THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: A plug-in hybrid that requires no compromises.
- What’s Worst: No quattro all-wheel drive available on this model.
- What’s Interesting: This is Audi’s first-ever plug-in hybrid.
The nice thing about Audi’s first ever plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is that ownership of the A3 Sportback e-tron requires no real sacrifices.
This new 2016 model has a pleasing combination of good looks, exciting performance and economy of operation.
Like many hybrids and green vehicles, the initial cost is high, but the A3 e-tron has a lot to offer the buyer who wants an entry-luxury, fun-to-drive hatchback that in EV mode feels every bit like a full-blown electric car.
Unlike most of the gas-electric hybrids that transition from electric to gasoline when speeds reach 25 to 30 km/h, this PHEV can stay in electric mode at speeds well over 100 km/h.
And as far as the government is concerned, it’s considered a ‘green car’ in Ontario complete with the green license plate and with federal and provincial rebates of $8,095.
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And while EV range is modest (about 26 km), this distance would be within the range of many drivers’ work commutes. With a charging station available, the A3 Sportback e-tron is a car that for some people could function in electric mode much of the time.
But on weekends when heading out to the cottage or for a get-away out of the city, it has the advantage of a gasoline engine to provide the range that electrics just can’t provide.
Actually, the A3 Sportback e-tron gives the best of all worlds with four driving modes.
EV is the default mode and operates on pure electric power, offering 234 lb/ft of torque and a quiet, smooth ride.
Hybrid Auto mode makes the best use of both the electric motor and gasoline engine.
Hybrid Hold runs the internal combustion engine and maintains the battery charge.
A fourth mode, Hybrid Charge uses the gasoline engine to recharge the battery.
The 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, located under the back seats can be charged with either 120- or 240-volt cables that come standard with the car.
A complete recharge with normal 120-volt household current takes about eight hours, while it takes two-and-a-half hours at a 240 volt charging station. The charging port is hidden away behind the Audi rings on the front grille.
A turbocharged 1.4-litre DOHC gasoline engine, producing 150 hp and 184 lb/ft of torque, powers the A3 Sportback e-tron.
A 75 kW electric motor with 102 hp and 234 lb/ft of torque adds to the power, making total system output of 204 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque. These are combined with a six-speed S tronic twin clutch transmission that drives the front wheels.
In gasoline mode, the A3 e-tron runs on premium unleaded fuel and turns in fuel economy numbers of 6.4/5.7/6.0 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
Three trims levels are: Ultra ($39,200), Progressiv ($39,900) and Technik ($44,600). Our test vehicle was a top-trim Technik with Technology Package ($1,400), Sport Package with Turbine wheels ($1,100) and Daytona Grey Metallic paint ($890), pricing out at $50,185.
The basic Ultra model is loaded with content like dual zone climate control, Xenon headlights with LED running lights, power/heated driver and front passenger seat, three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seating surfaces, Sirius XM satellite radio and power heated exterior mirrors.
Moving up the Progressiv adds 17-inch wheels, while Technik provides a navigation system, LED headlights, rear view camera, Bang & Olufsen sound system, auto-dimming rear view mirror and advanced parking system with front and rear sensors.
Being an Audi, the interior of the A3 e-tron is beautifully finished for a car in the entry luxury segment. The leather seats are heated and power operated up front. Being a compact, rear head and legroom is a challenge, however those back seats can be folded to expand the trunk cargo area from 386 to 955 litres.
One neat feature is the infotainment display screen that pops up atop the centre dash area when the start button is pushed and then slides away again when not in use.
Although the 1,540 kg A3 e-tron carries about 300 kg of extra weight in part because of the lithium-ion battery pack, it still moves out well from a standing start, with a 0-100 km/h time of 7.6 seconds, according to the manufacturer.
The ride and handling is excellent and it really is a sporty little car to drive, both on the highway and backcountry roads.
You can push it through the corners, something you can’t say for a lot of hybrids. And the transition between energy sources is virtually seamless, which is not always the case with hybrids.
The fact that no compromises are needed with the A3 e-tron makes it an interesting car to consider for the buyer who wants an entry-luxury hatchback that’s big on fun and performance all the while providing outstanding fuel economy.
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Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 2016 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Compact entry-luxury plug-in hybrid.
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, front-wheel drive with six-speed S tronic twin clutch transmission.
ENGINE: Turbocharged 1.4-litre DOHC gasoline engine 150 hp, 184 lb/ft of torque) combined with a 75 kW electric motor (102 hp, 234 lb/ft) for a total system output of 204 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque.
CARGO: 386 litres, with back seats folded 955 litres.
FUEL ECONOMY: Gasoline engine 6.4/5.7/6.0 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $39,990 to $44,600. As tested, $50,185 plus $2,095 freight and PDI.
WEB SITE: www.audi.ca