BMW ActiveHybrid 3

Petrol-electric 3 Series hybrid weighs slightly more but has serious performance and good fuel economy to boot

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

With such formidable acceleration, we were hoping the ActiveHybrid 3 would be a green alternative to the M3, but unfortunately it’s not the sharpest 3 Series to drive. The seamless switch between electric and hybrid petrol power is impressive, yet this car is destined to remain an oddity in diesel-dominated markets such as the UK.

BMW doesn’t build its hybrids like anyone else. The ActiveHybrid 3 isn’t designed to maximise fuel economy; instead it bridges the performance gap between the 335i and new M3 due next year.

It uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine in tandem with a 54bhp electric motor for a total of 335bhp and 450Nm of torque. It can travel 2.4 miles on electric power alone, while an automatic ‘sailing mode’ shuts down the engine on the move, even at motorway speeds.

The engine isn’t short of torque, but with the electric motor (integrated into the eight-speed auto gearbox) adding assistance, power delivery is even smoother and packs quite a punch. The raucous engine note has also been maintained, giving the car a sporty feel when you rev it to the limiter.

It’s a shame, then, that our test car, which was fitted with the standard springs and dampers, had a front end that bobbed around, and the car rolled from side-to-side in corners. The extra weight of the batteries and electronics is partly to blame: we’d recommend ordering the optional adaptive dampers to remedy this.

Because BMW intended the 3 Series to be a hybrid from the outset, the battery pack slots neatly under the boot floor. Even so, space has shrunk from 480 litres to 390 litres, but there’s no impact on interior space.

Despite offering impressive economy given the power on tap, BMW is open about the fact that this car is aimed at petrol-loving markets like the US and Japan. Which is why it only expects to sell 100 cars a year in the UK.

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