Audi A3 e-tron sportback

Audi A3 e-tron sportback lr

By Tim Saunders

What is the point of a hybrid?

I have often found myself asking this question as I sat inside a Honda Insight or Toyota Prius.

Yes, a petrol engine that can charge an electric motor seems a good idea. But the drawback with both of the above is that they can only be driven at around 30mph for a short period on the battery before it gives up the ghost and needs recharging by the petrol engine. In short fine for crawling around town for a mile or two but that's it. To me they are about as appealing as a dynamo on a bicycle. Not vastly eco-friendly and expensive in my opinion, not only to buy but to run.

And then I was presented with the Audi A3 Sportback etron. Was I going to be equally underwhelmed?

The facts are that on a full tank that costs over £30 at present the 1.4-litre petrol engine will travel around 280 miles. My 13-year old diesel Ford Fiesta will travel twice as far for this price. The Audi's battery will cover around 25 miles depending on speed. So things here have improved, thank goodness. And the Audi will allow the driver to travel at up to 80mph while using the ev mode (battery) but obviously if travelling at this speed five or six miles is more likely. Even this is a vast improvement on what Toyota and Honda have been offering to date. There's a fairly sizeable box of tricks in the boot (which can be removed to free up storage space) that enables the car to be charged externally, too – even from a standard plug socket in the house. All of which makes the A3 an attractive proposition to the affluent motorist who just wants to pootle about locally. It's also pretty fast; 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds.

The low profile tyres do mean that the cabin is a little noisy. But overall the interior is well laid out and the seats are supportive and comfortable. Driving in the fog does see me fiddling around trying to turn on the fog lights; the switches for which are unhelpfully hidden by the steering wheel. The ev mode (battery) is located in the centre of the dashboard and is a faff to operate because I find myself taking my eye off the road to operate it. When the battery runs out it does not seem to automatically start recharging without driver intervention which is irritating; I drive some distance wondering why the battery is not automatically recharging. When the battery is charging driving can feel a bit clunky at times and when switching from battery to petrol mode. The car seems to automatically start in ev mode and then as soon as the accelerator is pushed down too far starts using the petrol. This annoys me because I like to use either one or the other but perhaps this isn’t the best way of driving such a vehicle.

I drive to Devon and wish to use the sat nav, only to discover that it is the most unfriendly system I have come across. Turn the dial to input Dalwood near Axminster and it insists on taking me to Liverpool. My wife and I, at first, patiently repeat this request many many times before utterly exasperated, we return to map reading and asking locals.

We do finally reach our destination and park up. In the morning we notice a vain Great Tit has taken to sitting on the wing mirror and looking at himself. It is so funny to watch but whenever I try to take a photo or video it flies off.

I like the styling and the glass on the front of the roof is attractive but this area is prone to stone chips. While stone chips on paint can be touched up, chipped glass is another matter altogether.  

The A3 has always been a joy to drive and even though this new hybrid is a big improvement and has won accolades, I would still plump for the diesel. At over £35,000 being eco-friendly is still an expensive pastime and hybrids need to improve still further for me to be impressed.

Facts at a glance
New price: circa £35,000
Top speed: 138mph
0-60mph: 7.6secs
Economy: Audi claims it will deliver 176.6mpg! In reality you're lucky to get 30mpg. I am not impressed.
Power: 201bhp



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