Plug-in hybrid BMW 330e face of Audi, Volkswagen and Volvo rivals 100mpg

What is the best sub £40K Plug-in hybrid – BMW 330e, Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, the VW Passat GTE property or Volvo V60 D5 twin engine? We check them all…

The last couple of years have been long in the world of hybrid cars.

But now that they survived the difficult years, when all they delivered were useless tax breaks to companies sometimes boss, who probably do not need these diesel-electric and diesel-electric curios began Mature more quickly than a pubescent teenager, after hormonal injection. These electrified hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs and estates now large enough to be seen on the majority of UK motorway travel, you know, enough to only slightly geeky dinner conversation (my salmon in its own juice more than makes up for, by the way) and cheap enough to make it an attractive alternative for the higher level conventional gasoline or diesel car engine.

They should all now be “better”: faster, more smooth, more efficient, more refined, more interesting to manage and easier to use, simpler than their piston counterparts. And not just in the brochure or deliberately unrepresentative EU laboratory emission test, but in the real world. Because technology can always be relied upon to win when it makes the machine better.

So are we there yet? After the last days spent in the company’s latest sub-£40K hybrids from Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo, we provide a response to this question on the following pages. These two days involved many parallel to the highway and motorway mileage, lots of charging and zero emissions running, a bit of testing on real issues of economy and old-fashioned hard road between them.

The car involved – decided to make a fair comparison, but to show that the choice that already exists in the market, to which many remain in the dark – includes five-door hatchback, four-door sedan and two medium-sized estate cars. Audi A3 Sportback e-tron brings the lowest CO2 emissions and weight in our Affairs, not by the way, and the smallest vehicle on test. VW Passat GTE estate is the newest and most powerful motor of the group and has the biggest boot. Volvo V60 D5 twin engine bucks emerging mechanical type with five-cylinder diesel engine and independent electric rear axle. Finally, BMW 330e keeps things simple, with an electric motor where the torque Converter would otherwise be and the small battery of four.

Here are four machines that cost between £34,000 and £39,000, available as a business lease has about 400 pounds a month and can save you the thick end of £200 a month on company car tax – depending on what you’re getting and how much tax You pay. So they exist, they are possible and they are ready to save you hefty cash. What should you buy?

REAL-WORLD ECONOMICS

You probably already know, if you are the driver who may benefit as a switchboard Plug-in hybrid power. You Autocar reader, in the end – and we are extolling the virtues of PHEVs for quite a long time. But if You are, here’s a breakdown. You probably live in urban areas, and within about 30 miles from your place of work. You probably rarely take more than a few hundred miles a week. You will have a driveway, or at least somewhere to Park your FEVA, where it can be charged at home, ideally somewhere in the office too. And you probably also pay for a large part of the fuel your car out of pocket.

And so, in the spirit of testing new cars in the environment for which they were intended, I made up a little test route to pass four opponents in a row. The aim was to answer what is always a controversial issue number one in any conversation you have about these cars: we know that EU test results, and we know they’re bunk, what kind of fuel economy, these cars do, and whether or not they go as far on electricity as it is claimed?

We happened to pick a winter day to answer these questions, and so we can assume the following figures are very conservative. With more than about 5deg C ambient temperature, the drive batteries in these cars have to work a little better.

Nevertheless, even the least fuel efficient car here is the top 80mpg – that the 30-mile city and highway test route, admittedly, and only after full payment. This 330e, which supports the order – quite predictable, given that he has less capacious battery high Voltage drive and here the most powerful internal combustion engine. Even so, at least until the 20th of this tester is the mind of the century, 80.4 mpg still seems pretty sensational result from the 249bhp BMW 3 on the way to work.

This is especially true when you consider that our third and second most economical hybrids returned a little better than BMW. The Passat GTE estate narrowly won 330e, returning the specified 81.7 mpg and the A3 e-tron narrowly overtook both at 86.5 mpg. All three cars use fairly compact turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, of course, and all use an electric motor which passes through the same gearbox as the Petrol engine, similar economy can be expected. The result of Audi proves that a relatively low total weight can still be an important advantage for this car. Drawing on Volkswagen shows that the complex controls the vehicle can make a difference, because the Passat offers You easier and more precise control of the freewheeling electric motor and the regen parameters of the battery than any of its rivals.

But now get this: it’s actually the oldest car in the field, with the aging five-cylinder diesel engine that will do the most to save money at the pump. The V60 brings not only a great battery for this test, but direct drive, independent gear for your motor outputs on the rear wheels. This means that in the V60 feels more like a pure EV than anything else on test, responding instantly more on the gas pedal in the city and more effective at city speeds, you suspect, than it could be if the motor was driving on a conventional gearbox. Time, V60 returned specified 153.8 mpg on a 30-mile test route, almost doubling the result of the following the best car here. Quite a result.

You can expect the same of the order of merit shall be repeated when ranking these cars with zero-emission cruising range that we evaluated within the same 30-mile test – the first 15 km of which were driven on an urban road in West London. And while it was not – not quite. The car with the lowest range battery was one with a little disk battery (7.6 kWh): 330e, which managed 13 miles before the engine piston shattered. With the largest range was also the biggest battery (11.2 kW): the sports wagon V60, which ran for 23 miles. But the middle order Audi and VW, and verified by the test of the economy, was abolished on electricity, the A3 has only 14 miles on battery and Passat 17 miles.

Before we move on, a quick mention of combustion-engine-only access to the city fuel economy that will be most important for those who thump on the car for tax benefits, do not bother to charge it often and not more miles than our testing allowed for. If that sounds like you, don’t worry: we expect you to be in plentiful company. Volvo continues to lead the order, returning 50.1 mpg on 70 mph cruise the motorway under single piston power, followed by Audi (47.9 mpg), BMW (44.6 mpg) and VW (up 42.2 mpg). So even the worst car in a field not far from the fact that diesel economy will be back.

NUMBERS

Apologies if you left a little number blind. At least we have answered the actual question of fuel economy and proved that, in connection with two engines in the V60 puts its electrified powertrain is better to use if real-world fuel economy and emissions reduction are your main priorities.

From there, You don’t think it’s possible for Volvo to come up with anything other than a resounding win from this test. But this is where we stop our consideration of internal combustion engines, electric powertrains with such a narrow framework and to commence a review of cars in the round.

You can’t ignore how many years the V60 feels. If you buy a new car – any new car – You don’t want to feel old, but so much about Volvos, from the slightly limited and fell in the driver’s seat to the infotainment system in the layout panel, it seems that way. From the point of view of the model cycle, BMW only a few years shorter tooth than the Volvo, but it’s much better to hide your age, Thanks largely to the fact that the optional 8.8 in professional screen infotainment media. As for the Audi and VW feel brand new and very smart to travel V. On premium brand cabin atmosphere and quality, they are ahead of BMW and Volvo.

Don’t see the point in lingering too long on practicality, as our PHEVs occupy exactly those positions that you would expect to find them based on their bodies. The Passat GTE estate is at the distance most useful car here and 330e and A3 e-tron can claim to avoid the shame to be at least. So much, so obvious. What curses Volvo is that it is a great family wagon, which is not quite large-familywagon size rear seats or the corresponding boot of the V60 electric rear axle is in the trunk a bit. It’s frustrating, but it is quite not serious in any respect, in the opinion of the tester to be a stumbling block for the Volvo customers.

But what damns the A3 even more compelling to me is the fact that it is a compact five-door hatchback which is priced like the rest of these big saloons and estates. If You are bothered relative compromise of practicality that A3 imposes, there is a good chance that you simply don’t settle for a hatchback, when your money can work for something more. But maybe that’s just my mentality of the 20th century in the game again.

Driving experience nearby. We’ve already covered some of these cars is not the best impression pure EV – and this in a V60. In the city, and even up to about 50 mph, the V60 electric rear axle gives it a perfectly linear and accurate initial response of the accelerator. The Passat GTE drivetrain runs it pretty close, a little less responsive and stay in EV mode and having most of the electrical driving force to call upon. A3 hybrid powertrain is a close match for the Passat, although it’s not so skillfully instrumented and control, and without such a powerful motor. In 330e meanwhile, suffers a bit curious about the delay in initial throttle response in EV mode, like its eight-speed gearbox disengaging every time you come off the pedal in order to decide which format will better suit its objectives are.

However, when we zoom out to consider performance and manageability in the broad sense, the picture suddenly changes. With a five-cylinder diesel engine works with the V60 couldn’t be more different from how it appears on electric energy: it is noisy, rough and outdated. It has a lot of desire, but this is clearly a heavy car and feels at high speeds – straight to lead the helm, the clumsy trip and lose control of her body. Left town, “Volvo” is actually not so smart.

As the A3 and the Passat ride and handle more competently than in the V60. VW is doing the better job of the two to combine time with comfort and high speed composure, with a slight brittleness to the ride and steering, taking the edge from dynamic to challenge Audi. On outright PACE, Passat and A3 feel as equal as their identical 0-62mph acceleration of claims to recommend. They are modified cars, and quite nimble, flexible and free-revving, but not really leaves a lasting impression on my driver.

Which leaves 330e, which I would confidently describe as sweet 3 series I drove in years. So far, BMW was not a sign that it is a disease the sharp end is our ultimate goal, but forget about the electrified part of the drivetrain and drive it as you would any other BMW and car rewards you as any 3 series should do. Where in the V60 feels depressed, anodyne A3 and the Passat just a bit plain to drive, 330e makes it an electric engine works just as hard for a sharp driving, as it does elsewhere. Hybrid BMW transmission kept smooth, uncontrived, natural childbirth, even at full power. This torque and super flexible, revs well and sounds good – almost like an old 328i which was a stepping stone for the future.

BMW handles with wonderful, positive, uncorrupted steering, too, and with a perfectly balanced handle levels on standard 17-inch wheels, a good, close body control and everything that the distant hum of a run-flat tire, the rigidity of the sidewall so many BMW’s have suffered in the last decade or so.

Ultimately, we have to conclude that the really compelling questions, the driving experience is already at the car buyers like no other. This is not the only reason 330e stands out so clearly as our winner: the BMW is also the cheapest car here, has easy high performance, has a transmission, which is very good cruising manners and commendable practicality and have proved to be low with most of its rivals in the real world economy.

The most convincing of all, 330e feels like it could really be the best of 3 series on the market, and not just for a certain type of buyer – and it’s even tougher competition for this honour, you would say, than he had for this test to win.

BMW 330e Sport

The price is £34,235 engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbo, petrol, plus 87bhp motor drive battery 7.6 kWh, lithium-ion – electric range of 23.0 km Power 249bhp torque 310lb ft transmission 8-SPD automatic Kerb weight 1660kg 0-62 mph 6.1 sec Maximum speed 140mph economy of 148.7 MPG (combined) CO2/tax band 45g/m, 7%

VW Passat GTE estate

Price £38,325 engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol, plus 113bhp motor drive battery of 9.9 kWh lithium-ion electric range 31.0 km Power 215bhp torque 295lb ft Gearbox 6-SPD dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1735kg 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds Maximum speed 140 mph economy 166.0 MPG (combined) CO2/tax band 39 g/km, 7%

Volvo V60 D5 twin engine SE NAV

Price £38,305 engine 5 cyls, 2400cc, petrol, 67bhp, plus the motor drive battery 11.2 kWh lithium-ion electric range 31.1 km Power 228bhp torque 457lb ft Gearbox 6-SPD automatic Kerb weight 1988kg 0-62 mph 6.9 seconds Max speed 130 mph economy 156.9 MPG (combined) CO2/tax band 48g/m, 7%

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Price £35,930 engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol, plus a 101bhp electric motor drive battery 8.8 kWh lithium-ion electric range 29.8 km Power 201bhp torque 258lb ft Gearbox 6-SPD dual-clutch auto Curb weight of 1540kg 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds Maximum speed 138mph economy 166.2 MPG (combined) CO2/tax band 38g/m, 7%