Review: Audi A3 E-tron Sportback
The Audi A3 e-tron Sportback looks almost the same as any other standard Audi A3. To the less discerning observer it will probably even look exactly the same. However this is Audi’s first crack at the hybrid market and with that comes a few subtle upmarket differences worth pointing out.
With Audi’s new futuristic hybrid hatch you will find yourself cruising with the road encompassing Audi e-tron chrome grille, arguably as impactful as those of it’s S3 and RS3 siblings, surrounded by the same desirable bodywork you pay for on those sort after sporty models. But don’t get too excited, this is not a bargain A3 for aspiring S3 owners. Far from it. The 1.4 litre turbocharged TFSI petrol engine backed up by the 8.8kHw (that means big) lithium-ion battery will set you back a staggering £35,690.00. That’s almost £4000 more than the hot hatch S3 model!
Despite not quite matching the performance of the S3, it does produce a very healthy 204bhp and can manage a strong 0-60 in 7.6 seconds, reaching a top speed that teeters around the 138mph mark. But with this car that is all beside the point. The e-tron’s singularity of purpose is technology. In the same way an S3 buyer demands power, an e-tron buyer aspires for the future and this is where both models demand their asking price in their own right.
Where as most cars usually have one boring power mode, the engine (#yawn), with the e-tron you have a choice of four power modes. EV allows you to silently take on the roads in ‘all electric mode’, the only noticeable noise being that of the surprisingly crunchy sound of the tires caressing the asphalt below. If you’re not in the mood for creeping about then Hybrid (Auto) maintains duel efficiency with the lithium-ion battery taking the reigns for speeds less than 40mph, the petrol engine taking over from there. But if it is adrenaline fuelled fun that you are after then you want Hybrid (Hold). This lets you maintain battery power whilst utilising the full TSFI petrol engine for the times you wish to hammer the flappy paddle gears.
My mode of choice was that of Hybrid (Charge). Although not as responsive on throttle or as exciting as playing with the flappy paddle downshifts in Hybrid (Hold), this setting allows the driver to charge the electric battery using the car’s motor. Combine that with Comfort Mode, not only are you able to save petrol money with a quick change back to a charged EV, the drive quality is as comfortable as a BMW 5-series. Other driving options on offer include Auto, Dynamic and Individual, the latter being an option that allows you to configure the drive settings to your preference. All are accessible with a click of a button on the dash.
You can drive up to 30 miles at 80mph in full electric mode, a slightly surreal experience. Although the range isn’t anything to get too excited about it is enough to get around locally and with a charge time of 2-4 hours you can’t complain. Otherwise you will find yourself averaging around 43mpg, a little less than the 176.6mpg claimed by Audi.
Interior spec is very generous with navigation, heated leather seats, Bluetooth phone connection and an MP3/DAB Media Centre all coming as standard. Plus Smooth FM playing through Bang and Olufsen speakers did make quiet night drives in EV feel that little bit more luxurious. If you’re one about town and like to get on down with your cool hip friends then this car can fit three adults in the back just as easy as the commendably spacious standard A3 Sportback.
Downfalls are mainly attributable to the fact that the A3 has had to compromise to make room for the rather large electric battery. The two charge leads needed to charge the car take up a quarter of the already smaller than standard A3 boot which has been made smaller to make room for the battery, and little old ladies can’t hear the EV engine coming towards them when crossing the road. I did conclude however that was probably more their problem than mine.
We will end by mitigating the issue of price. The £35,690 price tag is there to cover the costs of the car’s electric battery, a new technology in production cars and thus a premium you will pay with most hybrid manufacturers at the moment. Although, with this being considered and for what you get, the price of the Audi A3 e-tron is very much in line with the current hybrid market and to soften the blow, you are even entitled to a government grant to put towards purchase price.
If a hybrid hatchback is on your wish list, you’re long on money but you don’t want to be the only driver in a traffic jam that looks like they’re driving something from Monsters Inc, then there’s a good chance this car is for you. The Audi A3 e-tron is an everyday hatchback with brilliant German build quality, superb brand assurance and an eco-friendly engine – which by the way, means low running costs. It just keeps getting better! Otherwise, if you can live without the tech or £35k is simply just too much, a standard Audi A3 will get you around just as well.
Words: Joe ManGone