Audi 2015 A3 Sportback e-tron review

Audi 2015 A3 Sportback e-tron review

This is the Age of e-tron, to bastardise a movie title. It is Audi’s play into the plug-in hybrid market and it has taken an age for them to bring a car with electric power to New Zealand. Part of the reason is that the real-world fuel economy of a modern diesel can match hybrids if they’re driven over longer distances, but the Audi A3 is more aimed at people that don’t travel that far each day. And, while you can get a diesel A3 in Europe, Audi doesn’t bring it to New Zealand because it would mean too many options for our smaller market.

Audi A3 etron 2015 front interiorThe average commute is around 30km, and the Audi will accommodate up to 50km on one charge if you drive it carefully. I got 38km without driving it too carefully, so I could have driven to work and back, plugged it into the wall, charged it up for about $1.50 (3.5 hours of cheap rate power) then repeated the process the next day.

Of course, if I need more range, the petrol engine takes over when the battery is depleted. To do 38km for $1.50 is roughly the equivalent of doing 38km on 0.7 of a litre (if petrol is $2.10), which would be an economic match for 1.9 litres per Audi A3 etron 2015 charging plug100km. Even the best diesels will only achieve around 4 litres per 100km, and the best petrol cars in this size are nowhere near that in everyday driving.

The equation starts to be equalised once the petrol motor cuts in because the 1.4-litre 110kW turbo engine isn’t anywhere near as economical as the 75kW electric motor, registering around 8l/100km around town, and 5.6l/100km on the open road. The electric motor also functions best at city speeds in stop-start traffic where it doesn’t have to overcome enormous Audi A3 etron 2015 boot and chargerwind resistance.

The rated fuel economy is 1.6l/100km, plus the cost for charging the battery. Comparing fuel economy with another vehicle with a different motor will be difficult. If you don’t recharge it and use one tank of fuel and one full battery it would be good for around 600-700km of average driving.

The A3 Sportback e-tron starts at $75,000, but ours had a few Audi A3 etron 2015 reversing cameragoodies added including heated seats ($800), 18-inch turbine alloys ($2750), home installation package ($850), Milano leather ($3500) and the storage package ($500), bringing the grand total to $83,400.

You can buy a base A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI S tronic for $49,500, so the premium is still significant for the hybrid. Only those in the know will spot the discrete e-tron badges, and the truly observant will notice the little key in the second ring in the Audi logo on the grille which opens the electric Audi A3 etron 2015 badgecharging port.

Unlike early hybrids individual cells can be replaced in the battery meaning that you shouldn’t have the expensive prospect of replacing the whole thing after 10 years.

As you would expect with an Audi, it’s packed with safety features – anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and electronic brake assist, active front head restraints, electronic stability control, electronic differential lock, and hill hold assistant. There’s a comprehensive entertainment system with Bluetooth cellphone connectivity Audi A3 etron 2015 side1accessed via a 5.8-inch colour display, and a security system with alarm, interior surveillance and immobiliser.

The screen also displays the reversing camera images which seems quite high resolution with good low-light performance in comparison to some I’ve seen. The reversing camera is augmented by bumper proximity sensors front and back making parking very simple.

But the important thing is how does it drive? The answer is very smoothly and, when it’s only running on battery, extremely quietly. That’s not saying that the petrol motor is noisy, because it isn’t unless under heavy load. There are three effective combinations: electric, petrol and petrol + electric. The electric motor on its own provides instant torque and plenty of acceleration for any kind of urban driving. When the electric motor runs out, the A3’s petrol motor means it drives pretty much like a regular A3 1.4-litre. But if you need more power the A3 can combine the electric and petrol motor power, and it can even use the petrol motor to charge the electric motor (something which is not fuel economical at all).

Both motors together produce 150kW and that gives the A3 a nice burst of speed – 7.6 seconds to 100kph. In electric mode along it’ll get to 60kph in under 5 seconds, and you can do above the legal limit just running off the battery. You will sometimes notice the petrol engine kicking in, but if it does, it’s usually because you’ve requested too much power from the electric motor.

There’s always a compromise on space when you run both a fuel cell and a fuel tank, and in this case it reduces the boot space by about 100 litres, although the boot is still quite usable. I didn’t think it was a major issue like it is with the Holden Volt, for example.

The Audi is a proposition that might work for you if the majority of your journeys are bumper-to-bumper city driving where you’ll really get the benefit of the electric motor. You’ll also need a place to plug it into the wall, and to remember to turn it on at the right time to take advantage of cheaper power prices (something you can do with a plug timer).

Price: base $75,000; as tested $83,500

Pros

  • Uber economical if your journeys are short ones at city speeds
  • Smooth power delivery
  • Feels like a normal A3

Cons

  • Price premium hard to swallow if most of your journeys are longer or at open road speeds
  • Doesn’t support fast charging stations – you can only trickle charge it
  • Smaller boot space


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