2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron First Drive Review: Ingolstadt’s Efficiency Expert Trades Oxfords for Running Shoes [Video]

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

The Audi A3 Sportback has returned to the United States after a three year hiatus. Vorsprung durch technik — advancement through technology — embodies the Audi e-tron electrification program and is the idealism that transcends this hatchback beyond being just another plug-in hybrid. If you’re thinking that piloting an EV or hybrid means compromising driving enjoyment, the A3 Sportback e-tron will change your preconceptions.

The A3 e-tron gets Audi’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an electric motor powered by a battery pack. Total system output is 204 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers work together to send the A3 e-tron from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, and reach a top speed of 130 mph.

Athleticism aside, the A3 e-tron is energy efficient with an estimated 35 mpg overall. Audi claims the plug-in hybrid has a 400 mile range and can get up to 83 MPGe. Connecting to a 220 volt charger (L2) quickly recharges the 8.8 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack to full capacity in two and a quarter hours.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

When the e-tron is ready to roll, it goes about its business quietly because it always starts off in EV mode — unless it’s too cold outside — which means silent acceleration all the way up to 80 mph. If you’ve got a good charge, you can enjoy near-instantaneous torque for as long as the battery has power. Estimated range on pure electric power is approximately 16 miles.

Conserving electrical energy is simply done by switching to hybrid mode and asking the engine to contribute with driving duties and saving battery power. This way clean electric power is ideal for muddling around on city streets and hybrid power delivers the added punch when the road beckons for more wide open-throttle fun.

Accountant or Cornerback?

The A3’s steering is light enough and pleasingly direct, but missing some feedback from the road. All is forgiven when you start rolling down the highway and experience the comfortable ride across almost any good or bad road surface. Acceleration is brisk and backed by 258 lb-ft of torque from the hybrid system. The compact package of the A3 Sportback has appreciably less body lean in the turns compared to a midsize sedan or crossover.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Aim the Sportback into the corners and the nose turns eagerly, the front-end tires grip tenaciously, and you can almost feel the rear end pivot around it. Part of this agility comes from the 55/45 (front/rear) weight distribution and overall vehicle weight. Audi built the e-tron on a lightweight MQB chassis, gave it aluminum fenders, aluminum hood, and a few other weight saving tricks in order to keep the overall mass to a reasonable total.

Altogether, the A3 e-tron weighs 3,616 pounds, which is 254 pounds heavier than the 2.0T quattro A3 sedan. Despite carrying more weight than a Honda HR-V, it is an agile and responsive car when called upon.

With Audi’s drive select, the driver can easily summon different modes — comfort, auto, or dynamic — to match his or her mood and purpose by changing dynamics of the engine, transmission, and steering settings.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

The A3 Sportback is essentially a premium hybrid 5-door wagon of modest proportions. The available cargo space only amounts to 13.6 cubic feet, which is less than a VW e-Golf. Fold the rear seats down and cargo space extends to approximately 43 cubic feet. The numbers may appear diminutive, but the shape and utility of that space in the Sportback make for a bigger loading space than the number suggests.

The A3 Sportback e-tron is a terrific car: high quality, fun to drive, energy efficient. And it’s only about $1500 more than the VW e-Golf with Audi’s fabulous cabin making the extra outlay justifiable. If you’re thinking of buying an upscale car that suits a small family or active lifestyle without compromising on driving fun, then the A3 Sportback e-tron is worthy of serious consideration without the worry of range or charge anxiety. That being said, its clean emission status qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker in California.

Model MSRP*
A3 Sportback e-tron Premium $38,825
A3 Sportback e-tron Premium Plus $42,925
A3 Sportback e-tron Prestige $47,725

*Prices include $925 destination and delivery fee
Why is the A3 e-tron Important to Audi?

By 2025, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles will need to account for 25 percent of U.S. sales to meet emissions and clean-car sales requirements set by California. This means that Audi must offer a selection of electrified vehicles and the A3 Sportback e-tron is the first of four vehicles aimed at getting the automaker in line with future EPA and C.A.R.B. emissions requirements.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Specifications:

  • Powertrain: 1.4L direct-injection turbocharged gasoline four cylinder, 75kW electric motor
  • Transmission: 6-speed S-tronic
  • Drivetrain layout: front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • Total system output: 204 hp, 258 lb-ft torque
  • Curb weight: 3,616 lbs.
  • 0 – 60 mph: 7.6 sec (manufacturer estimate)
  • Battery electric range: 16 miles
  • Manufacturer estimated fuel economy (city/hwy/combined mpg): 33/37/35
  • Manufacturer estimated ultra MPGe (combined city/highway): 83 MPGe
  • Combined range (gas-electric): approximately 400 miles
  • Recharge time (L2 – 220V): 2.25 hours
  • Availability: starting November 2015

We interview Audi’s program manager for the A3 and director of product management in this “everything you ever wanted to know” video of the 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron.