BMW ActiveHybrid 3
Sector: Compact executive Price: £40,225-£43,225 Fuel: 47.9mpg CO2: 139g/km
It must be hard for car manufacturers, trying to cater for ever-changing global demand as it gets steered by emissions standards and differing taxation. There’s no single solution, and the ActiveHybrid 3 is a victim of that.
This is car aimed specific markets – namely Japan and North America where air quality standards make diesels a harder sell. But with a large petrol engine it’s a square peg in the round hole of CO2-taxed Europe.
The problem it faces is BMW’s own brilliant, low-carbon, high performance diesel engines, against which this is more expensive, less efficient and higher in CO2 output than even the most powerful 330d. So don’t expect this to change the face of 3 Series sales in the UK – BMW predicts only 100 will find homes in its first full year.
But it’s very clever. Technology lovers will adore the drivetrain, which switches between petrol and electric power imperceptibly around town and can coast on electric power at up to 100mph, which should boost motorway efficiency. On the launch, a little restraint and use of the Eco Pro driving mode resulted in around 40mpg, a figure most people would’ve been happy to get from a diesel 3 Series not so long ago.
Efficiency is only half the story. This uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine as the 335i, combined with an electric motor to offer 335bhp delivered smoothly through its eight-speed gearbox. It’ll reach 62mph in 5.3 seconds and tops out at 155mph, which makes this the second fastest 3 Series behind the M3, yet it’s more efficient than the less powerful 335i.
But it’s the lack of sacrifices that really impress. No blunting of handling due to extra weight, no CVT gearbox, no loss of boot spaces and all the same trim levels as the conventional saloon. Though this is very much a niche model, it’s an unusual route to affordable high performance for corporate drivers.