BMW 330e [G20] (2018 - 2022) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

With the 'G20' version of BMW's plug-in hybrid petrol/electric 330e model, the conventional 320i variant's 184hp 2.0-litre petrol engine was matched with an electric motor and a larger battery to create quite a package. You could have it with the estate body style and xDrive AWD too. Let's check the pre-facelift 2018-2022-era version of this car out as a used buy.

Models

4dr saloon / 5dr Touring estate

History

Not everyone wanting futuristic engine technology wants their car to also look futuristic. To look like BMW's i-series models for instance. If you're buying a model from this Bavarian brand from the 2018-2022 period and want a petrol/electric powerplant, the 330e Plug-in hybrid offers a more subtle way to go.

You get 37.3 miles of all-electric driving range when the car's charged up, which enables the creation of some impressive overall stats - up to 217.3mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and as little as 30g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. Those figures fall only fractionally with the Touring estate body style. Take some time to understand BMW's thinking here and it's hard not to be impressed. This 'G20'-series seventh generation 3 Series was subtly updated in mid-2022, but it's the earlier 2018-2022-era versions of it we look at here.

What You Get

This isn't the kind of Plug-in hybrid model you'll buy if you want to make an eco-statement. Unless you really know your BMWs, there's almost nothing to visually differentiate a 330e from any other 3 Series saloon unless you happen to spot the side panel charging flap. The 3 Series styling theme by now should be familiar to almost every business buyer. Classic cues like the kidney grille at the front, the sharp lines of the flanks and the powerful rear end are all present and correct.

The cabin looks predictably smart, with chrome finishing and high-gloss surfaces. The 'M Sport'-trimmed models get the full 'Live Cockpit Professional' package which gives you a 12.3-inch virtual instrument binnacle screen and a 10.25-inch centre-dash iDrive monitor. There's some clever stuff incorporated into this pricier set-up, including gesture control and what BMW calls an 'Intelligent Personal Assistant', which works a bit like the 'Siri' or 'Google Assistant' systems you might use on your 'phone and is there to answer questions you can voice to the car as you drive it.

There's a respectable amount of rear legroom for what remains a manageably-sized car. There's certainly more room to stretch out than was the case with the previous 'F30'-generation 330e model, the distance between the front and rear seats having been extended by 11mm. There's slightly more headroom than before too and BMW reckoned that this cabin was wide enough to take three child seats side by side, though only the two outside positions come with Isofix attachment points.

And out back? Well the 330e saloon's luggage bay measures 375-litres - that's 105-litres down on a conventional four-door 3 Series model. The Touring estate 330e derivative has a 410-litre boot, extendable to 1,420-litres - which is 90-litres down on a conventionally-engined 3 Series Touring model.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Our owner survey revealed many satisfied users of this 'G20'-era 3 Series model, but inevitably, there were a few issues reported. Quite a few owners have complained about an exhaust rattle when the car starts up from cold. Others have mentioned oil leaks from the rear differential - check for any spots of oil beneath the back wheels. Creaking sounds from the interior plastics came up as an issue; as did a rattling from around the sunroof. Others reported connectivity issues with the iDrive infotainment system, so check that out thoroughly. Some owners mentioned that the audio system bass turns off randomly, especially on models equipped with the optional harmon Kardon system upgrade. We've also come across reported problems with the Cross Traffic Alert safety system.

Obviously, a fully-stamped service history is vital. This car uses complex engines and only regular and appropriate maintenance will see them go the distance. Otherwise, it's just the usual things. Insist on a fully stamped-up service record and check the alloys for scratches and scuffs.

There were product recalls for airbags (May 2019), the rear view camera (September 2019), the seat belts (December 2019) and the steering assembly (June 2020).Make sure that these have all been attended to by a franchised BMW dealership if the car you're looking at is affected.

Replacement Parts

[based on a 2019 model 330e ex-vat] Parts prices for a G20 3 Series model from this period can be reasonable if you shop around. We trawled around the internet and found these: An oil filter is in the £9 bracket. An air filter is around £20. Front brake discs cost in the £200 bracket; rear discs are in the £122 bracket. A set of front brake pads is around £29-£70; rear pads are around £32-£44. A fuel filter is in the £35 bracket; an alternator is around £352; wiper blades are around £11-£25.

On the Road

This 'G20' series 330e Plug-in hybrid took a big step forward over its predecessor, the main difference between the two cars found when it comes to measurement of all-electric driving range, thanks to an increase in battery size from 7.6 to 12.0kWh. That made a big difference. Whereas with the previous generation 330e, the range was rated at only 21 miles, with this 'G20'-series 330e design, BMW clamed up to 37.3 miles of zero emissions motoring from a fully-charged set of batteries. In other words, if you've a pretty typical daily commute, you might never have to fuel up this car to complete it.

As you might expect, this kind of cleverness comes courtesy of a very advanced powerplant indeed, in this case a combination of the 184bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit from the 320i mated to an electric motor incorporating an 'XtraBoost' function. This can increase power to as much as 293hp, reducing the 62mph sprint time to six seconds exactly. The hybrid system's extra weight drops maximum speed slightly over that of the ordinary 320i, but it's still rated at 143mph. The brand's xDrive 4WD system was also available on this variant.

Let's cover off the things you'll need to get used to in driving this PHEV 3 series derivative. There's automatic transmission of course (BMW's usual ZF 8-speed 'box with paddleshifters). The drive modes are a bit different though - 'Sport' is the only setting carried over from a conventionally-engined model. In normal motoring, the car will default to its preferred 'Hybrid' driving setting, in which the clever software automatically determines for you the optimum combination of combustion and electric drive.

Alternatively (if battery charge levels permit), you can select 'Electric' mode, which liberates a bit more punch from the AC motor, though things peter out a little above 50mph. Your other options are either 'Sport' mode or, better still, 'XtraBoost' mode (which is the only one in which all 293 braked horses can be released).

The bigger 12.0kWh battery we mentioned earlier increased the all-electric top speed potential to 68mph and charging time is around two and a half hours from a conventional 7kW garage wallbox or plug-in public charge point. Hook up to a domestic 3-pin socket and the charging time will be just under five and a half hours.

As usual with Plug-in hybrids, the official WLTP combined cycle fuel figures - up to 217.3mpg for the saloon and up to 201.8g/km for this Touring version - need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but the important thing is that the government believes the quoted CO2 return - which can be as little as 30g/km in the saloon or up to 32g/km in the Touring. Either way, from new this meant a super-low Benefit-in-Kind taxation rating of 10%.

Overall

Here, BMW brought us a hybrid 3 Series model that made real world sense. The previous generation 330e struggled a little in this regard with its relatively restricted all-electric driving range. Fortunately, by 2018 technology had moved on and this 'G20'-series 330e model demonstrated just how far.

If you were thinking of a high-spec diesel-engined version of this Bavarian contender in its pre-facelift G20 form, we think you really have to look at a 330e as a realistic alternative.

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