First Drive

First Drive: Audi A3 PHEV

The story:
Audi has joined the race to capture its share of fleets sales as company car drivers switch en masse to plug-in cars to take advantage of the latest tax benefits.
Category:Lower medium
Key rival:Mercedes A-class PHEV
Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSIe S-line
Emissions:25g/km (WLTP)
On sale:Now

In the space of a couple of years, fleet conversations have gone from “we must have all diesel” to “all plug-in”, according to Audi’s fleet boss James Buxton.

It’s for this reason the importance of the A3 PHEV cannot be underestimated.

While Audi doesn’t give sales predictions in numbers, Buxton has said the A3 plug-in hybrid is expected to account for 80% of fleet A3 sales.

The numbers show why this is the case. The new A3 TFSIe has a CO2 figure of 29g/km in S Line trim with an EV range of 37 miles. This is good for a company car tax BiK band of 10%. However, if drivers opt for the Sport trim on 17-inch alloys (the S Line has 18s) or tick the no-cost option of 17s for the S Line (with its own Cap code) then these improve to 25g/km and a 40-mile electric-only range. In turn, this drops the BIK rate to just 6%.

That equates to a monthly tax take of around £70 for a 40% earner. A diesel equivalent with a CO2 figure of, say, 115g/km would cost around £300 a month.

First Drive- January 2021- Audi A3 Sportback PHEV- Image 8The other significant difference from the petrol and diesel A3s is the boot space. It’s the one ‘cost’ of opting for a plug-in. At 280 litres, the PHEV’s boot is 100 litres or 26% smaller. However, the rear seats fold down to produce a flat load area.

In practise in single-figure temperatures, the battery range never indicated more than 28 miles, but the prediction was accurate. Over a near-60-mile (mostly motorway) route, the car claimed it was achieving just more than 65mpg.

The Audi A3 PHEV is exceedingly easy to live with. You don’t need to worry about regenerative braking because the car works everything out. You can switch between modes, but it’s best left in ‘Auto’, which means you don’t suffer the sluggish throttle of ‘Eco’ mode but you still get the better economy than ‘Sport’ which switches on the engine more than you’d like. Also, the button to toggle between the modes is not easily reached.

First Drive- January 2021- Audi A3 Sportback PHEV- Image 6Comfort is good, and the seats help this by giving excellent support.

The brakes are good too. Many PHEVs suffer from strange brake feel as the car switches between regen and actual braking. In the A3 this is barely perceptible.

It’s this detail, plus the quality, that makes an A3 appealing, and it’s easy to see why Audi expects this to be the best company car seller.

tristan young

The verdict

If you’re a company car driver, no other A3 makes more sense.