The 2018 Audi A3 Sportback E-tron is a premium compact plug-in hybrid hatchback. That means it acts like a regular hybrid, or an owner can connect it to a power source to fully replenish the battery and run for several miles on electric power alone.
Because it’s an Audi, there’s an appropriate level of luxury, with crisp and cultivated styling inside and out, rewarding dynamics and (considering this car’s age) a reasonable amount of technology. Naturally, it’s also capable of excellent fuel economy.
This model is the only hatchback in the A3 range. The remainder are sedans and cabriolets (convertibles). They are reviewed separately.
What’s New for 2018?
Premium trim gains heated front seats as standard. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert becomes part of the equipment in the Premium Plus trim. And Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration is incorporated in the Prestige trim.
What We Like
Practical hatchback body; high-class interior; high-tech fuel economy
What We Don’t
$40,475-$49,075. There are various state and federal incentives to offset the purchase price.
A turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine joins an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack to provide a combined system output of 204 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automated manual transmission (which is operated like a regular automatic) sends this energy to the front wheels.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates an average miles-per-gallon equivalent of 83 MPGe, including 16 miles driven purely in electric vehicle (EV) mode. Without EV mode in the equation, the EPA puts consumption at 36 mpg combined city/highway. This gives the car a total range of 380 miles.
As well as being able to select EV mode, the driver can also disengage the electric motor and use just the combustion engine. This can be a useful feature when full battery power is required later in the journey.
Charging the battery from a 240-volt source takes 2.5 hours. Using a 110-volt socket requires eight hours.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Audi A3 Sportback E-tron is available in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
Premium ($40,475) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights with LED running lights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, heated/8-way power-adjustable front seats, leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, drive mode selection, heated side mirrors, LED cabin lighting, a 5.3-in touchscreen, a rearview camera, forward-collision mitigation, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker audio system with an SD card reader, USB slot and satellite/HD radio.
Premium Plus ($43,575) brings adaptive LED headlights, self-dimming rearview mirror with digital compass, parking sensors front and rear, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Prestige ($49,075) has advanced safety features (see the Safety section below) along with the Virtual Cockpit 12.3-in configurable instrument display, auto-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, upgraded infotainment system with a 7-in screen and handwriting recognition, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and a Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker/705-watt audio system.
All three trims are eligible for roof rails, as well as a Sport package that includes 18-in alloy wheels, a sport steering wheel and sport seats. Premium Plus is eligible for an optional Technology package, which brings the Virtual Cockpit, smartphone integration, B&O sound system, navigation and Audi Connect Prime and Plus (for Wi-Fi, remote lock/unlock, stolen vehicle location, roadside assistance, automatic crash alert, emergency calling, vehicle status reports and maintenance notifications).
Cargo space behind the rear seats is 13.6 cu ft. The battery pack is located under those seats (which split and fold in the usual 60/40 way), so it doesn’t affect the luggage area.
As well as all the mandatory equipment, such as anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control, the A3 E-tron has front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Prestige trim also enjoys adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency braking and lane-departure prevention.
Behind the Wheel
The electric motor’s virtually instant torque contributes to the impressive acceleration. The cabin is so quiet that there’s virtually no engine noise and hardly any transmission whine.
Top speed in EV mode is 80 miles per hour. The car has a "glide" mode for downhill stretches. In a conventional car, lifting off the throttle would initiate engine braking, but glide mode keeps up the momentum.
The A3 E-tron has a high-quality interior well up to Audi’s usual lofty standards. The ride is similarly sophisticated. This is one of the must-drive candidates among plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Volt — Not at the same premium level as the Audi, but EV range for this plug-in hybrid hatchback is an impressive 53 miles.
2018 BMW i3 — When bought with the range-extending engine, this electric car moves more into the area of a plug-in hybrid. It’s an interesting vehicle of innovative construction.
2018 BMW 330e — Not a hatchback, but a sedan. It only offers 14 miles in EV mode, but it’s still a compact premium plug-in hybrid from Germany and an excellent car all the same. A new 3 Series generation is due for 2019.
2018 Honda Clarity PHEV — All-new for this year. A midsize sedan as opposed to a compact hatchback, but the highest Touring trim (starting at $37,490) comes close to premium. Range in EV mode is 47 miles and total power is 212 hp.
2018 Tesla Model 3 — An all-electric premium compact car with a standard range of 220 miles, which might appeal to many people considering an Audi. But the company’s ability to produce all the cars currently on order is lacking.
If you can afford the Prestige model for all the available advanced safety features, that would be great. If not, we’d recommend the Premium Plus, preferably with the Technology package for the cool Virtual Cockpit and excellent B&O sound system.