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There are few cars that typify the fleet industry more than the BMW 3-series, it's elegant looks, excellent handling and range of fuel-efficient engines have made it one of the biggest-selling company cars here in the UK.
While the German car maker is infamous for its performance diesels, BMW set new standards for electric car technology when it launched the i3 in 2013, so it was only a matter of time before we started seeing the firms battery capabilities filter into the current model line-up.
Here is one of the first plug-in hybrids to join the range, the 330e, which combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 65kW electric battery. Together they produce a combined 252hp and 420Nm of torque, enabling the 330e to accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph.
There's a choice of three electric driving modes; Auto, Max and Save, the latter allows the battery range to be stored until you reach more urban environments, ideal if your commute to work involves a stretch of motorway which would otherwise significantly drain the battery. In Max mode the car switches to electric driving only up to speeds of 75mph and in Auto both the petrol and electric battery work in unison.
Regenerative technology is on hand to recharge the battery when braking and officially the car will travel 25 miles per charge, ideal for small urban commutes or city driving, a full charge will take just two hours using a fast-charging system, or 3.5 hours with a normal three-pin plug.
Headline stats include CO2 emissions of 45g/km which means a 7% BIK tax band for the current 2016/17 year and a combined fuel economy of 148.7mpg, which should be taken with a pinch of salt. On test we managed to achieve close to 60mpg on a variety of journeys which is very good, if you drive mainly short trips around the city, though, and take full advantage of the electric range, this figure should improve even further.
The BMW 3-series has long been the driver's choice in the segment, its excellent handling and superb cornering ability puts it head and shoulders above most of its rivals.
When coupled with its hybrid technology, the 330e is refined and the car feels quick too, largely thanks to the abundance of immediate torque on offer. Although 165kg heavier than the standard car, the 330e still feels nimble in the corners and the steering is superbly weighted, offering plenty of feel.
On the motorway the car is faultless, even with the sportier M-sport suspension (costs an extra £315) fitted to our test car the 330e proved comfortable, while the excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox is perfectly suited to the powertrains lively nature.
Alongside the electric driving modes, drivers also have a choice of comfort and sport modes which alter the throttle response and steering to suit.
The switch from electric to petrol engine is perhaps not as seamless as it could be and the regenerative braking could be more urgent too, but these are very small niggles for what is an overall excellent car to drive.
Generous levels of kit
Previous criticisms of BMW's stingy levels of standard kit were answered last year when a number of key features, including satnav, became standard across the firms line-up.
Other highlights from the standard kit include front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, DAB radio, Bluetooth, adaptive cruise control and dual-zone air-con.
On our test car is also over £8000 worth of options, the most expensive is the luxurious leather interior which will set you back £1295 while the upgraded sat-nav system, which includes concierge service, costs an extra £900.
The reversing camera at £330 is reasonably priced and worth considering alongside the Visibility Pack which upgrades the headlights to LEDs and adds automatic high beam for £850.
Practical and spacious inside, the materials around the cabin are excellent and rear passengers have adequate head and legroom to stretch out on longer journeys too. The battery is housed in a compartment under the boot, as a result storage capacity reduces to 370 litres verses the regular 3 series saloon's 480 litres - that said, there's still plenty of space for the weekly shop or a couple of large suitcases.
The WLC argument
We're still waiting for an Audi A4 E-Tron, so for now the 330e's main plug-in rival is the Merc C350e, which is significantly more expensive than the BMW and not as strong on residual values either with the 330e set at 36.57% verses the Mercedes' 33.85%.
Because of the C-class's £38,230 P11D price, whole-life costs cannot compete with the 330e either, at 70.94p versus 61.2p respectfully.
BMW 330e Sport Saloon
Model price range: £34,180
Residual value: 36.57%
Service, maintenance and repair: £2613
Vehicle Excise Duty: £0
National insurance: £1368
Cost per mile: 61.2p
Fuel consumption: 148.7mpg
CO2 (BIK band): 45g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £40/£80
Boot space: 370 litres
Engine size/power: 1998cc/184hp + 7.6 kWh electric battery/88hp