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Road Test: Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e

Pivotal to Audi’s fleet aspirations for the latest A3 Sportback range, the premium small-family hatch has gone plug-in hybrid. As expected, the result impresses, Martyn Collins reckons.

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SECTOR: Premium hatchback PRICE: £33,060-£34,960 FUEL: 235.4-282.5mpg CO2: 25-29g/km

Audi believes that by 2025, 40% of its total sales will be for electrified models. It continues to roll out plug-in hybrids across its line-up, but the A3 Sportback PHEV is particularly pertinent.

“Critical for our fleet ambition for the A3 Sportback,” is how head of fleet James Buxton describes the new plug-in model. Available in 40 TFSI e form first, it’s also being joined imminently by an even more potent 45 TFSI e version, both of them expected to account for the majority of A3 fleet sales. However, this is a growing sector, with the A3 up against key rivals such as Mercedes’ A-Class in A 250 e form.

The A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e is powered by a 150hp version of the 1.4-litre, four-cylinder TFSI petrol with a 109hp motor, giving a total 204hp via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The engine and electric motor combination give this A3 a top speed of 141mph, with acceleration to 62mph taking 7.6 seconds. This is licence-losing performance, but the key detail for fleets is the 6% BiK figure, rising to 10% for the range-topping S line that we have here – with its 18-inch wheels. This A3 has a claimed electric-only figure of up to 40 miles, but perhaps due to the colder winter weather, we struggled to get half that. Charging the 13.0kWh battery is done via a domestic AC 7kW wallbox using the Type 2 cable supplied and takes approximately four and a half hours from empty and approximately five hours via an AC 2.3kW three-pin socket.

With more than 200hp available from start-off and the added traction of quattro all-wheel drive, the A3 Sportback PHEV not only feels very quick off the mark but with the security of excellent grip. As speed builds, the petrol engine almost silently cuts in. There are Battery Hold and Battery Charge settings, plus Audi Drive Select is standard. Its Comfort mode is where this A3 felt happiest, with the softer suspension settings. Although the bigger 18-inch alloys fill the arches nicely, they do unsettle the ride and give a lot of road noise. Smaller 17-inch wheels fitted to the Sport are a no-cost option, and cut the BiK to 6%, so are likely to prove more popular.

The extra motor and battery add weight, and there is no doubt you can feel it in corners, with just a touch more body roll. More of an issue is the compromised boot, which is shallower at 280 litres.

Exterior and interior changes over the standard A3 Sportback are minimal, with the most obvious change being the extra filler cap for the electric hook-up on the front wing. Inside, specifications are comprehensive, with this A3 gaining a fully digital cabin, which includes the latest MMI Touch operating system with its 10.1-inch touchscreen and Navigation Plus.

The A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e is available in Sport and S line trim levels. The £33,060 Sport is expected to be the best-seller –  which has all the standard kit you’ll need. Although the S line model we had, priced at £34,960, has excellent high-backed sports seats.

So Audi has done it again, making another plug-in model that’s not only good fun to drive, but is combined with cost savings, making it incredibly cheap to run. Make sure you go for the smaller 17-inch alloys though!

The Verdict
The best version of the latest A3 Sportback yet – still as stylish and well-made as ever. Yet, the 40 TFSI e offers an enviable mix of performance and economy that are sure to bring real-world cost savings.

The Lowdown
Key Fleet Model: A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e Sport
Strengths: Looks, equipment, running costs
Weaknesses: Bigger wheels spoil the ride, compromised boot, expensive

Fleet World Star Rating
4/5

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.