplemented by an electric motor economically packaged within the car’s eight-speed automatic transmission, for a total of 248bhp.
However, there is now an XtraBoost feature available in Sport mode. It undams an extra 40bhp on kickdown and helps to take the rear-driven 330e to 62mph in six seconds flat.
That power fights against 200kg of hybrid hardware, which is a lot in the context of a junior saloon.