Used 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Review
Edmunds expert review
As Audi's first foray into the plug-in hybrid market, the A3 Sportback e-Tron offers you all the goodness of the regular A3 plus 17 miles of all-electric range. It's a compelling car if you want a premium plug-in hybrid without breaking the bank. Read below to decide if it's the car you want to charge in your garage.
What's new for 2016
While Audi offers diesel-powered engines for many of its vehicles and a hybrid variant of its Q5 crossover, it's never offered a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) until the debut of the 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron. Based on the well-received A3 sedan, the A3 e-Tron utilizes a four-door hatchback body style, making it the only current-generation A3 hatchback available on our shores. In theory, the e-Tron's PHEV powertrain provides the best of both worlds, blending an electric vehicle's instant torque and petroleum-free propulsion with a standard hybrid vehicle's ability to cover extended distances on gasoline power.
In practice, though, there's only an estimated 17 miles of pure EV range, so the gas tank comes into play on anything other than short drives. But a lot of driving takes place close to home, so the A3 e-Tron lets you enjoy the benefits of EV ownership on short trips while providing familiar gasoline-fueled flexibility on longer ones.
Aesthetically, the e-Tron is very much a member of the existing A3 family, with the unique hatchback shape being perhaps its clearest distinguishing trait. The charging port is hidden in the grille behind the Audi rings, and the interior is the same high-quality affair found in the standard A3 sedan and convertible. Of course, with an expected fuel-economy equivalent of up to 86 mpg overall, the e-Tron is a very different animal when it comes to energy consumption. Once you run out of electric-only juice, the EPA says you can still expect 39 mpg in combined driving with the standard 16-inch wheels, dropping to 35 mpg with the larger 17s. For reference, the most frugal gas-powered A3 model achieves 28 mpg combined.
Plug-in hybrids are still just a tiny fraction of the market, so the e-Tron doesn't face much direct competition. There is the stylish 2016 Cadillac ELR, but it's pricey. We're much more fond of the redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Volt (the ELR is related to the previous-generation Volt), which offers substantially more all-electric range and a nicer interior this year. Another non-luxury option might be the 2016 Ford C-Max Energi with its well-equipped interior and 19-mile EV range. If you're wondering about the BMW i3, it's actually an EV, not a PHEV, and its total range tops out at a modest 150 miles with the optional gas-powered "range extender." All in all, we think the 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron will be an appealing choice for a luxury-oriented plug-in hybrid.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron is a small plug-in hybrid hatchback. It is available in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.
Standard equipment on the base Premium trim includes 16-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, automatic wipers and headlights, a panoramic sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, eight-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), leather upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, LED interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, Audi's MMI electronics interface with a 5.3-inch central display, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio and an SD card slot.
The Premium Plus trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, upgraded trim inside and out, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and Audi's proprietary digital music interface with an iPod cable.
Move up to the Prestige trim and you'll enjoy an upgraded MMI system that includes a touchpad that can read fingertip scrawls, Audi Connect online services (with a 4G LTE connection), a navigation system and a larger 7-inch display. Additional Prestige features include auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and a suite of driver assistance systems including lane-departure prevention, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and a frontal collision warning system with automatic emergency braking.
An Audi MMI Navigation Plus package available for the Premium trim adds the upgraded MMI system and Audi Connect, while a Technology package for the Premium Plus bundles those items with the blind-spot monitor. A Sport package available for both the Premium Plus and Prestige adds 18-inch alloy wheels, sport front seats and a sport steering wheel.
Stand-alone options include the Bang & Olufsen audio system (Premium Plus), the heated front seats and Audi music interface (Premium), aluminum roof rails and a black cloth headliner. The 16-inch wheels can be specified on any e-Tron trim for improved energy efficiency.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gas engine teamed with an electric motor. A rechargeable 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is mounted beneath the rear seats. The gas engine makes 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque by itself, while the electric motor chips in 102 hp and 243 lb-ft. Total system output is rated at 204 hp and 258 lb-ft when both motors are in full swing.
Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automated-clutch ("S tronic") transmission. Note that Audi's signature Quattro all-wheel-drive system is unavailable.
According to the EPA, the e-Tron with the 16-inch wheels achieves 86 MPGe (mpg equivalent) in mixed driving factoring in the 17-mile EV range. After that, expect 39 mpg combined in regular gas-electric hybrid mode. The larger wheels drop those numbers to 83 MPGe, a 16-mile EV range and 35 mpg combined, respectively. As with all plug-in hybrids, actual mileage will vary greatly and is heavily dependent on how much all-electric travel you do.
Importantly, top speed in pure EV mode is 80 mph, so the e-Tron is fully functional even when it's running solely on battery power. Just don't expect anything like Audi's estimated 7.6-second sprint to 60 mph, as that figure assumes all 204 combined horses are engaged.
The A3 e-Tron's battery can be charged from a 240-volt outlet in 2.5 hours using the factory-supplied charging cord and in about 8 hours from a standard 110-volt outlet. As with regular hybrids, onboard regenerative braking also adds some juice to the battery while the A3 e-Tron is being driven. There's a driver-selectable switch that engages the gasoline engine and shuts out the electric drive: useful if you want to save electric power for specific occasions.
All A3 e-Trons come with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front knee airbags, front and rear side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, as well as automatic seatbelt pre-tensioning and window closing (Audi Pre-Sense Basic) when sensors determine a frontal or side collision is imminent.
The Prestige trim comes standard with additional safety features, including lane-departure prevention, blind-spot monitoring (optional on Premium Plus) and a radar-based frontal collision mitigation system (Audi Pre-Sense Front) that combines optical and audible warnings with automatic emergency braking to reduce damage in front collisions.
We haven't yet been able to put an A3 e-Tron through its paces on the track and will update this review once we've done so. In the meantime, our quick A3 e-Tron test-drive suggested that this plug-in hybrid delivers a supple ride along with excellent handling and responsiveness for a vehicle of this type. The e-Tron moves out sharply thanks to the extra torque its electric drive provides at launch, and with the low center of gravity that comes from packing several hundred pounds of battery below the seats, it feels exceptionally stable. The automated manual transmission shifts quickly and unobtrusively, and the A3 e-Tron's cabin is quiet — eerily so when running in all-electric mode.
The 2016 A3 e-Tron is pretty much identical inside to the standard A3. That's no bad thing, as the A3 has brought unprecedented panache to the entry-level luxury segment. From the minimalist dashboard design to the top-quality materials, the A3's cabin will impress you with its classiness. Intricate and well-finished details abound, such as the rotary air vent dials that surround the vents themselves and the MMI display that slides demurely into the dash top when not in use. If there's a disappointment here, it's that the e-Tron misses out on the USB connectivity that Audi has lately introduced in some other models. The older proprietary connector in the e-Tron just isn't as versatile.
The biggest difference inside the 2016 A3 e-Tron is that there's a power meter where a conventional A3 would have a tachometer. The round analog meter displays overall power output, the state of the battery's charge and the level of efficiency at which you are driving. An information display in the center of the dial shows range calculations and energy consumption for both gasoline and electricity.
The A3 is a compact car, and so the e-Tron's cabin isn't exactly overflowing with space. The rear seats are decently sized, but headroom and legroom could be an issue for taller occupants. Similarly, don't expect big things from the 13.6-cubic-foot cargo area, although if you fold the rear seatbacks forward, you've got easily the most versatile hauler in the A3 lineup.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
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