Audi A3 hybrid review
The Audi A3 TFSI e boasts badge prestige, a beautiful interior and low company-car costs, but it's not the best value or most practical petrol-electric hatchback
- Decent electric range
- Smooth petrol-electric transition
- Superb interior quality and design
- Reduced boot space
- Ride comfort could be better
- Skoda & SEAT equivalents better value
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||37-41 miles||235-283mpg||25-29g/km|
Audi has been a little bit behind the curve so far in introducing plug-in hybrid technology across its range compared to close rivals BMW and Mercedes. But although there's still no plug-in version of its A4 executive saloon, the larger A6 and A8 four-doors – along with the Q3, Q5, Q7 and Q8 SUVs – all now have petrol-electric 'TFSI e' variants in their line-ups.
The latest to join the party is the popular A3 Sportback five-door hatchback. This car shares underpinnings with the VW Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia, so it's no surprise to see it get the same engine technology as the plug-in hybrid versions of those cars. There will eventually be two choices of plug-in A3, badged 40 TFSI e and 45 TFSI e, but for the moment we've only driven the first, less powerful version.
With 201bhp on tap, the A3 40 TFSI e is equivalent to the SEAT Leon e-Hybrid and Skoda Octavia iV, while the 45 TFSI e will get the same power output as the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Cupra Leon e-Hybrid and Skoda Octavia vRS iV hot hatchbacks.
Under the bonnet, a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine making 148bhp works in concert with a 107bhp electric motor, which is integrated with the car's six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Unlike some of the higher-end Audi hybrids, the plug-in A3 is front-wheel drive, with no option to add the brand's quattro all-wheel-drive system.
A 13kWh battery stores enough energy for up to 41 miles of pure-electric driving (or 37 if you go for larger alloy wheels). Like most plug-in hybrids, there's no rapid-charging capability; it's expected most owners will top up at home overnight from a wallbox charger, something that should take less than five hours to complete.
That electric range, combined with official CO2 emissions of 25 to 29g/km, are key to the A3 hybrid's appeal to company-car user-choosers. Previously, such buyers would have gone for the most frugal diesel engine in the range, but the current Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rates are stacked heavily in favour of plug-ins. The A3 compares well with its primary rival in this arena, the Mercedes A 250 e, although you need to stick to 17-inch wheels to get into the 7% BiK band; otherwise it's 11%.
For private buyers, the financial case for buying a plug-in hybrid is less clear-cut: while there are definite fuel-cost savings to be made if you mostly do short journeys that can be completed on electric power alone, that has to be stacked against a higher list price than an equivalent petrol or diesel A3 in the first place.
The A3 also isn't as smooth-riding, or practical, as some of its VW Group stablemates, such as the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia (both of which are available in spacious estate form, too). But it does have a nicer-looking and better-quality interior, plus the kudos of that four-ring badge on the nose. For a more detailed look at the Audi A3 hybrid, read on for the rest of our in-depth review…
In This Review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Audi A3 TFSI e boasts badge prestige, a beautiful interior and low company-car costs, but it's not the best value or most practical petrol-electric hatchback
- 2Range, MPG, CO2 & chargingThe A3 TFSI e compares well with its Mercedes A-Class rival in this regard, but you need to stick to 17-inch wheels if you want the best figures
- 3Running costsAs with all plug-ins, the A3 TFSI e has the biggest impact on running costs for company-car users; the financial case for private buyers is less clear-cut
- 4Engines, drive & performanceThe A3 TFSI e is both powerful and smooth to drive, but the ride quality leaves a little to be desired, especially on the larger alloy-wheel sizes
- 5Interior & comfortAudi continues to offer some of the best interiors in the business; this is one of the main reasons to choose the A3 TFSI e over its cheaper VW Group stablemates
- 6Practicality & boot spaceAs a five-door 'Sportback' hatchback, the A3 TFSI e is a pretty practical choice, but it does lose some boot space compared to the non-plug-in version
- 7Reliability & safetyThe A3 Sportback has good crash safety rating, however quite a high proportion of Audi owners report faults with their cars