Largely impressive plug-in hybrid set up with all the usual Audi design and build quality. Harsh ride spoils an otherwise smooth operator
No one could accuse Audi of scrimping on choice when it comes to the A3. Hatchback, saloon or cabriolet; petrol or diesel; plug-in hybrid with 201bhp or 242bhp; five trim levels; hot RS or warmed-over S… Save for a dog-friendly Avant in fuschia, there is literally something for everyone.The most recent to launch is this 40 TFSIe Sportback and the clue as to how this is partly powered lies in the ‘e’: electricity. Yes, this is a plug-in hybrid and has a 1.4-litre petrol engine producing 148bhp and an electric motor adding an additional 107bhp and 243lb ft. All in, it’s good for 201bhp and 258lb ft, the latter from a usefully low 1550rpm. The 0-62mph sprint takes 7.6sec, so not quite up there with the Mercedes-Benz A250e, but then the Merc does have more muscle, at 258bhp. A truer Audi rival to the Stuttgart car will arrive next year in the form of the 45 TFSIe.The Audi’s electric motor remains where it was on the last plug-in A3, integrated into the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox housing. Powering the front axle, either solely or in conjunction with the petrol engine, the electric motor on its own is good for an 87mph top speed and a range of up to 40 miles (our S line trim should manage 37 miles).The 13kWh battery is located under the back seat, but don’t go thinking that means the boot floor is at a normal height. The fuel tank has been shoved back there, so the boot remains an adequate but not cavernous 280 litres. For reference, the regular diesel A3 has 380 litres, thanks to a fuel-tank-free boot – quite the difference.Elsewhere inside, it’s the clichéd Audi design and build quality. There’s a touchscreen… obviously… but there is a physical button down by the stubby gearlever that lets you control volume, skip forward/back and mute. If I’m honest, I never used it. The steering wheel controls are far easier. Maybe the dashboard one is just for passengers. The heater is also controlled with buttons and the way they’ve crafted the screen, climate control buttons, vents and dials together is lovely. It’s a harmonious place to spend time and you can tell designers have obsessed over the little details. Even the door handles look crafted.