We attended the 2013 International Mini Meeting in Italy - here's our MSN Cars Mini Mania mega gallery
BMW ActiveHybrid 3 review (2012 onwards)
What: BMW ActiveHybrid 3
Where: Munich, Germany
Date: July 2012
Price: £40,225 - £43,225
Available: September 2012
We like: Noise, pace, refinement
We don't like: Hybrid range not the largest, 330d cheaper and more efficient, expensive to buy
BMW's 335i gains some hybrid gubbins to improve efficiency and boost its green credentials, but it doesn't make much sense in the diesel-hungry UK market.
The all-conquering BMW 3 Series now gets hybrid power to turn it into the green cruiser the range has been arguably missing. At face value the ActiveHybrid 3 is an efficient vehicle given its configuration, but if you dig a bit deeper you'll find there are greener, and cheaper, alternatives already available.
They're only expecting to shift 100 vehicles
Take the BMW 330d. In SE guise, it's £6,945 less than the ActiveHybrid's £40,225, returns 10.3mpg combined more with 10g/km CO2 less than the electric-supplemented car, and is only 0.3 seconds slower in completing the sprint from rest to 62mph.
BMW know this, though, and even though we'll be getting it in the UK come September this year, the Bavarian firm concedes it's aimed more at the American and Chinese markets - they're only expecting to shift 100 vehicles here in its first year of sales. So it's something of a niche product, then, but it's not without its appeal.
The standard 335i is a quick motor - 306hp means 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. Add a further 55hp with a gearbox-mounted electric motor (even if total output is caped at 340hp) and the 0-62 time falls by two tenths.
Acceleration is effortless and the petrol-electric combination gives some real mid-range clout - turbo lag is noticeable, but the electric motor's torque does its very best to compensate and fill in the hole.
There's also a sailing mode when you lift off the accelerator that disengages the engine and effectively lets the car coast, recharging the lithium-ion battery pack at the same time.
The integration of the hybrid system is excellent and trying to spot when the motor kicks in and drops out on anything but noise in near impossible. It's very smooth.
The eight-speed gearbox is a triumph. It shifts well and responds to little movements in the throttle to change up or down, especially in Sport, but in the less responsive Eco-Pro mode, too.
We suspect its efficiency gains would be manifested to a greater degree in urban driving conditions rather than B-road or motorway jaunts. The ActiveHybrid 3 can run on pure electric power at speeds of up to 46mph for distances of up to 2.5 miles - not a massive range, agreed, but around town it'd surely prove its worth.
Ride and handling
Hybridisation of the 335i's powertrain has added a further 135kg - in the form of a battery pack, gearbox-mounted motor and the system's electronic control unit - and it shows.
Spirited driving is not what this car is about
The ActiveHybrid 3 feels less eager to respond to inputs from the wheel than the standard car - especially through sharper direction changes - and the steering has an odd, if only small dead zone around the straightahead probably not helped by the standard-fit low rolling resistance tyres.
It's soft and rolls if you over-exert the chassis, but flat-out spirited driving is not what this car is about. The compliant suspension and less immediate steering make for a nicely refined comfortable and calm ride.
It feels very composed no matter what surfaces you throw at it and the whole package is conducive towards eco-driving. Leave it in the switchable Eco-Pro setting - which lightens the steering and dulls the throttle and gearbox responses - and you can happily waft along watching the mpg rise.
Apart from the addition of a few strategically placed ActiveHybrid 3 badges, the petrol-electric BMW is identical to any other latest generation 3 Series on sale. We drove an entry-level SE spec car, which gets sat-nav, Bluetooth, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, heated seats - basically the works - fitted as standard.
The electric seats are myriad adjustable and the car's cabin layout and ergonomics means just about anyone in between a junior jockey and a professional basketball player can get comfortable behind the wheel.
It's a really relaxed, refined and quiet place to sit - something that means your angst to go quickly evaporates, leaving you cruising along trying to use the combustion engine as little as possible.
Economy and safety
For a 340hp twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol dragging around 1,655kg the ActiveHybrid 3 returns respectable efficiency.
Up to 47.9mpg combined is promised and 139g/km CO2 emissions equates to £120 road tax - the standard 335i would cost you £195 and only returns 39.2mpg. That said, BMW's 330d yields 57.6mpg combined with CO2 emissions of 129g/km - meaning £100 road tax - and is £6,945 cheaper spec-for-spec.
Safety is good and the 2012 F30 BMW 3er gets a full-five star Euro NCAP rating, scoring high in all four categories: Adult, Child, Pedestrian and Safety Assist. Plenty of electronic systems and good battery protection means the hybrid will likely be as strong in a crash as the standard 335i.
The MSN Cars verdict
If the ActiveHybrid 3 is less efficient than the diesel and targeted more at the American and Asian markets, then what's the point of bringing it to the UK?
BMW concedes it's not going to be a big seller here, but that it offers an efficient alternative to motorists who are decidedly against diesel, crave petrol performance, but want to make a token effort towards saving the planet with their automobile.
It's a good car with some commendable traits that make you think twice about a diesel saloon. But that's all it does. You'd still end up buying the oil-burner. It's fast, smooth, comfortable and efficient, but the ActiveHybrid 3 is expensive and doesn't have the all-round ability that the 330d offers.
Need to know
Engines, petrol: 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo, synchronous electric motor
Engines, diesel: N/A
Power: 306hp petrol engine, 55hp electric motor, 340hp total combined output
Torque: 332lb ft
0-62mph: 5.3 secs
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
MPG, combined: 47.9mpg
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
A significant horsepower boost and some restyling brings the Aston Rapide on leaps and bounds
Date 12 hrs ago, Duration 2:30, Views 308