The BMW 330e comes with a lot of interesting numbers. There are the impressive performance figures (288bhp, 0-62mph in 5.9sec). Plus there are the official economy and CO2 figures (176.6mpg, 36g/km). Those then feed into the 330e’s real trump card – and its imminent crowning as the best-selling 3 Series in the range: its impending benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rate of just 10%.
Put another way, come April it will cost a company car driver in tax around one third that of the currently best-selling 3 Series, the 320d, which, says BMW UK, the 330e will quickly usurp in sales. And all that for a car that’s significantly more powerful and which can travel on electric power alone for around 35 miles.
While talk of tax bands and BIK rates is not typical Autocar fare, from April it’s about to become increasingly significant as the government launches new company car tax rules unashamedly designed to increase the sales of electric cars and plug-in hybrids.
Car makers also need to sell ever-increasing numbers of these models to lower their fleet CO2 averages and avoid fines for being over the industry-wide 95g/km fleet average target. Electric cars and sub-50g/ km plug-in hybrids bring a double-whammy benefit of lowering fleet CO2 figures and qualifying for ‘super credits’ that in effect count as two sales in one, in turn allowing BMW to continue making higher-polluting cars such as the M3 without penalty.
Last year some 60% of new cars sold in the UK were to fleets, compared with 48% in 2010, with private car sales dropping from 47% market share to 37% in the same period. Those numbers were mirrored across the 3 Series range, according to BMW UK’s 3 Series product manager James Thompson, further highlighting the 330e’s importance to the German brand. Some 35,000 3 Series will find homes this year, around 10,000 of which will be 330es, and 95% of those 10,000 will go to company car buyers.
If your 330e arrives before the new tax year, you’ll pay either 8% or 12% BIK, depending on with which emissions standard the Treasury wants to correlate the CO2 figure. (You expected the motoring taxation policy to be clearly laid out by now?) Anyway, from 6 April it will be 10% for the plug-in BMW and 0% for pure EVs. Order one now and it won’t be with you before July anyway, so that 10% figure is the most relevant.
This whole topic is one we’ll look at in our news analysis pages in detail in the coming weeks before the tax changes kick in, but take away this for now: company car buyers will be able to save serious money by switching to EVs and plug-in hybrids. And perhaps the best of the plug-in hybrid breed right now is this 330e. It aims to be the 3 Series without compromise, keeping the sporting appeal for which the saloon has always been known but with some attractive cost and economy benefits.