What's the used Audi A3 hatchback like?
You’ll struggle to find a used premium family car that does so much, so well, as the 2013-2020 version of the Audi A3 Sportback. However, if you do mostly short journeys and you have somewhere to plug a car in you might want to consider this plug-in hybrid e-tron model, that was on sale from 2014 to 2018.
You can run the e-tron on the electric motor alone, or, when you need more performance, couple that with the 1.4-litre petrol engine. The combined power units are certainly effective, offering near hot-hatch levels of performance. Mechanical aside, the A3 Sportback is practical too, and it has a very plush interior with plenty of equipment.
There are three powertrain modes available: EV, Hybrid and Battery Hold. EV keeps the car running on pure electric power only (offering a realistic range of 15-20 miles). Hybrid uses a mix of electric and petrol power, while Battery Hold helps to preserve the battery by getting the petrol engine to do all the work.
Having the extra weight of the batteries does reflect in the handling, because the e-tron will wash wide through fast corners earlier than the standard A3 models, but no more so than the similar versions of the Golf or i3. Even so, the steering is well weighted and makes it easy to place the A3 on the road, and body lean is progressive and nicely controlled.
Ride comfort is great over high-speed undulations, and the e-tron feels settled and comfortable in most situations, but it can become a bit bouncy and jarring over hard-worn or rougher town roads.
Refinement is also an e-tron strong point. The brakes are a bit grabby, but don’t suffer from the snappiness that some hybrid cars do, while in electric mode it’s whisper quiet. You do notice a slight vibration and added noise as the petrol engine kicks in, but the engine is still smooth and a lot less intrusive than the two-cylinder engine found in the old range-extender versions of the BMW i3. As your speed builds so do the levels of road and wind noise, but not to excessive levels.
It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel of the A3 Sportback e-tron. There’s plenty of movement to the steering wheel – up and down as well as in and out – while the seat moves every which way, too. Once you have your driving position set, you’ll also find the steering wheel and pedals are nicely aligned.
It’s not as futuristic inside as the BMW i3, but the clean-looking, minimalist-style dash means there’s not a confusing array of buttons. Instead, there are just the essential controls, such as those for the heating and air-con, positioned logically to hand.
The A3 Sportback e-tron offers decent space for a car of this size. The driver and front-seat passenger are the best catered for with lots of head and leg room, and there’s plenty of storage, too. This includes deep door bins, a couple of cup holders behind the gearlever, as well as a cubby under the front armrest. Space for knick-knacks is a little short, apart from a tray for a mobile phone on the centre console.
In the rear, there’s space for two tall adults to be reasonably comfortable, or three with some squeezing, but it’s worth pointing out that the Volkswagen Passat GTE is a much bigger car for those that need more cabin space.
That applies to the boot as well, which isn’t the A3 e-tron’s strongest point. The batteries sit under the rear seats, so the fuel tank (reduced to 40 litres) has been moved to beneath the boot, eating into the boot space and reducing it to 280 litres (down from 380 in the conventionally powered A3 models).
Still, while the boot lacks the capacity and depth of the rest of the A3 range, it’s still a broad, square-shaped space that’ll be fine for light family use or weekend luggage. Also, there are 60:40 split-folding rear seats to manage longer loads, and it should be said that neither the BMW i3 nor Golf GTE are any bigger. Once again, look to the Passat GTE for the best load-lugging capability.