Base Camp: 2021 BMW 330e Sedan
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
The machines from Munich have long been an aspiration for many, regardless of whether the aspiration is to drive a well-sorted car or to simply be seen behind the blue-and-white badge is largely a matter of personal preference. What all BMW drivers have in common, though, is the recognition that a 3 Series sedan is the most popular gateway to BMW ownership.
For 2021, the 330e takes up residence in the Bavarian Base Camp. Behind that kidney grille is a hybrid powertrain that combines a 2-litre TwinPower Turbo engine with an electric motor to make a healthy 288 hp. A variety of driving modes are on tap, including one that permits emission-free motoring up to 140km/h or the average speed on the 401 during rush hour. It is rear-wheel drive, the way nature and Villeneuve intended, though an eight-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice for now.
The 330e looks every inch a Beemer, with this latest iteration mercifully dispensing with the old 3’s unsightly hood cutline. Jet Black and Alpine White are the only standard paint colours. If you insist on selecting an $895 metallic hue, please select a bold shade like Melbourne Red or Sunset Orange. Our roads could use a dose of colour. Nerdy gearheads will identify this as a 330e in traffic largely thanks to the lack of chrome addenda in the cheeks of its front bumper compared to costlier 3-Series sedans.
Leatherette upholstery is standard and available in optional Canberra Beige for those who think watching Larry King Live is high adventure. Everyone else should stick with basic black. The sport-inspired steering wheel is leather wrapped and the front seats have adjustable side bolsters and thigh support. Neither is heated, however, which could be seen as a glaring omission in a car costing $44,950.
Still, the 2021 330e is hardly a stripper model. Dynamic cruise control with braking functions help take the load off long journeys and a glass sunroof lets in extra light. The BMW Live Cockpit Professional includes a high-res instrument display with a 12.3-inch screen in front of the driver and a 10.25-inch touchscreen display centrally mounted taking care of infotainment duties. A brace of USB ports can keep devices charged or feed media to the audio system.
What We’d Choose
It’s difficult to recommend against this 3-Series BMW as an entry to the brand, given its price point and the fact that most other BMW models are suffering from an acute case of renal failure. That this 330e plug-in hybrid model is the least expensive of all the current 3 Sedans only serves to bolster its appeal.
Dealers will surely stuff their inventory with lavishly equipped examples but searching for a zero-options 330e will net an attractive sedan bearing the all-important blue-and-white roundel.
For some, that’s all that matters.