Autocar recently pitted four plug-in hybrid executive cars, priced between £34,000 and £39,000 ($42,450 to $48,700), against each other to determine the best buy:
- BMW 330e
- Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
- Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate
- Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine
We note that the size and type of these cars (a five-door hatchback, a four-door saloon and two mid-sized estate cars) does not necessarily make them direct competitors in the market place, but limited the range to PHEVs and a particular price-point does.
The two-day test was conducted in urban areas and on the motorway, testing both fuel economy and performances "30-mile test – the first 15 miles of which were driven on the urban roads of greater west London".
Here is what we noted from Autocar's comparison:
- simpler drivetrain
- smallest drive battery of the four, but most powerful combustion engine
- suffers from a bit of a delayed of initial throttle response while operating as an EV, but best driving experience overall
- fuel economy: 80.4mpg / 44.6 mpg with depleted battery
- 7.6 kWh battery and 13 miles of all-electric range
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
- smallest, lowest CO2 emissions and kerb weight
- compact five-door hatchback but priced like the bigger offerings
- all-electric mode less capable than VW Passat, not as "cleverly instrumented and controlled", good handling
- fuel economy: 86.5mpg / 47.9 mpg with depleted battery
- 8.8 kWh battery and 14 miles of all-electric range
- most powerful electric motor of the group
- biggest cargo area, making it the most useful car of the group
- easiest control over the electric motor and battery regen
- nice all-electric mode (nearly like in Volvo), good handling
- fuel economy: 81.7mpg / 42.2 mpg with depleted battery
- 9.9 kWh battery and 17 miles of all-electric range
- equipped with a 5 cyldiesel, and also a self-contained electric rear axle which interfers a bit with the carpgo capacity
- operates the most like an EV while operating on electricity thanks to the largest battery and independent transmission/direct drive for the electric motor, great/linear response to 50 mph
- exact opposite to EV mode while operating from diesel engine - "noisy, rough and antiquated"
- V60 feels old
- fuel economy: 153.8mpg (nearly twice higher than the rest) / 50.1 mpg with depleted battery
- 11.2 kWh battery and 23 miles of all-electric range
Interestingly, the Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine, which is the oldest plug-in hybrid in the group, with a diesel engine, also turns to be the most efficient.
The Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate and Audi A3 Sportback e-tron are properly designed PHEVs, but taking into account the value of a compelling driving experience, Autocar says there is no better choice out there at the price than the BMW 330e.
"BMW is also the cheapest car here, possesses easily the strongest performance, has a powertrain that knows very good cruising manners and commendable usability and has proved itself competitive with most of its rivals on real-world economy.
Most convincing of all, the 330e feels like it might genuinely be the best 3 Series on the market, and not just for a particular type of buyer – and it has even stiffer competition for that honour, you’d have to say, than it had for this test win."