Audi A3 e
A desirable label
At first glance, the "40 TFSI e" is no different from other versions of the A3. Characteristic of every Audi A3 since 1996 is its clean lines. What makes this fourth generation unique is its strong appearance. The A3 is no longer timeless and understated, but rather confident and modern! Also new: from now on, the A3 is only available as a "Sportback", or five-door.
Space and equipment
The interior has also gained character. Previously, the A3 was austere and sterile inside. Now the A3 showcases modern technology with accents in piano lacquer black, frames in chrome and prominently placed displays. Both behind the steering wheel and centrally on the dashboard are large displays that control most functions. Instead of a gearshift lever, the centre console features a "rocker switch" that controls the automatic gearbox; all so as not to disturb the so sleekly designed lines!
The equipment depends heavily on the extras chosen. As standard, the A3 is relatively simple and functional, but with the right options, the equipment is hardly inferior to that of Audi's larger models. Options can also be used to determine character. For instance, the test car is an "S-Line" with sports steering wheel and sports seats. These bucket seats sit wonderfully, but do take up much more space than conventional seats, greatly reducing legroom in the rear.
The reason to hit the road with the A3 Sportback is the arrival of the "40 TFSI e". The number "40" reflects the ranking of engine power (higher number for more power), while the "e" stands for an extra fuel-efficient model at Audi. And with that, this seems like a contradictory label: it would be the most powerful and frugal A3 at the same time!
The "secret" is in the technology: plug-in hybrid drive (also known as "PHEV", for plug-in hybrid electric vehcile). Under the bonnet are a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. Together, these are good for 204 PS / 350 Nm. Like any other hybrid, the A3 charges the battery (13 kWh lithium ion) during braking and coasting. However, as this is a "plug-in hybrid" it can also be charged with a plug and therefore the part of the electric motor is much greater.
Charging can be done at home socket or at a public charging point. A real miss: the charging point is on the left front screen. In parallel parking, this means that passing traffic could hit the plug. When parking at right angles, it almost forces forward parking (larger turning circle, less visibility when parking out).
According to Audi, the "A3 40 TFSI e" can drive 67 km fully electric. During the test period, however, this did not exceed 40 km (electricity consumption: 18.2 kWh / 100 km). This could partly be caused by extremely unfavourable weather conditions (cold, rain), but even then the difference between theory and practice is too large.
When electric mode is chosen, A3 PHEV approaches the qualities of an all-electric car: viciously quick acceleration, ultimate smoothness and consummate tranquillity. When the battery is empty, the system switches smoothly to the petrol engine and the feel in the accelerator remains almost the same. This is in contrast to the previous A3 e-tron, where the interplay between the two engines was not at all harmonious.
In order to recover as much energy as possible, the A3 automatically decellerates when approaching a roundabout, sharp turn or dangerous traffic situation. In practice, this is by no means perceived as annoying or interfering, but rather as a useful aid.
In fact, when the battery is officially empty, enough energy remains to briefly assist the petrol engine. When full throttle is applied, the energy meter shoots up to 100%, the needle advances to "boost" and the A3 shoots off! On paper, the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h takes 7.6 seconds, but instinctively the car is much faster than that. When driven precisely calmly, the hybrid powertrain delivers extra comfort. In all cases, therefore, the PHEV is superior to a standard A3. How much more economical the PHEV is depends on the number of kilometres driven on either the petrol or the electric engine.
Because of the extra engine and battery pack, the 40 TFSI e is over 200 kg heavier than a comparable A3. However, thanks to its direct response to the accelerator pedal, the PHEV does not feel obese at all, but rather lively and eager.
And thanks to a firm chassis, the excess weight is also concealed. Only on a speedy speed bump can this "weighty" A3 make unwanted jumps. In fast corners, under hard braking and all other conditions, the PHEV actually reacts more stably and calmly than a conventional A3.
The Audi A3 now also comes as a "40 TFSI e". This label simultaneously stands for the most powerful and economical version of the A3. The car can live up to this thanks to plug-in hybrid propulsion. The combination of a petrol engine and an electric motor makes this version of the A3 faster, quieter, smoother and more economical than a conventional version. Moreover, the price per kilometre is relatively favourable thanks to its low CO2 emissions.
In the previous generation of the A3, plug-in hybrid technology still had its drawbacks. Those problems have all been solved with this new version. In a very few situations, it is noticeable that the hybrid is heavier than a standard A3, but in most cases the extra weight actually translates into more tranquillity and stability. In short: the Audi A3 was already chosen for its image, now a desirable label is added to that!
- Excellent handling
- Quick and economical
- Cheaper and better than a standard A3
- Only complete with options
- Awkward and dangerous location charging socket