Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Review
After first spotting the all new Audi A3 e-tron at the Geneva Motor Show, we finally got behind the wheel of this new battery powered, hybrid Audi. There currently seems to be two schools of thought when looking at electric cars. Firstly you could be bold and create a futuristic looking car which is very much purely electric to make a statement (BMW i3). Or you could stick with an existing design that you know your customers know and love, plug some batteries in under the back seat and away you go with a hybrid. The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron has gone with the latter, and is very much dipping a toe in the water, than out and out brand new.
So What Have Audi Done to the A3 e-tron?
Firstly you will find a few new styling updates such as lower air intakes and hidden exhaust pipes, but it is largely the same Audi A3 that we have all become accustomed to, and very much loved.
After that, the major difference is of course that this is an electric hybrid vehicle, meaning you can drive the first 50km of your journey without using any liquid fuel. The car automatically starts up in electric mode (EV) as some clever bod at Audi HQ has decided that the majority of our journeys are under 50km, and of course it is better for the planet. The electric motor is powered by liquid-cooled lithium-ion batteries with an 8.8kWh capactiy and there is now a smartphone app that you can use to control certain aspects of the car (we’ll cover this in detail later).
Is It Practical To Live With?
Without sounding like your mother, we can’t help thinking that the practical side of owning a car with an electric motor has to be one of the biggest considerations. How often do you leave home or the office with your smartphone battery lower than 10%? And how hard is it to charge when you’re in bed or at your desk? Okay, so lets say you forget to charge it and need to drive the car say 20km. Not a problem as the A3 has a 1.4 litre petrol engine – but the point of this car is to utilise the electric motor to make it as efficient as possible. The charge time is around 2hrs 15 from an industrial charger or 3hrs 45 from a standard socket. SO yes it will require a bit of forward planning to reach full charge before you want to use it again, but compared to most, that is actually super quick.
If you live in a city full of charging points then this will help with integrating an electric vehicle into your life. A new website called Zap-Map has listed all of the charging points in the UK which could become your new best friend. According to the website there are currently 6,361 charging points on our shores.
The Electric Motor
Although electric motors have been available for quite some time, and the originals such as the Toyota Prius is still going strong, their hasn’t been that mass Worldwide adoption that supporters would have wanted. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that their hasn’t been anything worth getting excited about when it comes to electric motors – however, with the likes of major players such as BMW and Audi, and the beautiful cars such as the i8, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder, worldwide shifts, could be on the horizon.
The Audi A3 e-tron comes with four options when it comes to utilising the electric mode. The car automatically starts in electric mode, and with only 35g/km of CO2 emissions you can complete each journey feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside. You also get – Hybrid Auto, Hybrid Hold and Hybrid Charge. Auto mode uses a combination of both motors to decide which one to use in different situations. Hold mode retains the battery charge so will solely use the petrol engine, and charge mode will charge the electric motor from the petrol engine – your fuel efficiency will obviously take quite a hit a in this mode.
The 75kw electric motor is quite good to use in and around city centre environments. It’s responsive and actually zips along quite nicely when you ask it to. Now before we get too carried away it is only a small electric motor so we probably won’t be taking this to a track any-time soon. But having an electric motor on board with a top speed of 80.8mph is still quite impressive, and it is extremely direct. Remember with no gears in electric, it is nearly like switching on a light switch with instant power.
A 2014 model from Audi comes with all of the modern bits of kit you would expect. An updated instrument cluster that displays all of the vitals, Audi Connect, 7-inch display and a smartphone app all feature. Lets start with the smartphone app (which is available on Android and iOS). There had to be an app didn’t there? It allows you to check the battery levels and even schedule when it should start charging. All handy features but the app is not as slick as it probably should be – it does what it needs to do but give it a few months and a few updates and we should see something which is just a little more user friendly.
The 7-inch screen appears from the centre dashboard and is much the same in terms of usability that you find in other current Audi models. It’s easy to use and allows you to hook your phone up, find your way home and see how your electric motor is performing. You have the option to upgrade the tech to include a B&O sound system, rear park assist and even your own WLAN hotspot – expect a little added cost for these extras.
In electric mode it is very quiet – so quiet in-fact that we failed several times when trying to drive off and finding that we had actually turned the car off about 2 minutes earlier. The chassis is very good, and very stiff, certainly helps when you get out of the city and on to some roads with a few twists and turns. We did notice the extra weight added from the batteries does make a difference compared to the quite nimble A3 sportback – this is to be expected though.
With the drive in dynamic mode and the petrol engine activated, the car is actually quite good fun. The steering is responsive and certainly responds well to a heavy right foot. We did find once the electric batteries had run out the car suffered from the lack of extra help from the electric motor. Our overall experience of driving the A3 e-tron was one that left us feeling content rather than disappointed.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Review Verdict
We like it. It’s good fun to drive and makes us feel like we are in a car designed to be used in the modern world. If say 80% of your journies are under 50km in length then being able to complete them on a single battery charge is an excellent thing, and one that will bring in lots of interest.
If you’re after an exciting driving experience as well as watching your carbon-footprint then the A3 e-tron may leave you a little wanting. As soon as those batteries need charging, the extra weight and lack of power really force the A3 into sluggish territory.
However, this car hasn’t been designed to thrill and excite – it’s a gateway into a growing and developing market and Audi have done a very good job with their first everyday electric hybrid. If you are one for the traditional, instead of the unusual (yet quite wonderful) looks of the BMW i3, then the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron leads the way.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 2014 Review Specifications:
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4 TFSI Top speed: 137.9MPH, 0-62MPH: 7.6 seconds, Engine: 1.4l four-cylinder petrol + 75kW electric, Transmission: Automatic 6 Speed S tronic with integrated electric motor, Power: 204BHP, Fuel consumption: 156.8MPG, Carbon emissions: 35G/KM, Weight: 1,540kg, Cost: €37,900 (£30,000) on location in Vienna, Austria.