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Volkswagen Passat GTE vs BMW 330e

VW's Passat GTE takes on the BMW 330e in a battle of plug-in hybrids. Which makes the smarter buy?

The aftermath of the emissions scandal means 2016 hasn’t been great for VW. Yet none of its new cars is directly affected, and the brand is developing alternative power sources to put it back on track in delivering low emissions. As well as efficient petrols and diesels, there are up! and Golf EVs, while the Golf GTE is a plug-in hybrid.

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All the latest on VW's 'dieselgate' scandal

Latest to join the line-up is the Passat GTE, which uses the same 1.4 TSI petrol engine and electric drive. More power and 39g/km emissions make it a tempting company car choice, while it comes as a saloon or estate. Its plug-in hybrid rival from BMW, the 49g/km 330e, has a similar petrol-electric drivetrain. Rather than being marked out as a separate model, it comes in the same trims as the rest of the 3 Series range. The VW starts from £36,525, the 330e £33,935; can the Passat GTE justify its higher price by delivering a more convincing hybrid driving experience?

Head to head

Charging

VW has put the Passat’s socket in the nose, so it’s easy to plug in when you’re parked in a multi-storey bay. The BMW’s socket is on the nearside front wing, so it can be trickier to route the cable.

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Both cars have an internal fuel flap release. This ensures the plug and tank flaps aren’t open at the same time, reducing the risk of fires from petrol vapour.

Drive system

The Passat’s 1.4TSI engine is to the left of the engine bay, while bright orange cables form part of the hybrid system to the right. There’s a tidier layout under the 330e’s bonnet, as the car’s electric drive system is tucked behind the longitudinal four-cylinder engine with the gearbox.

Plug-in Car Grant

Private buyers can still use the government scheme, but a restructure means hybrids only get a £2,500 contribution.

However, even with this discount the basic GTE is still £3k more than a Passat R Line with 187bhp 2.0 TDI and DSG box.

Results

First place: Volkswagen Passat GTE

It’s a narrow victory for the Passat GTE, thanks to VW’s more effective hybrid system. You can use it in pure electric mode more often than the BMW, and it’s more flexible. The car is also more practical, plus there’s more kit. However, as with all plug-ins, ask yourself whether the VW fits your lifestyle before taking the plunge. If you do a lot of long journeys, the diesel Passat is still a better bet.

Second place: BMW 330e

The 330e’s hybrid system is good, and its emphasis on performance makes it a top choice for keen and green drivers. It also handles nearly as sharply as a normal 3 Series, while the low-key eco looks will appeal to many. It’s slightly cheaper for both private and business users, too. However, it’s less practical than the VW and its hybrid system isn’t as versatile, plus efficiency takes a hit. 

Also consider...

Mercedes C 350e

Mercedes C 350e plug-in hybrid - front tracking
Price: £38,899
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Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl hybrid, 293bhp

The C 350e has 48g/km emissions, but splits these two on price, while Mercedes says it can sprint from 0-62mph in less than six seconds. Like the Passat, it's also offered as an estate, although it won't be as practical as VW's load-lugger.

Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid front
Price: £38,105
Engine: 2.4-litre 5cyl hybrid, 227bhp

It was a pioneer of the plug-in hybrid formula in this sector, and Volvo has just launched a new entry-level V60. It features four-wheel drive, but the boot is small for an estate, and the diesel engine is thirsty if you're relying on it alone.

Facts and figures

 Volkswagen Passat GTE AdvanceBMW 330e M Sport
On the road price/total as tested£40,180/£41,100£36,735/£42,635
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£12,456/31%£14,437/39%
Depreciation£27,724£22,298
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£562/£1,124£514/£1,027
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,167/£1,945£1,283/£2,138
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost26/£740/A/£031/£783/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£288 (two services)£475 (5yrs/50k)
   
Length/wheelbase4,767/2,791mm4,633/2,810mm
Height/width1,456/1,832mm1,429/1,811mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,395cc4cyl in-line/1,998cc
Peak power/revs 215/5,000 bhp/rpm249/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 400/1,500 Nm/rpm420/1,350Nm/rpm
Transmission/Battery capacity6spd auto/fwd/9kWh8spd auto/rwd/7.6kWh
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/run-flats41 litres/run-flats
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 402/1,613 litres370/N/A litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,722/553/1,600kg1,735/535/N/Akg
Turning circle11.7 metres11.3 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60k)/1yr3yrs (unltd)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/223Variable/192
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.24th/28th15th/24th
Euro NCAP: Ad./child/ped./assist/stars85/87/66/76/5 (2015)95/84/78/86/5 (2012)
   
0-60/30-70mph7.1/5.6 secs6.2/5.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.8/4.0 secs2.4/3.1 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 5.2/6.6 secs/N/A4.1/5.3/6.3/8.0 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 140mph/2,100rpm140mph/1,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 52.9/32.2/11.1m55.7/37.6/11.5m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph61/46/58/67dB62/45/60/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range51.9/11.4/571 miles47.2/10.4/426 miles
Govt combined/weighted 56.5/166.0mpg52.5/134.5mpg
Govt combined/weighted 12.4/36.5mpl11.5/29.6mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket126/39g/km/7%138/49g/km/7%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park. sensors/cameraSeven/yes/yes/yes*Six/yes/yes/£330
Auto/stability/adaptive cruise/AEBYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/£620/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£325
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£585/yes/£400£645/yes/£495
Sat-nav/USB/DAB/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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