2021 Audi A3 40 TFSIe driven: price, specs and release date
The Audi A3 40 TFSIe marks the second generation of the brand’s plug-in hybrid family car. Can it charge to the top of the class?...
On sale Now 2021 | Priced from £33,060
Unlike the majority of manufacturers rushing to release a plug-in hybrid family car, this is not the four-ringed brand’s first rodeo. That’s because the Audi A3 40 TFSIe takes the basic bones of its predecessor, the A3 E-tron PHEV, and improves all the stuff that really matters to its biggest audience – company car drivers.
A larger capacity battery means that, so long as you’ve plumped for 17in wheels (standard on Sport trim and a no-cost option on S line), the electric-only range sits at a healthy 40 miles while CO2 emissions are just 25g/km. Go for S line’s standard 18in wheels, and these figures drop to 37 miles and 29g/km, a small but important change that we’ll come onto later.
While the battery pack has been upgraded and electric motor replaced with one that’s both smaller and more powerful, the engine is still the 148bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol that’s found under the bonnet of the Seat Leon e-Hybrid and Skoda Octavia iV. Combined power is a healthy 201bhp, with an even punchier 45 TFSIe variant with 242bhp in the pipeline. There are no prizes for guessing that it basically gets the same setup as the Skoda Octavia vRS iV and Volkswagen Golf GTE, unfortunately.
2021 Audi A3 40 TFSIe on the road
However, let’s stick to what we know, the 40 TFSIe. Provided there are some volts in its belly, your journey will start in full electric mode unless you manually switch it to hybrid mode to eke out the most from your battery. With 107bhp from the electric motor, performance is more than adequate and it actually feels pretty nippy off the line. There’s also enough shove to barrel along at motorway speeds with ease, although this will chew through the battery quite quickly.
Accelerate hard and the 1.4-litre engine fires up discreetly and is then smoothly fed in to give maximum acceleration. We can certainly believe the advertised 7.6sec 0-62mph time, although accelerating this hard out of a greasy T-junction, for instance, will easily trigger the traction control. Because of all the hybrid componentry under the rear seats and boot floor, you can’t remedy this with a dose of quattro four-wheel drive, either.
Not only does the A3 switch between electric and petrol mode in a far more refined manner than the Mercedes A250e and Leon e-Hybrid, its engine doesn’t sound as coarse when pushed hard, and it changes gear in a more pleasant manner, too. An Octavia iV runs the A3 close, but then that doesn’t isolate you from wind and road noise as well.
So far we’ve only sampled an S Line 40 TFSIe running on 18in wheels, with the A3 doing a fine job of lessening the impact of a pothole or ridge. An Octavia iV is softer still, as is the A250e, however they can get a little floaty and occasionally thump noticeably over particularly nasty obstacles where, in the A3, you’d hear a bit of a thud and not feel a great deal through the seat.
The A3’s firmer setup does mean it fidgets a little more, especially at lower speeds. However the consistency of its ride and tightness of its body control over undulating roads make it an easy going companion for long journeys. It also means that the A3 handles rather tidily, steering precisely and with a reassuring weight whilst resisting body lean and gripping keenly. Sure, it’s not quite as agile as a regular A3, but you’ll have to be trying pretty hard to find that out.
2021 Audi A3 40 TFSIe interior
Just like outside the car, there’s very little to highlight that you’ve opted for a plug-in hybrid inside. The particularly keen/geeky amongst you might point out the EV mode switch or PHEV-specific displays on the digital dials and infotainment system, but to all intents and purposes, it’s just another automatic A3 from behind the wheel.
That’s good because the driving position is comfortable and there’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to suit both the vertically gifted and challenged. Quality is decent with plenty of squishy plastics, classy trims and substantial controls, although the BMW 1 Series is still the family car to beat for quality.
Space up front is plentiful and there’s the same amount of room as you’d find in a regular A3 for rear seat passengers. Naturally, with a big battery pack raising the height of the floor, boot space is reduced by a fairly substantial amount equivalent to around two carry-on suitcases. That said, it matches the Leon e-Hybrid while an A250e has only a small amount of extra capacity back there. If you need more space, we’d point you towards the Octavia iV.