Audi A3 Sportback E-tron

Plug-in petrol-electric hatchback gains extra tech and revised styling

Along with the rest of the Audi A3 range, the plug-in hybrid Sportback e-tron has had a nip and tuck, with an injection of tech on the inside and a tweaked appearance externally. It remains mechanically unchanged, though.

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That means it still carries a 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor in the front, both driving through a six- speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and under the rear seats lives an 8.8kWh lithium ion battery. All that equates to a combined output of 20lbhp and a 0-62mph time of 7.6sec, along with combined fuel economy of I66.2mpg and just 38g/km of CO2.

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As with many hybrids, there are some drawbacks. Aside from a higher list price than mainstream A3s, it has to lug around the weight of its electric motor and battery, impacting on its dynamic ability. Furthermore, real-world economy is never as jaw-dropping as the official figures suggest, and the electric-only range is often more limited. We managed around 18 miles in typical use.

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On start-up, the car defaults to EV mode, but regardless of which of its three powertrain modes it is running in, the e-tron remains impressively quiet at most speeds. Along with EV mode, there’s Hybrid, which uses a mix of electric and petrol power, and Battery Hold, which preserves the battery’s charge by getting the four- cylinder engine to do all the work.

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E-tron makes a comfortable, refined cruiser

The small drive battery ensures that a full charge doesn’t take too long (around two hours from empty, according to Audi), although the e-tron does a pretty good job of replenishing the charge itself. The petrol engine will do this as it runs, helped by regenerative braking. The brakes can be quite grabby, though.

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The transition from electric to petrol and vice versa is pretty seamless, but enthusiastic kickdowns can result in slightly sluggish gearchanges. However, the e-tron offers relaxed cruising, with excellent refinement and a compliant ride.

Performance is brisk and there are different driving settings: Comfort, Auto and Dynamic. Comfort is fine for everyday use, but Dynamic, which adjusts throttle response, steering, and gearchanges, gives a greater sense of urgency to the acceleration.

However, throwing the e-tron into a corner while carrying some speed highlights a few of the drawbacks of its higher kerb weight. Where the standard A3 handles accurately and precisely, this hybrid has more body lean and less front-end grip.

Inside, a simple, user-friendly layout includes a 7.0in touchscreen atop an uncluttered dashboard. The e-tron is available in only one trim, but it is packed with tech, including Bluetooth, sat-nav and DAB radio, and now it gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

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Interior has a polished feel and is packed with kit

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audi-a3-sportback-e-tron-backseatsEverything else is as you’d expect from an A3. It is comfortable, offers great visibility, has a nice driving position and is fairly spacious, although around 100 litres of boot space have been lost as a result of hybrid packaging needs.

As an easy-going daily driver, the A3 e-tron is a great hybrid option that would be a perfectly usable car for many urban motorists. It is slightly disappointing that its driving dynamics don’t entirely live up to its straight-line pace, though.

The technical wizardry doesn’t come cheap, either. Even with the £2500 government grant, it’s £7000 more expensive than an automatic A3 Sportback 2.0 TDISE Technik. Sentencing it to a life of urban driving could make the e-tron cheaper than the diesel in the (very) long run if bought privately, but it makes better sense for company car tax-paying business users. If you’re in this camp, it’s well worth investigating.

audi-a3-e-tron-logoSPECIFICATIONS

Audi A3 Sportback E-tron

Facelifted A3 e-tron is a first-rate plug-in hybrid that’s packed with tech, if a little short on driver appeal


Price: £32,745 (after gov’t grant)
Engine: 4cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol, plus electric motor
Power: 210bhp (total system output)

Torque: 258lb ft (total system output)
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1540kg
0-62mph: 7.6ec
Top speed: 138mph
Economy: 166.2mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 38g/km, 7%
Rivals: VW Golf GTE, BMW 330e

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