Daytime running lights:
Powered boot / tailgate:
Daytime running lights:
Powered boot / tailgate:
Front & rear
words by KON
The BMW 3 Series has always been a leader of its segment, and the current F30 generation rightfully earns its membership in the lineage. A thoroughly polished all-rounder, the F30, it is safe to say, has been a major success for BMW and continues to sell in strong numbers even though its replacement is in the horizon.
Whilst some may say familiarity breeds contempt, the F30 is such a well-rounded package that weaknesses are hard to pick and, even in its twilight years, the car remains as relevant and desirable as ever. It retains the dynamism of past 3 Series iterations and fuses in a new level of comfort and refinement to a mastery that rivals find hard to match.
No fewer than eleven different engine variations have come and gone under the F30’s bonnet since its arrival in Malaysia in 2012, but just two remain as BMW’s best-selling model enters its sunset years – the 1.5-litre three-cylinder 318i and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder PHEV 330e that is the subject of our review here.
2018 BMW 330e
The 330e is priced at RM259k on-the-road before insurance, coming with M Sport package as standard. Equipment levels cover the bases of the price segment, but no outstanding kit that distinguishes it above rivals. As ever, your reason to buy a 3 Series continues to be about how it drives as opposed to what toys it gives you.
Powertrain setup features an electric motor sandwiched between the ZF 8-speed automatic and the 184hp 2.0-litre engine from the 320i. Provided you have an adequately charged battery, the system offers a combined output of 252hp and 420Nm, good enough, BMW claims, to power you from rest to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds.
SPECS & FEATURES
Even the most casual observers would have noticed enough numbers of the F30 3 Series on the road that its design should really require no introduction. Whether it’s the original or the facelifted version, the F30’s shape has withstood the test of time incredibly well. It continues to be a pleasing car to cast eyes on.
The cabin, in contrast, is a comparatively sombre affair. The 2015 facelift did well to raise interior build quality – which feels pleasingly solid – but there is no getting around the fact that it is a visually unappealing design; especially not when you’ve just hopped over from a Mercedes C-Class.
But those who prioritize function over form will, however, find the dashboard’s faultless clarity very agreeable to operate on a day-to-day basis. Unlike the fancy but difficult-to-master control scheme of the C-Class, the 3 Series’ cabin will prove easy to acclimatize even for a first-time driver. Lastly, this may well be your only chance of ever getting a PHEV car with a mechanical hand brake.
As sure as you can expect to wake up every morning and see the sun rise from the east, you can always count on the BMW 3 Series to deliver a scintillating driving experience.
The 318i, thanks to its much lighter engine up front, is a sweeter steer, but 330e’s balance of abilities should prove difficult to argue against for most buyers.
For starters, with an electric motor plugging the gaps of turbo lag, straight line acceleration is blisteringly fast. The chassis also feels hardly hampered by the hybrid battery’s added weight hanging over the rear axle. The 330e carves winding roads with clinical precision.
For a car fitted with M Sport suspension, the 330e is also astonishingly comfortable over poor surfaces; the suspension dampening out imperfections below with pleasing effectiveness. Not as comfortable as the air-sprung Mercedes C 350 e but, for steel springs, close enough to impress.
Indeed, the 330e’s breadth of talents is astonishingly well-balanced – from Bobby’s electric-driven school run, to Kam Foo’s drifting shenanigans, to Kon’s Genting Runs – the 330e took whatever test we threw at it without breaking sweat.
In case you haven’t received the memo, the diesel models that BMW were championing with considerable gusto up until as recently as three years ago have been phased out nearly without a trace. That means no more 320d and, at least where this market is concerned, that is perhaps understandable. Perplexing though, is how the 320i, previously the best-selling variant of the range, was also shown the exit.
Perhaps BMW thinks that such is the 330e’s superior value preposition, the likes of the 320i and 330i have become a tough sell in a market that has grown increasingly addicted to cheap luxury hybrids made possible by EEV incentives. Then again, the considerable numbers that the Mercedes C 200 is still selling suggest that there continues to be a healthy appetite for cars in this segment with a conventional engine.
Evaluated in isolation, the 330e is indeed an impressive vehicle. It is the 3 Series as we know and love, enhanced with a high-tech PHEV powertrain; if only it didn’t have to come at the expense of the good ol’ 320i.
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REAL WORLD USAGE
Turbocharged Petrol PHEV
252hp @ 5,000rpm
420Nm @ 0 – 2,500rpm
8-speed AT, RWD
Vent Disc / Vent Disc
Double Wishbone / Multi-link
Segment’s most beautiful interior, but facelift coming soon, so hold your horses.
EEV price wars have not been kind on the A4, but you do get the luxury of AWD.
Looks least threatening in the segment, and a full model change is due, but packs 306hp under the hood!