New car review
AUDI A3 e-tron
by Andy Enright
The Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid makes some interesting numbers. It’s claimed to return 188mpg, emit 35g/km of CO2 and get to 62mph in just 7.6 seconds.
Real world economy is around a third of this number, which makes the asking price look somewhat optimistic.
The A3 e-tron is powered by a 148bhp 1.4 litre TSI petrol engine and a 99bhp electric motor that’s tucked between the gearbox and power unit, driving front wheels. Rather cleverly, Audi has designed the electric motor to replace a conventional starter motor.
Power is then directed through a six-speed sequential twin-clutch transmission which is quick-witted enough to handle the rapid spooling of the electric motor.
There’s actually another clutch in this adapted gearbox which allows the motors to decouple, permitting the car to coast with less friction which, Audi claims, is a more efficient than trying to scavenge energy back through recuperation.
The result of this is a car that defaults to electric power on start up and will drive up to 31miles on electric power alone. It’ll even motorway cruise at speeds of up to 80mph on batteries, although not for too long.
The petrol engine can instantly be engaged by either kickdown or by toggling a switch from pure EV to hybrid mode.
With both power sources operating, the e-tron will step smartly off the line, getting to 62mph in 7.6 seconds and running onto a top speed of 138mph.
Handling is excellent, helped by a lower centre of gravity than the standard A3 and better weight distribution too, thanks to a light engine and the repositioning of the fuel tank.
The e-tron is offered in the larger five-door A3 Sportback body and doesn’t look a whole lot different to any other Sportback.
There’s some subtle badging at the back and the charging point is typically Audi-slick. You slide the four-ringed grille badge to the side and that reveals a socket that plugs into your wall with a supplied lead.
Audi has done quite a bit of fairly fundamental shifting under the skin though. The fuel tank has been moved to the rear of the car, now sitting beneath the boot floor, while the 8.8kWh, 125kg battery resides under the rear seat.
Total boot space drops by 100-litres to 280-litres as a result, which is just about the only practical caveat here.
Although the headline numbers of 188mpg, 35g/km of CO2 and a 0-62mph time of just 7.6 seconds make the Audi A3 e-tron appear an instant game-changer, look behind the numbers and you’ll find things not quite so clear cut.
In fact, a counter perspective might well be that you’re paying around £8,000 over the top of an A3 Sportback 184PS diesel and getting a car that’s slower, drinks more fuel, carries less luggage and offers inferior touring range.
Of course, the e-tron has other benefits. It can run in a pure EV mode, it offers better weight distribution and it feels a far more special piece of kit than a diesel hatch.
Can you put a price on that? You can perhaps if you measure the savings you’ll make in company car tax.
And this model certainly scores as a car you can drive as an EV on short commutes to work, but which is capable of long weekend trips.
As a technical showpiece, it’s an intriguing thing. As a sales proposition though, you might need to scour the small print quite carefully.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
CAR: Audi A3 e-tron
PRICES: £32,750 (est)
INSURANCE GROUP: 28 (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS: 35g/km
PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 7.6s Top Speed 138mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 188.3mpg (combined)
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: ESP, ABS with EBA, twin front,side and head airbags
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE? Length/Width/Height mm 4310/1785/1425