A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e 204PS S line S Tronic
The increase in the number of plug-in hybrid models available & the company car tax benefits associated with these, means that for fleet customers things could not look rosier. Audi may have been a little slow to the PHEV party, but they’re on a roll with plug-in versions of most of their fleet-friendly models now offered or coming to market shortly. We drove the executive A6 TFSI e recently & came away impressed. The latest Audi plug-in to arrive with us, was the Audi A3 40 TFSI e, which is a likely bigger seller in the company car sector than the A6. Read on to find out how we get on.
Exterior, cabin & boot
The 40 TFSIe is offered only in the five-door A3 Sportback body. From the outside it’s only electric distinguishing marks are the e’s after the badge & of course the electric charge point on the front left of the car. Inside, Audi have created a sweeping dashboard, that accentuate’s the width of the cabin, which itself in this Mk4, feels slightly bigger than before. The new dash slants towards the driver making the touchscreen & climate controls, easier to reach. There’s also a new 10.25″ digital cockpit which sits in front of the driver who can access of the vehicles information via the steering wheel buttons & controls. Everything is put together extremely well & the finish & touch are exemplary. We especially liked the floating door handles.
Up front, thanks to the wraparound dash & door lines, passengers will feel cocooned in the cabin. Rear passenger space is adequate, with room for two adults, but the real hit on space is in the boot, where the Sportback’s usual 380 litres off storage, is reduced to just 280 litres, thanks to the batteries located under the floor.
All A3’s come with Audi’s virtual cockpit as standard, which features the 10.25″ digital instrument display, 10.1″ touchscreen, that runs Audi’s latest MIB3 infotainment system. You also get Smartphone mirroring for Android & Apple devices, wireless on our test car, both USB-A & USB-C ports in the centre console, an angled wireless device charging pad & a cluster of physical buttons which allow you to make adjustments without having to go into the touchscreen.
S Line spec which we drove, also comes with Sport suspension, front leather Sport seats, LED interior lighting, LED headlights with LED rear lights & dynamic rear indicators, all-weather headlights with dynamic headlight adjustment & dipped beam. There’s also some S Line exterior upgrades such as, tailpipes in chrome, an S roof spoiler, front radiator grill in titanium black with a chrome frame, privacy glass, dark-tinted rear window, rear door & side windows
Audi’s previous A3 plug-in, the e-tron, was a little disappointing offering just a few miles of electric range. However, the 40 TFSI e borrows it’s set-up from the Volkswagen Golf GTE, so you get a WLTP electric driving range of 41 miles. This is all thanks to it’s 1.4 petrol engine & 85kW electric motor, which utilises a 13kWh lithium-ion battery.
Joined together, the combined petrol & electric motor gives you 204PS & a not too shabby 240Nm’s of torque, making the 40 TFSI e an awful lot of fun, with a 0-62mph time of just 7.2 seconds & a top speed of 141mph.
The technology on board, means that the wheels are controlled by a sophisticated multi-link suspension system. This means that the car selects the best way for the car to ride, whether driving in petrol or full electric mode. From a standing start, there is a tendency to spin away, even if you’ve selected Eco mode. But overall it works, allowing the driver to relax & enjoy the journey.
On the motorway, you can happily cruise along utilising cruise control in petrol mode & will see a return at motorway speeds of 45mpg. At slower speeds & in town you can switch to pure EV mode & will achieve, as we did driving in in February, a range of 28 pure electric miles. You can of course choose to drive in electric on the motorway, but this isn’t the sensible thing to do, as the battery range disappears quickly.
The squat shape & size of the A3 Sportback, lends itself to sharp handling & if you really want to drive along the Snake Pass in Dynamic mode, you will have an awful lot of fun, but will see your economy drop into the mid-thirties. Acceleration, even in Eco mode, is great & on the motorway overtaking slower moving traffic is a breeze.
The 280 litre boot is further reduced in size, by the addition of the quality cable storage bag that comes with the 40 TFSI e. This contains a domestic cable connector & the ubiquitous EV charger cable. Using our Rolec 7.4Kw home charger, charging from near zero to full took us 4 hours, which is longer than the the time it takes to charge the Seat E Leon PHEV, because the maximum charging rate on the Audi is 2.9Kw, whilst the Seat offers 3.6kW. And others, notably the Mercedes-Benz A250 e, do it even faster.
Company Car & Fuel Benefits
Whilst retail customers would in the main, be better off driving a standard petrol A3, anyone in the company car sector would be absolutely crazy not to consider the A3 TFSI e. Audi’s claimed combined fuel economy of 282.5mpg may well be possible, but in our view, expect to achieve closer to 85 mpg, as long as you plug-in regularly & don’t let the charge run out. Like the larger A6 TFSI e, the A3 features some touchscreen wizardry that allows you to save your battery range for later, which is well worth knowing. Learn to utilise this whilst driving only in Eco mode & the plug-in A3 will work hard to reduce your fuel bill.
With CO2 emissions from just 25g/km, you get a Benefit-in-Kind tax rating of just 6% or 10% if you specify ‘S line’ trim with the larger 18″ wheels. What does that mean in actual savings ? As a 40% tax payer, if you select the petrol-only A3 35 TFSI Sport model, you’ll pay approximately £3,000 per year for the privilege. Go for the 40 TFSi e & you’ll pay closer to £800, which over a typical 3-year company car lease, would save you over £6,600, which is not to be sniffed at.
As a previous owner of an A3 Sportback & a writer who remembers driving the original A3 back in the mid 1990’s, I’ll admit to a soft-spot for this car. Thanks to Covid restrictions, I spent a week behind the wheel of the 40 TFSI e driving alone & I have to say, I really enjoyed it.
Our current plug-in car of the year, the Skoda Octavia iV, uses much of the same engine & battery tech as the A3 TFSI e, but comes with a lower asking price, a more spacious cabin & a larger boot. The Audi though, looks & feels premium & the pull of the four circles is such, that many company car drivers will forsake the Skoda’s more subtle allure.
For us, the Audi is a much better proposition than the Mercedes A250 & for now, BMW don’t have a 1 Series competitor. The only negative we could find is the charging time, which could be shorter. Other than that, if you’re a company car driver looking for an Audi A3 Sportback, there are plenty of very good reasons to choose the 40 TFSI e as your next company car. The personal tax savings alone should convince you of that.