Audi has electrified its all-new A3 Sportback range, with the unveiling of the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) ‘40 TFSI e’ variant.
Powering the new-generation A3 PHEV is the same powertrain as its Volkswagen Group siblings from Volkswagen, SEAT and Skoda.
Under the bonnet is a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to an 80kW/330Nm electric motor for combined outputs of 150kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Drive is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The 0-100km/h sprint is completed in 7.6 seconds, towards a top speed of 227km/h.
Keen-eyed readers will note those outputs are identical to the aforementioned Volkswagen Golf eHybrid, SEAT Leon eHybrid and Skoda Octavia iV plug-in hybrids offered in Europe. Said readers will also note that a more potent, 180kW/400Nm version of the same hybrid system is offered in the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Skoda Octavia RS iV, which is expected to make its way to the A3 as a "more powerful variant that emphasises the sporty accents shortly after” the launch of the 40 TFSI e.
Audi claims NEDC fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures for the A3 40 TFSI e of 1.4-1.5 litres per 100 kilometres and 30-34 grams per kilometre respectively (with the exact outputs differing depending on wheel size and options).
Energy is stored in a 13.0kWh lithium-ion battery – up 48 per cent compared to the outgoing A3 e-tron – mounted underneath the rear seats, allowing the A3 40 TFSI e to travel on electric power alone for up to 78km on the NEDC test cycle (as used in Australia) at speeds of up to 140km/h. On Europe’s stricter WLTP standard, the claim falls to a still-competitive 67km.
A range of hybrid-specific drive modes are on offer, including ‘Battery Hold’ (which maintains the battery’s current state of charge) and ‘Battery Charge’, which focuses vehicle resources on topping up the battery.
Pushing the accelerator pedal towards the firewall when the A3 40 TFSI e is in its sportiest ‘Dynamic’ drive mode enables an overboost mode, which activates “full boost torque” from the petrol engine and electric motors for a 10 second burst. When the driver lifts off the throttle, the electric motor’s regenerative braking functionality allows the hybrid A3 to recuperate 40kW of power while decelerating at up to 0.3g.
Under the skin, a multi-link independent rear axle is standard, while available alloy wheel sizes range from 16 to 18 inches in diameter.
Connecting the Audi A3 40 TFSI e to a 2.9kW AC charger will recharge its lithium-ion battery to 100 per cent capacity in four hours – a 230-volt charging cable is also supplied with the vehicle. Owners can use the myAudi smartphone application to control charging times and remotely activate the climate control.
There’s little to differentiate the plug-in hybrid A3 from its regular petrol and diesel counterparts on the outside, featuring the same muscular design with wide, ‘quattro blister’ wheel arches. Changes are limited to a new, E-shaped signature for the optional matrix LED headlights' daytime-running lights, acknowledging the car's eco-friendly credentials.
Inside, a set of “hybrid-specific functions and displays” have been added to the A3 PHEV’s array of screens, namely battery charge, regenerative braking and power output information in the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and an ‘energy flow’ page on the 10.1-inch central infotainment touchscreen.
Boot space is rated at 280 litres with the rear seats up or 1100 litres with them folded down – 100 litres down for both measurements compared to non-hybrid A3 models.
Standard equipment in Europe includes LED headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, smartphone mirroring, and ‘Car-to-X’ functionality, which allows compatible vehicles to communicate traffic and road hazard information to one another within a 800 metre radius. Available options include a head-up display, sports seats, the aforementioned matrix LED headlights and a panoramic sunroof.
Active safety technologies on offer include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
The 2021 Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e will go on sale in “many European markets” in the northern autumn, priced in Germany from €37,470.92 (AUD$61,500) before incentives.
However, it’s unlikely the plug-in hybrid A3 will make its way to Australia, with an Audi Australia spokesperson telling CarAdvice it has "no confirmation to add from a local point-of-view at the moment." Audi's last plug-in hybrid A3, the A3 e-tron was sold in Australia between 2015 and 2016.