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First Drive: Audi Q3 PHEV

The story: Audi’s latest addition to a hefty plug-in hybrid portfolio is the small crossover Q3 model, which gets a PHEV powertrain in both SUV and Sportback body styles.
Key rival:BMW X1
On sale:Now

Audi’s philosophy of offering a plug-in hybrid stepping stone to drivers looking to move from petrol or diesel into electrified powertrains continues unabated with the arrival of the Q3 PHEV.

First Drive - September 2021 - Audi Q3 PHEV - Image 7Coming in regular SUV and coupe-rooflined Sportback form, the new models are the 10th and 11th PHEVs into the line-up, and join one of the biggest-selling models in the Audi offering.

The Q3 TFSIe 45, to give it the full name, combines a 13kWh battery and 85kW motor with a 150hp 1.4 petrol engine, with the result being a combined 245hp. The bad news is that only the entry Technik model on its 17-inch wheels has more than 30 miles
of EV range, while the rest of the models – S Line, Black Edition and top-spec Vorsprung – are penalised by their 19-inch wheels and fall short of the 30-mile mark that would mean a two-band Benefit-in-Kind reduction. The official 28.6 miles of the S Line trim level driven here would be £28 per month cheaper on BiK tax – more than £1300 over the course of a four-year contract – if it could scrape its way to 30 miles on electric.

Even worse is the news that almost all of the Q3’s main PHEV rivals – BMW X1, Mini Countryman and VW Tiguan are better in this regard. It’s a shame, because the Q3 boasts a significant horsepower advantage over its premium PHEV rivals, but drivers would almost certainly have been happy to sacrifice a little of the performance for that extra bit of range to qualify for the tax benefits; these also impact a company’s National Insurance contributions, albeit to a lesser level that the driver payments. Having said all that, compared with a 150hp diesel Q3 S Line, a higher-rate tax payer will save £225 a month in BiK, so the benefits of PHEV are clear.

First Drive - September 2021 - Audi Q3 PHEV - Image 1Boot space is impacted, dropping from 530 litres on petrol and diesel models to just 380, with the moveable boot floor lost to packaging of battery and fuel tanks. Again, the likes of the BMW and Volvo are well ahead, and the Q3’s packaging will be something of an issue for anyone that needs to carry a decent amount of stuff in the boot of their small SUV.

Still, if you ignore the taxation and packaging issues, the Q3 becomes much more appealing, with a decent level of equipment making the step up from the tax-efficient entry model to the nicely decked out S Line understandable.

The switch between petrol and electric is achieved with zero fuss, and the regeneration is strong enough to add several miles to the range over a longer journey, while the high-quality interior materials and layout are typically Audi.


paul barker

First Drive: Audi A6 PHEV



The verdict

The range falling just short of 30 miles on the key models handicaps an otherwise appealing premium PHEV.