Audi A3 e-tron is now cheaper, but still struggles to make its case
In tandem with launch of the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, Audi has released an updated version of the A3 e-tron.
The A3 Sportback was the first of Audi's e-tron line to launch in New Zealand and, like the Q7 e-tron, is the second highest performance vehicle in its range. At least until the RS3 Sportback is released later this year.
Available as a single model, the A3 e-tron price has dropped from $75,000 down to $69,900 for the new version, but with a decent hike in standard equipment as well.
Audi hasn't made any changes to the powertrain for the updated model, so the A3 e-tron still packs the same 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre petrol engine hooked up to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, and a 75kW/330Nm electric motor powered by an 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
This gives a combined peak system output of 150kW of power and 350Nm of torque, which is good enough to drag the A3 e-tron from 0-100kmh in 7.6 seconds, while still allowing for a Combined fuel consumption figure of just 1.7 litres per 100km (although probably not if you are doing 0-100 runs all the time).
Along with the standard warranty for a new car (three years), Audi also provides the battery with an eight-year/160,000km warranty. The A3 has an electric range of 50km from those batteries.
While this isn't as much as a pure EV, it is more than the average Kiwi city-dweller's daily commute (Aucklanders do 38km a day, apparently), and then you still always have the 40-litre petrol tank.
Although Audi NZ has bumped up the standard equipment over the last model, as with all small electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, you do pay a premium for the A3 e-tron's electric abilities. So the car is not quite as lavishly equipped as the more expensive Q7 e-tron.
The A3 e-tron comes with some (rather small these days) 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, as well as dual zone climate control, keyless entry and start, satellite navigation, a leather multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters, LED interior lighting, xenon headlights, parking sensors front and rear, a backing camera, cruise control and Audi's pre-sense city autonomous emergency braking system.
If, however you add the optional $6000 e-tron Technology Package (which takes the price up to just $900 more than the previous car) you start getting some of the good toys, with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, Audi's 12.3-inch virtual cockpit screen, LED headlights, smartphone integration, side assist, park assist, active lane assist and high beam assist.
It's very much like the old model to drive, with the major changes being cosmetic, equipment and that price drop.
This means it is brisk and frugal, with sharp handling and distant steering. Exactly how Audi buyers like it.
The drop in price and increase in equipment does make the A3 e-tron a more enticing prospect, but you still have to be absolutely in love with the concept of a plug-in hybrid small car to justify the extra cost over a standard petrol model.
While something large and luxurious like the Q7 e-tron sees a smaller proportion of cost increase for the electric bits, a smaller car like the A3 makes the jump seem just a bit harder to take. And with the likes of the Volkswagen e-Golf and its all-electric range of 200km not that far off, the A3 e-tron will require a lot of love for the four-rings to get you to commit.