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The Audi A3 Sportback E-Tron – Too Good To Be True

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Audi’s A3 might be as abundant as air, but this new A3 Sportback e-tron is doing its bit to keep the stuff we breathe as clean as possible. Under the prominent four-ringed badge sits a plug socket, which is used to charge the battery pack under the floor. A few subtle badges and different instruments aside, the e-tron is fairly subtle about announcing its plug-in hybrid party trick.

The A3 e-tron is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid version of the A3 Sportback

The A3 e-tron is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid version of the A3 Sportback

Restrained to look at, and equally so on the road, the e-tron pushes electric mode to the fore when starting up. In this guise it’s super refined, Audi working hard on drowning out the background hum, hiss and click that’s sometimes apparent with hybrids on the move; the e-tron’s silence is in the pure electric car league. On batteries alone it’ll run for up to 31 miles at speeds of up to 80mph, though try to break the UK limit for any amount of time and that range diminishes rather quickly. Not so rapidly to discount electric-only use on the motorway though, the e-tron’s battery power is more than a mere assistant in the driving process; it’s a genuinely useable mode. It’s one of five – pure EV, Hybrid, Hold, Charge and Sport are the official names. The Hybrid setting mixes electric motor and 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine use for maximum economy; the Hold mode hangs onto charge; while Charge uses the maximum regeneration and engine assistance to recharge the battery where possible on the move. Sport transmits everything it’s got at the front wheels to allow it a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds.

The interior is much like that of a conventional Audi A3, albeit predictably more refined in EV mode

The interior is much like that of a conventional Audi A3, albeit predictably more refined in EV mode

It all works rather well, the hybrid system is quite brilliantly integrated with the automatic gearbox, though ask it to follow its regular Sportback relations on a tight and twisty road and the e-tron’s greater weight and economy-focused tyres mean less outright agility, and plummeting economy. Drive it as it’s meant to be driven though, and concentrate on eking every mile out of the battery and it’s a different, but enjoyable experience.

The A3 e-tron is powered by a 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine and a 99bhp electric motor

The A3 e-tron is powered by a 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine and a 99bhp electric motor

Inside it’s like any other Audi A3, which means tight build quality, tactile materials throughout and decent, if not overly generous, space. The only real signifiers that this is different to its non-hybrid relations are the addition of the EV button on the console, some e-tron badging and a changed instrument pack. Those instruments show what the powertrain’s up to. The boot’s a bit smaller than its front-driven A3 Sportback relations, but no less roomy than the quattro alternatives, so the Labrador and Waitrose shopping bags will still fit without any trouble. Knock off the UK Government’s $8,290 grant and the A3 Sportback e-tron weighs in at $49,655, which makes a 1.6 TDI Sport at $37,100 look cheap.

A3 e-tron's charging point is secreted behind the familiar four-ringed logo

A3 e-tron's charging point is secreted behind the familiar four-ringed logo

That diesel model will manage 74.3mpg on the official combined cycle, sub-100g/km CO2 output too, though it pales in comparison to the A3 Sportback e-tron’s official stats of 176.6mpg and 37g/km. That’d take some doing, but around 70 to 80mpg in real-world driving is possible.

 

 

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