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BMW’s new 3-series plug-in hybrid will go on sale here in September.

Its arrival could hardly be more timely given the Budget likelihood of sweeping changes to tax in favour of EVs and plug-ins.

The 330e, as it is called, will cost from €43,070 for SE Pro and Sport Pro trim (37g/km) – before delivery and related charges. M Sport will cost €43,990 (37g/km).

Importantly, the entry-level price applies after €7,500 has been deducted as a VRT rebate (€2,500) and €5,000 SEAI grant. I am going on the expectation these incentives will still be in place come Budget time.

Indeed the 330e could cost even less if the Tax Strategy Group’s plan, recently published, is followed. Why? Because the 330e’s emissions are below the 50g/km band that carries a proposed lower VRT rate of 7pc. That could knock a few hundred more off.

Plug-in v diesel? It might just come down to that where there is a choice within a brand. In BMW’s case, for example, the 330e would be €1,000 or so less expensive than the iconic 320d.

I think it would compare well on fuel consumption too.

On our test the combined 2-litre petrol and electric motor (integrated in the 8spd auto transmission; total output of 292hp), returned 3.8litres/100km. That was after 85.5kms on a mix of pure electric and hybrid-mode driving.

Sure, the real-world fuel consumption figure is more than the 1.8-litre/100km or so officially claimed but it checks well against diesel consumption and price.

We started out in pure electric mode, drove 26kms and still had 19kms left in the battery. So 45km in EV-mode is readily achievable.

On that basis, if you could charge regularly you’d get a good commute range on electric only and save a fair bit of money. They claim the saloon’s electric-only range is 60pc better than its predecessor.

At the end we still had 502kms left as a combination of petrol and electric.

Some key facts about the 330e: it is more than 200kgs heavier than its equivalent petrol and has a lower centre of gravity.

The battery spans the space under the rear seats, with the petrol tank further back and under the two-level boot (capacity well up).

You can order the M adaptive chassis.

When the anticipatory hybrid system detects city-limit signs it automatically switches to electric-mode driving for better use of energy. There will be a 330e Touring (estate) next year.

Claimed fuel consumption and emissions are down 15pc to 1.9litre-1.6 litre/100kms and between 43g/km to 37g/km.

The 330e is expected to make up a substantial portion of overall 3-series buying – a sign of how things are turning that way. Last year the current 330e accounted for 21.5pc of sales. This year and next I can see that increasing a lot.

I also had a quick drive in the new 3-series Touring, with the excellent 330d under the bonnet. Diesel has been king here for some time (83.7pc).

I think it looks better than the saloon. I like the look of the rear where the visual lift it gets gives the whole car a lively look. It has excellent handling and is vibrantly powerful.

The more I drive a 3-series these days, be it the 320d, the 330i (what a voyage around the south west we had in that) or the new estate, the more I like it. That goes for the plug-in hybrid too.

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