The Audi A3 e-tron can be very economical and cost little to run, if you can get the best out of the hybrid system, but it’s not cheap to buy in the first place
The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is a plug-in hybrid version of the regular A3. So, rather than having just a conventional petrol or diesel engine, this combines a petrol engine with an electric motor and a relatively large battery. That means it can do almost 30 miles on electric power alone, and when the batteries have no power left, the petrol engine kicks in, allowing it to recharge the battery or drive the car and give a healthy overall range.
It’s an alternative to other plug-in models like the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Toyota Prius plug-in and Kia Niro. And, like them, it makes no great effort to stand out from the more conventional models in its range. On the contrary, you have to look very hard to tell the e-tron apart from a 1.4 TSI.
Other than the engines, the biggest difference between the e-tron and the other A3s is its price. The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is one of the most expensive models in the range, but it does at least come with plenty of equipment, including a seven-inch infotainment screen, automatic headlights and wipers, LED headlights and rear parking sensors, counter with potentially very cheap running costs.
According to the official figures, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron can return more than 150mpg and emits less than 50g/km of CO2. But, how close you get to that depends on how you drive it. If you do plenty of short trips – when you’ll be using electric power almost exclusively – and keep the batteries charged up, you could get over 100mpg on a regular basis.
A full charge from flat takes just under four hours using a standard plug socket. But, if you can use a wallbox or a public Type 2 charger, that charge time will drop to just two and a quarter hours.
On the other hand, if you do lots of miles – especially long motorway trips – an Audi A3 diesel may well work out as a better bet.
On the face of it, the A3 e-tron seems to let you have your cake and eat it - with good economy and strong performance - but do your sums carefully to make sure it’s the right car for you
Inside, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is barely any different to the regular A3. It has the same excellent build quality, for instance, and as it’s one of the more expensive models in the range, it has some of the best materials inside.
That also means there’s just as much space for passengers as in the normal A3. So, four adults can get perfectly comfortable and, as the car is a five-door hatchback, it’s easy for everyone to get in and out.
As far as practicality goes, the only sacrifice an e-tron owner has to make compared to the owner of another A3 is in the boot. That’s because the batteries for the hybrid system have to go somewhere, and they go under the boot floor. The result is that the boot capacity is some 100 litres smaller than in other Sportbacks; and, of course, it’s further reduced by the fact that you also have to stow the charging cable in the boot.
Those extra components also add to the car’s weight – 400kg, in fact, which is equivalent to having an extra five adults on board. You won’t notice this too much in terms of performance; on the contrary, the instant response of the electric motors makes the car feel pretty quick.
However, it’s the handling that suffers, with the e-tron feeling less sharp through the bends than a standard A3 Sportback. On the other hand, to cope with the extra weight, the e-tron has a softer suspension set-up, which means you feel fewer bumps than in the sportier standard car.
The Audi A3 e-tron won’t suit everyone, but for someone living in a city with a short commute and easy access to charging facilities, it could easily pay for itself.