What is it?
It’s a premium or executive hatchback, and a different version to the Audi A3 we reviewed almost exactly a year ago – this time it’s the more tax efficient hybrid version.
The A3 has always been a popular model offering good looks and smart, functional interiors along with fine handling and good performance. It shares its underpinnings, powertrains and technology with its Volkswagen Group siblings, the VW Golf, SEAT Leon and the Skoda Octavia.
The A3 was launched in 1996 and is now in its third generation and there are plenty to choose with a range that takes in saloon, sportback, cabriolet and crossover with diesel and petrol engines, plus the e-tron versions.
The plug-in A3 is more or less the same car as plug-in versions of the VW Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia and uses a 148hp 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor integrated and a six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. The electric motor is rated at 107 providing a combined output just north of 200hp.
What do we think?
Well, it’s an Audi so you can expect good looks, fine handling, a comfortable ride and pretty good performance. The tech spec says the 0-62mph sprint takes 7.6 seconds, but the more important numbers for an executive express company car are range and CO2.
Again the tech spec tells us the Co2 figure is 25 g/km which equates to just 6% BiK – Good news. Electric range is quoted at 40 miles, but an overnight charge on our 7.5kW home charger released just 21 miles. This will see you OK o a short commute in town or to run down the shops but on the country lanes and hills the range is gone in the blink of an eye.
The A3 PHEV tends to use all its battery power before calling on the petrol engine so it’s important to make good use of use the battery hold or battery charge functions which you can do at the flick of a switch and these are found underneath the climate controls – so no messing about with touch screens as is so often the way with modern cars.
The benefit of electric mode is almost silent running, it’s punchy enough for a quick getaway at the traffic lights and it will accelerate beyond 80mph before calling for help from the petrol engine. In Hybrid mode the transition from electric to petrol and back is fluid enough and even when the battery has run out, the engine switches off when braking or coasting to help save juice.
Difficult judge an actual mpg with the continual switching between petrol and electric – but as indicated on the dashboard anything between 34 and 100+ mph.
While the contemporary Golf GTE was busy trying to be a hot hatch, the old A3 e-tron had a softness to it that better suited the powertrain’s character. This time around the Audi has ceded that particular advantage to the plug-in Octavia and Leon, both of which are comfier.
Why would you want an Audi A3?
- Sharp handling and fun to drive
- Better price that its German rivals
- Great, flexible engines
- Option of quattro 4WD
- Wide range of body options
What might put you off an Audi A3?
- Arguably the BMW 1-series and Mercedes A-Class have now established themselves as class leaders in terms of technology and desirability
- The A3 is starting to look and feel a little long in the tooth.
- Interiors not as great as they used to be
Over the years the A3 has not grown particularly in size although the latest versions do have more interior space thanks to a longer wheelbase. A wider track also allows more elbow room. In terms of practicality, the five-door Sportback is a good choice with room enough for five adults and the best cargo room in the range with a 380-litre load space, which expands to 1,220 litres with the rear seats down.
While Audi lead the field in the past in terms of interiors, BMW and Mercedes have now upped their game and have overtaken in terms of technology. That said, the A3 remains quiet and comfortable cruiser while its price, a fraction over £26k stacks up well against its German rivals.
- P11D Value, £35,190 (as tested)
- 5-door Sportback
- Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
- Power/torque: 150hp/250Nm
- Economy: Up to a claimed 282mpg (WLTP)
- CO2: 25 g/km
- Performance: 0-62/mph, 7.6 secs/141mph