The Audi A3 has become an essential part of the German brand’s range. First launched in 1996, it arguably created the premium family hatchback market. Combining practicality with a refined image, it has since become ubiquitous on UK roads.
It makes this fourth generation model extremely important to the company. So, how does it form?
Compared to the previous three generations, the latest A3 is even more dramatic to look at. Designer Juan Carlos Huerta Martinez says the Lamborghini Countach provided the inspiration for the new car’s design.
Audi has discontinued the A3 three-door hatchback version, leaving only the five-door Sportback and four-door saloon available.
New to the range is a pair of Hybrid (PHEV) models. Audi has given up the “E-tron” name for its PHEVs, keeping it for electric vehicles only. This means that the plug-in hybrid A3 wears the “TFSI e” branding, available in 40 and 45 flavors.
Both cars benefit from a 1.4-liter 150-horsepower turbo petrol engine paired with an electric motor – the same hybrid powertrain used extensively throughout the Volkswagen Group.
The choice of 40 TFSI e, tested here, means a total output of 204 horsepower, with the 45 version using larger 245 horsepower batteries.
The 40 TFSI e is likely to be the most popular A3 PHEV. Drivers of the company’s cars will be particularly drawn to it, with CO2 emissions of 25g/km in official WLTP tests making the interest-in-kind tax low.
The six-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission handles the power in the 40 TFSI e, sending it only to the front wheels. It converts quickly, although the complexity of the A3 hybrid drivetrain means it’s best left to its own devices.
Doing so allows the A3 40 TFSI e to run smoothly up to 62 mph in 7.6 seconds. Performance seems easy in hybrid mode, with initial acceleration in all-electric EV mode also very effective.
Battery charging and battery mounting modes allow the A3 to add or keep electrical charge in series. Regenerative braking also helps charge the battery on the road.
The 13 kWh battery is charged via a port located behind the passenger side wheel arm. The A3 40 TFSI e does not support fast charging, which means waiting up to four hours to fully recharge the battery, whether you’re using a local charging box or a public charging point.
Deal with taste
The A3 40 TFSI e, used only in electric mode, can cover up to 40.4 miles. This is on Sport and S Line cars with smaller 17-inch wheels. Choosing the S Line with 18-inch alloys brings the EV range down to 37.28 miles.
It’s hardly a dramatic change, but one that demonstrates the need for sacrifices in exchange for environmental piety.
However, the 17-inch alloy choice brings an added benefit: a smoother ride. Cars with 18-inch rims can feel unsettled on an incomplete airport runway.
This newer A3 also handles more attractively than its predecessors. In fact, it drives with more flair than its rival BMW 1 Series or Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
Despite the dramatic styling of the A3’s interior, it’s still practical. However, some plastics can feel a bit cheap. The large 10.1-inch touchscreen controls the multimedia functions, but Audi (thankfully) has kept a few physical buttons.
Standard specs are tough, with LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, leather seats and a digital dashboard all included. S Line models add sport seats and privacy glass, with a list of options offering numerous ways to make your A3 more expensive.
Although roomier than before, the choice of the A3 Hybrid means a 100-liter reduction in boot capacity compared to the regular model. It lowers total luggage space to 280 liters, which may be a very far compromise for families.
It is the only real drawback in the overall package offered by the A3 40 TFSI e. Powerful performance, bold design, and low emissions make it hard to argue against it.
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