From £16,3708
The new plug-in hybrid petrol version of the Audi A3 promises a staggering 188mpg and a satisfying driving experience, but it comes at a premium

Our Verdict

Audi A3
As it stands, the A3 accounts for every fifth Audi registered worldwide

The Audi A3 is now in its third-generation and the premium hatchback ups the ante on quality once more

13 September 2013

What is it?

The Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in petrol hybrid version of the A3 Sportback. It’s powered by a 148bhp 1.4 litre TSI engine and a 99bhp electric motor sandwiched between the gearbox and power unit to drive the front wheels. The motor also doubles as the engine’s starter.

A six-speed DSG gearbox harnesses the power, its wide ratio spread enabling the electric motor to operate through a narrower, 0-2000rpm rev range that allows for a more efficient design. The adapted DSG transmission includes an additional clutch that decouples the motors to allow coasting, which is a more efficient use of kinetic energy than recuperation.

The e-tron’s 8.8kWh, 125kg battery lives under the rear seat, while the repositioned fuel tank sits beneath a slightly raised boot floor. Despite the tank’s proximity to the A3’s back end this car can absorb a 50mph rear impact without the plastic tank rupturing. At the other end of this A3 e-tron, neatly hidden behind the four rings of its grille, is the power socket for the charging cable.

Despite its low emission, fuel-saving hardware the e-tron can be considered as both fuel-saver and lightly sporting performance car. It has the scope to achieve a spectacular 188.3mpg – one tester has even managed 235mpg – besides sprinting to 62mph in 7.6sec and topping 138mph. It will also travel at up to 80mph on electric power alone, although its 31-mile range will obviously be compromised by high EV speeds like these.

Those 31 miles are enough to allow most commuting trips to be completed without resort to the petrol engine; this practice encouraged by the automatic defaulting to EV mode on start-up. The petrol engine can instantly be engaged via the kickdown button however, or by using a centre console-mounted rocker switch to toggle to hybrid operation. Because kickdown can demand maximum effort from a cold engine, Audi has reworked this TFSI’s piston rings and liners for wear-protection, and included a sensor to measure oil quality.

The DSG transmission provides the same features as you get in a conventional car, including a manual paddle-shift mode, a creep function and kickdown, your chosen gear indicated in the instrument pack. As is the car’s range, a yellow and green bar graph indicating its distance potential with petrol and electric power. You can also select an energy flow read-out, and the infotainment display provides a box-out highlighting your chosen mode.

Otherwise, the interior looks standard, although an electric heater and air conditioner lie behind the familiar controls on the dashboard. The A3’s exterior appears similar too, there being no additional aerodynamic aids, although it does have low-rolling resistance tyres.

What's it like?

As quiet as any other electric car on take-off, the e-tron’s easy silence provides relaxed, and swift urban progress. That said, your advance isn’t always as smooth as it should be because there’s sometimes a solid thump as drive takes up.

"You can be sure that Dr Hackenberg won’t allow that," Audi A3 programme manager Alex Pesch wrily says of his boss, this pre-production e-tron not quite the finished article. Nor do you quite enjoy the rangey, seamless power surge that a single-gear pure electric delivers either.

But, however, the familiar sensation of power being parcelled through a multi-speed transmission is a small price to pay for the undoubted efficiency advantage of having an electric motor geared through six forward speeds, as it is in the Volvo V60 diesel plug-in hybrid.

The general integration of petrol engine, transmission and electric motor is otherwise excellent. There are no jolts when the drivetrain is combining or switching between motors, and the 1.4 TFSI has a subtly pleasing rort about it when it’s worked hard. Not inappropriately either, because adding a battery pack, shifting the fuel tank to the rear and installing a particularly light engine means that this A3’s 55:45 front rear weight distribution improves on the diesel’s 60:40 apportioning, to the noticeable benefit of its handling.

The e-tron turns out to be the best-balanced, sweetest-handling A3 in the range, which makes for a pretty satisfying steer. It rides well too, although there’s still some damper calibration work to be carried out. Hopefully that won’t firm things up significantly.

Recharge times vary depending on your power source of course, but you’re looking at 3hrs and 45mins using a 230 volt 10 amp supply, which reduces to 2hrs 15mins with 16 amp power. Either way, an overnight charge, which you can time via switches beside the Audi’s socket, is more than enough.

Should I buy one?

Audi's A3 e-tron is a fascinating car that has the potential to be very cheap to run, especially given its ultra-low, tax-dodging emissions. It also offers entertainingly strong performance and well-balanced handling to go with it.

The e-tron’s fuel and money-saving potential are best realised if your daily slog to work falls within its 31-mile electric range, in which case the cost of your commute will tumble significantly. And because this is a hybrid, you have the convenience of a 550-mile range using both on-board energy supplies.

True, this e-tron looks likely to cost a good £9000 more than an A3 2.0 TDI Sport when it arrives in summer 2014, but it’s a lot more entertaining and will cost you even less to feed.

Price £32,700 est; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Top speed 138mph; Economy 188.3mpg; CO2 35g/km; Kerb weight 1574kg; Engine 4cyls, 1395cc, turbocharged petrol, plus synchronous electric motor; Installation transverse, front; Power 1.4 TFSI 148bhp at 5000rpm, electric motor 99bhp, 201bhp combined; Torque 1.4 TFSI 184lb ft 1750-4000rpm, electric motor 243lb ft 0-2000rpm, 258lb ft combined; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic

Join the debate

Comments
19

13 September 2013

If only they hadn't fallen so far behind in Range Extender tech. (cost the former Tech boss his job) this could have been so much better by fitting a bigger battery and an approx 700cc engine to soley recharge the battery, like what the Ampera and BMW i3 (RE version) are doing.
Also has the benefit of lightness, ie drop the gearbox, + half the weight of a 1.4 turbo engine, and 1/6th size petrol tank

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

13 September 2013
xxxx wrote:

Also has the benefit of lightness, ie drop the gearbox, + half the weight of a 1.4 turbo engine, and 1/6th size petrol tank

This A3 sits between the i3 and Ampera in terms of weight. I don't think that's bad considering the technology has been placed into an existing hatchback rather than designed from the ground up like the other two.


13 September 2013
xxxx wrote:

If only they hadn't fallen so far behind in Range Extender tech. (cost the former Tech boss his job) this could have been so much better by fitting a bigger battery and an approx 700cc engine to soley recharge the battery, like what the Ampera and BMW i3 (RE version) are doing.
Also has the benefit of lightness, ie drop the gearbox, + half the weight of a 1.4 turbo engine, and 1/6th size petrol tank

You should look up at how an Ampera actually works, Wikipedia is as good as any description. The engine can drive the wheels directly in one mode as well as recharge the batteries or use the generator/motor to power its other electric motor.

maxecat

14 September 2013
Maxecat wrote:
xxxx wrote:

If only they hadn't fallen so far behind in Range Extender tech. (cost the former Tech boss his job) this could have been so much better by fitting a bigger battery and an approx 700cc engine to soley recharge the battery, like what the Ampera and BMW i3 (RE version) are doing.
Also has the benefit of lightness, ie drop the gearbox, + half the weight of a 1.4 turbo engine, and 1/6th size petrol tank

You should look up at how an Ampera actually works, Wikipedia...r.

Thanks but I already know how RE works, and Audi would love to have a system like the i3 RE version or Ampera

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

13 September 2013

Do they factor in the emissions associated with a plug in charge, or would they consider a 30 mile journey purely on batteries to be zero emissions?

If its the latter then the figures are pure rubbish and meaningless. If however they do genuinely factor in realistic numbers for the emissions associated with charging the car then the mpg figures are very impressive.

Please clarify.

13 September 2013
BenS1 wrote:

Please clarify.

Well a gallon of petrol is about £6.50 and going by Nissan Leaf figures which cost about 2p a mile when charging over night. So whilst using battery power on the e-tron you'd get to do 325 miles on £6.50. Simples, but bear in mind it won't go as far as the Leaf for the same Kw but maybe over 200 miles on £6.50 anyway.

Other than that it's impopssible to publish a figure that could be argued for hours on end

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

13 September 2013

.."money-saving potential are best realised if your daily slog to work falls within its 31-mile electric range, in which case the cost of your commute will tumble significantly."

As technology increases these hybrids are making a much better case for themselves in all but one department - cost. At a £9k premium over the 2.0tdi and an even greater difference if you chose the 1.6tdi or 1.4tsi which is arguably the better option for under 31 mile daily commute, the cost of that commute will NOT tumble significantly.

In fact if you keep the car for 3 years as most buyers of new cars do, I'd have thought that cost of commute would increase significantly? And if you add the fast charger, there goes another £1000.

13 September 2013

As the amount of CO2 emissions associated with locating, drilling, refining, transporting crude oil aren't included in the CO2 output figure quoted for petrol cars, why then should they be included for electric cars? My understanding is if these were taken into consideration the output figure for petrol cars would rise by at least 200g CO2 / Km whereas Electric cars charged using the most polluting Coal Fired power stations would go up by 80g CO2 /Km.

13 September 2013
Greg500 wrote:

As the amount of CO2 emissions associated with locating, drilling, refining, transporting crude oil aren't included in the CO2 output figure quoted for petrol cars, why then should they be included for electric cars? My understanding is if these were taken into consideration the output figure for petrol cars would rise by at least 200g CO2 / Km whereas Electric cars charged using the most polluting Coal Fired power stations would go up by 80g CO2 /Km.

Ok, you're right regarding emissions, what I meant to talk about was actually cost.

When people talk about mpg most people are indirectly talking about cost. So my point was that charging the car is not free, and therefore unless these costs are factored into the headline mpg figures then its simply not comparing apples to apples when you compare the economy figures of a normal car with a plug in electric\hybrid car.

In fact on that basis an electric only car with no backup combustion engine would in theory be infinite mpg.

Also please note that I'm not criticising electric cars, I just wanted to know whether I should be as impressed with the headline mpg figure as it looks, or is it in fact not a true representation of the overall economy of the car?

13 September 2013
Greg500 wrote:

As the amount of CO2 emissions associated with locating, drilling, refining, transporting crude oil aren't included in the CO2 output figure quoted for petrol cars, why then should they be included for electric cars?

amen.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka