Audi quality. Stylish design. Superb economy. Perky performance.
Electronic vehicles are boring, aren't they? The average person can't afford a Tesla and we have to make do with the ugly - yet practical - Nissan Leaf. The trouble is EV's look like EV's; they're too brash and too obvious. What drivers want is a car that doesn't scream 'LOOK AT ME, I'M SAVING THE PLANET' and a car that drives like, well, a regular car. That's exactly what Audi has attempted to achieve with the 2014-bound Audi A3 e-tron. I have had the opportunity to test this car out, so be sure to scroll down below to find out what's what.
The all-new Audi A3 is a wonderful car to look at; it builds on the older A3 and just like the new VW Golf, it's more of an incremental update rather than a full on re-design. I like that. You see the old A3 was a good looking and well proportioned car, so why change it too much?
The Audi A3 e-tron is slightly different to the new A3. It has a unique body kit which includes front, side and rear bumpers, unique alloy wheels, and a unique chrome grill (not unlike an SEL Polo).The A3 e-tron is to the untrained eye however just like any other A3 which is something many potential buyers will likely appreciate.
The Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid. It combines a 148 bhp 1.4 TFSI petrol engine with a 99 bhp lithium-ion battery to produce over 200 bhp. Now, I know what you're thinking; why do I care about performance if I'm only taking the kids to school? Well, you should take heed of the above figures because your husband it likely to instantly approve of the car and be intrigued himself. Perhaps with a few figures like those you'll finally be able to become a one car household?
All you need to do to get going in full EV mode is charge the plug-in battery (which takes three and a half hours, give or take) and that's it. Once charged the battery offers up a 31 mile range which is enough to take the kids to school, nip to the doctors, pick up some shopping in the centre of town or do whatever it is you have to do.
Hybrid cars also offer the best of both world's; whilst the battery offers a 31 mile range all by itself, the petrol tank offers a further 584 miles. This is ideal for cruising and motorway miles, where the 1.4 TFSI engine is almost as economical as a 1.6 TDI over a long distance.
Of course, the car does have its drawbacks though. Because the battery is placed under the back seat, the fuel tank has had to be moved under the boot floor, which has reduced boot space by 100-litres compared to a regular, 3-door A3.
Out on the road it's hard to argue with the refinement the e-tron offers. In EV mode the car is silent and even when the petrol engine is fired up there's limited noise put through to the cabin. This is perfect for, say, small children trying to sleep in the back.
This is where the Audi A3 e-tron blows away anything BMW has put in to their 1-Series since the beginning of time.
With thanks to its 99 bhp electric motor, which offers a 31-mile range all by itself, the Audi A3 e-tron will return a simply astounding 188.3 mpg. I can't emphasise that number enough; 188.3 mpg. Wow. This makes the Audi A3 e-tron literally perfect for town driving, taking the kids to school, popping to the supermarket, or for dropping your kids off at a sleep over. This is extremely impressive but even more so when you consider the performance on offer too. In many ways, the A3 e-tron is a glimpse in to what the perfect motoring future would be. The e-tron has also been built in a way that driving economically is easy; by default it starts up in EV mode, but a simple button on the dashboard allows you to toggle to hybrid mode.
Trim and equipment
The A3 e-tron is a trim level in itself. Standard equipment upon release in 2014 is expected to include leather seats, climate control, cruise control, electric heated power folding mirrors, automatic wipers, automatic LED headlights, Bluetooth, MP3 / iPod connectivity, and optional equipment is expected to include satellite navigation, a lane departure warning system and rear parking sensors / camera. Audi has not yet revealed the full kit list for this model but due to the car costing a few thousand pounds under the range-topping S3, it is expected to have a similar equipment level as standard.
The Audi A3 e-tron is an extremely exciting car. It is basically an Audi A3 - it's stylish, it's extremely well made, the interior is finished to a supreme quality, and the driving position is excellent. Yet it also delivers a potential 188.3 mpg and hot hatch performance to boot. The e-tron is the perfect example of what an electric car should be; not like an electric car. Manufacturers are intent on putting blue decals, Minority Report styled head lamps and body creases on to their EV's. Audi just wants their consumers to be able to go down the road and look like any other A3 driver (bar the special body kit and chrome grill, of course). That, for me, is why I recommend the Audi A3 e-tron as a car any woman - heck even men - should seriously consider purchasing. Until in-depth reviews come out for this car (I only got a small opportunity to put it through its paces) we'll not know exactly how good it is. But rest assured it'll be the EV all other manufacturers have to beat in 2014.