At first glance this might look like a well-specced
Audi A3, but hidden behind the front badge is a plug socket, because this is in fact
an E-Tron plug-in hybrid. With a full charge its electric motor can cover a range of 31
miles, after which its 1.4-litre petrol engine takes over, giving it an overall range of
more than 550 miles. All this technology doesn’t come cheap – its
£34,950 to be precise – but a £5,000 government grant, 5% company car tax and low running
costs will redress the balance for some. Unlike the Vauxhall Ampera and BMW i3, the
A3 E-Tron’s interior is very conventional, so it’s less quirky, but it’s also lovely
place to spend time.
The minimalist wing-shaped dashboard is minimalist and stylish, there’s
an MMI controller down here for the sat-nav and infotainment system and these air-vents
can even diffuse the airflow or direct it into an eye-watering jet.
The main differences are this button marked EV, the silence when you press the start button
and the unconventional gauges. Here, instead of revs, you see the percentage of power you
are using, whether it be just the electric or petrol motor, or both working together.
Passengers in the front and back have plenty of space, particularly as the E-Tron is only
available as a five-door Sportback, with decent rear legroom and headroom and lots of standard
equipment. There’s a trade-off in the boot, though,
where luggage space shrinks by 100 litres to 280, the same as you’ll find in a VW
Polo, to make way for the battery pack. If you plan on charging out and about, you’ll
also need this large cable carrier.
So it looks conventional, and apart from the
lack of noise, the e-tron’s driving experience is fairly normal too. It takes four hours
to charge the battery pack from a normal plug, or around half the time if you use a charging
point. In EV mode it’s brisk enough, with plenty
of acceleration from a standstill, and the petrol engine won’t cut in at speeds below
80mph. You can also choose to drive in an automatic mode, where the car juggles both
power sources depending on your driving style. Here the petrol motor can also provide support
when you need more performance, and with both motors working together, the E-Tron can reach
62mph in 7.6 seconds.
I also particularly like the setting where
you can save the battery power. So, at the start of my commute, for example, I can use
the petrol engine, but as I get closer to the CarKeys office in Liverpool I can switch
to full EV mode to save fuel in city traffic. Audi claims an economy figure of 176mpg, but
this will vary depending on how much of your journey is taken care of by electric power.
CO2 emissions of just 37g/km of CO2 make it free to tax and place it in the lowest 5%
company car tax band. We think Audi’s first plug-in hybrid will
appeal to drivers who want a green car, without necessarily shouting about it, or driving
something out of the ordinary.
You can simply plug it in at night, make use of the cheap
electric power, and know the petrol engine is there to provide extra performance or range.
It’s expensive to buy privately, but will make most sense to business drivers, for whom
the A3 e-tron will cost less each month than an equivalent diesel.
Could you see yourself with an e-tron on the driveway? Let us know in the comments section
and for more videos don’t forget to subscribe. To watch reviews of its rivals, click on the
links at the end of the video..