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 you can buy
- 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 was a little late to the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) party compared to German rivals Mercedes and BMW. There's still no petrol-electric version of its A4 saloon and A4 Avant estate models, but the rest of the range has caught up: you can now buy PHEV variants of everything from the A6 and A8 to the Q3, Q5, Q7 and Q8.
The entry point to Audi's plug-in line-up is this A3 Sportback TFSI e five-door hatchback. As it's built on the same platform as the Skoda Octavia, SEAT Leon and Volkswagen Golf, it's no surprise to discover it gets the same engine technology as the plug-in models of those cars. That means there are two choices of plug-in A3 – known as the 40 TFSI e and 45 TFSI e. For the moment, we've only had the chance to drive the former.
With 201bhp on tap, the A3 40 TFSI e is equivalent to the Volkswagen Golf eHybrid, SEAT Leon e-Hybrid and Skoda Octavia iV, while the 45 TFSI e has the same power output as the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Cupra Leon e-Hybrid and Skoda Octavia vRS iV hot hatchbacks.
Under the 40 TFSI e's 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, 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 Volkswagen Group stablemates, the aforementioned Leon, Golf and Octavia (all 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 you can buy
- 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 costs & insuranceAs 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
- 4Performance, engine & driveThe 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, dashboard & 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 Volkswagen Group stablemates
- 6Boot space, seating & practicalityAs 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 & safety ratingThe A3 Sportback TFSI e has good crash-safety rating, however quite a high proportion of Audi owners report faults with their cars