2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is unique among A3s. Not only is it a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, it's also the only A3 variant that's a hatchback. Being a plug-in, the A3 e-tron allows you to drive short distances primarily on electric power, while longer trips are easily supported by the gasoline engine. And now that Audi's diesel offerings have been withdrawn, the A3 Sportback e-tron is the default choice among A3s when fuel efficiency is of paramount concern.
With a full charge, its electric-only range is a modest 16 miles, but this is enough to support local errand runs. Once you run out of electric-only juice, the EPA says you can still expect 34 mpg in combined driving; for comparison, the the most frugal gas-powered A3 model achieves 27 mpg combined. This hybrid isn't some powerless slug either: It's able to sprint to 60 mph in an estimated 7.6 seconds.
Notwithstanding its hatchback body style, which gives you so added cargo-carrying utility, the e-tron is unmistakably a member of the A3 family. The charging port is hidden in the grille behind the typical Audi rings, and it shares its well-trimmed cabin with the standard A3 sedan and convertible.
If you're shopping for a luxury-branded plug-in hybrid in the A3's price range, your choices are few. BMW offers its 330e sedan, which is more powerful than the Audi but doesn't match its fuel economy or have as much electric range. There's also the BMW i3, which is primarily an electric vehicle that can be optioned with a small gas engine. Other than that, we suggest taking a good look at the Chevrolet Volt hatchback. It's not as fancy or premium as the A3, but it counters with superior all-electric range (53 miles) and a lower price. The Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Prime are two other plug-in choices, albeit similarly less upscale ones. Overall, though, we think you'll be pleased with the A3 e-tron and its mix of luxury and green appeal.
All A3 Sportback e-trons come standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side and knee airbags, side curtain airbags, a rearview camera and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking. The Prestige trim adds lane departure intervention and blind-spot monitoring.
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is a compact four-door plug-in hybrid hatchback. It is available in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.
Standard equipment on the base Premium trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, eight-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), 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, a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and a USB interface.
The Premium Plus trim adds LED headlights, upgraded trim inside and out, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Move up to the Prestige trim and you'll enjoy heated power-folding exterior mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention and the Technology package (includes a Virtual Cockpit expanded instrument cluster, blind-spot monitoring, an upgraded MMI system with an improved display and a touch-sensitive controller, Audi Connect online services with 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi, smartphone app integration, voice controls and a navigation system).
The Technology package and Bang & Olufsen sound system are available as options on Premium Plus models. A Sport package available for all trim levels adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a spoiler, sport front seats and a sport steering wheel.
The 2017 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. Total system output is rated at 204 hp and 258 lb-ft when both the engine and electric motor are in full swing.
Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch (S tronic) automatic transmission. Note that all-wheel drive, something Audi usually offers, is not available for the e-tron.
According to the EPA, the 2017 A3 e-tron Sportback achieves 83 mpg equivalent in mixed driving, factoring in the 16-mile EV range. After that, expect 34 mpg combined in regular gas-electric hybrid mode. As with all plug-in hybrids, actual mileage will vary greatly and is heavily dependent on how much all-electric travel you do.
The maximum speed achievable in pure EV mode is 80 mph, so the e-tron is fully functional even when it's running solely on battery power. Audi's estimated 7.6-second sprint to 60 mph is achieved when both the electric motors and gasoline engine are summoned for their total 204 combined horses.
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.
Our time testing the A3 Sportback e-tron has been brief, but so far we've been impressed with its supple ride along with commendable handling and responsiveness for a vehicle of this type. We'll update this review once we've put an A3 Sportback e-tron through its paces on the track and on our local roads.
This plug-in hybrid accelerates away from stoplights with some spirit, courtesy of the extra bump of torque provided by its electric motor. The automated transmission shifts rapidly and unobtrusively. Despite carrying a few hundred additional pounds of hybrid hardware, the low placement of the batteries below the rear seats hasn't drastically raised the car's center of gravity. As such, the car feels quite stable when in motion. It's eerily quiet when in electric-only mode, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the A3 e-tron's cabin is well-hushed even when the gasoline engine fires up.
Though the 2017 A3 Sportback e-tron carries a substantially different powertrain than garden-variety A3s, they all share virtually the same cabin. That's a good thing because the interior is well-trimmed with quality materials and intriguing details such as elegant rotary vents and a screen that retracts seamlessly when not in use.
A power meter in the A3 Sportback e-tron's instrument cluster takes the place of where a tachometer resides in the regular A3. There's also an information display in the center of the gauge that shows range calculations and gasoline and electricity consumption.
Front seat space in the A3 Sportback e-tron's cabin is reasonably commodious for the segment, though backseat headroom and legroom won't suit full-size adults. Its 13.6-cubic-foot cargo area isn't especially large either. Audi doesn't provide a figure for maximum cargo space with the rear seats folded, but it should be more than the Volt's total space and closer to what you can fit in a Ford C-Max or Toyota Prius Prime.
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.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.