The sanctions promised by Brussels in the event of non-compliance with environmental standards continue to transform the automotive landscape. Formerly too expensive and too cumbersome, plug-in hybrid technologies only found their relevance on heavy models sold at high prices. A device today “democratized” on more affordable ranges. A very relative reasoning since we are talking here about models approaching € 60,000. Relevant only if one is able to recharge the battery regularly, these models benefit from increased versatility. 100% electric for going to work, hybrids for long journeys, these versions are all good on paper.
At Audi, the A3 is not at its first attempt with this technology. The 40 TFSie (the e-tron name is now reserved for 100% electric models), uses a drivetrain similar to the older generation. The 150 hp 1.5 TSI is coupled to a 55 kW electric unit, powered by a 13 kWh battery. The cumulative power of 204 hp gives way to a 45 TFSIe version of 245 hp. Autonomy side, the A3 promises between 59 and 67 km in all-electric mode. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t actually perform them. Opposite, the A250e Class discovers this imposing device. But the in-house engineers have racked their brains to contain its bulk (electric motor coupled to the automatic gearbox, shortened exhaust, battery integrated under the rear seat). Technically, the A250e uses its 1.3 of 163 hp supplemented by a 75 kW electric motor. On the Mercedes, battery capacity and cumulative power are slightly higher: 15.6 kWh, 218 hp. For autonomy, we are talking here of 61 to 76 km. Nice value on paper. Enough for the theory.
Practical aspects: sacrificed on the altar of efficiency
PHEV technology never goes hand in hand with practicality. Fitting a round battery into a compact size that does not already give pride of place to living space is a challenge. Inside, the A3 40 TFSIe is doing a little better. There is a greater feeling of space in front and especially behind. If it will not be necessary to do more than 1.80 m to find comfort in the second row, it is always better than aboard the Class A which does not do much better than some all-rounders.
She makes up for it on the chest side, at least against her rival of the day. Both see their charging volume reduced by the installation of the battery. While the small hold of the Class A caps here at 310 l, the A3 does even worse with only 280 l. The latter also lacks a storage space for cables, locked in an imposing case with which your shopping will have to coexist. For the rest, we find all the salt of the German premium. Namely an interior that throws, as long as we had a heavy hand on the equipment.
On board these upscale and dearly optioned finishes, our two premium compacts welcome with respect. At least as far as presentation is concerned. If the Audi A3 displays a more disparate level of quality than in the past, the compact with the rings remains a big piece in the matter. Opposite, the spectacular dashboard of the Class A continues to have its small effect, even if the presence of certain plastics disappoints. Ergonomics, however, remain more intuitive on board the Audi, whose more classic layout makes it easier to find your bearings.
Equipment: poor, even in high-end finish
In good German, Class A and A3 do not really give a gift in terms of equipment, frankly stingy, even on these upscale versions. At 44,450 € for the A250e AMG Line and even 46,480 € for the A3 40 TFSIe S Line, these compacts are asking for more to refine their endowment. Fancy a beautiful, customizable digital dashboard? Count € 550 on the Class A and € 290 on the A3. Do you enjoy mood lighting? 400 € on both. Nice leather seats? Another € 1,400 extension at Mercedes, € 1,600 at Audi. Do you prefer them heated? It will make you 400 € more. Even smartphone connectivity has a price for Mercedes: 400 €.
Some options are downright stingy such as lumbar support charged € 250 at Mercedes, or storage nets on the backs of the front seats, sold € 190 at Audi. Another consumer incentive, the famous packs … If the hands-free key is essential for you, know that on a Class A, you must check the box of the Premium Pack, sold € 1,900 … and equipped with the majority of equipment already mentioned. Smart. Ditto for the high-beam assistant with anti-glare LED lights: € 3,600 in a pack including, among other things, the sunroof and the high-end Burmester sound system.
Without being really more reasonable, the A3 offers all its options independently. Simpler, and above all less tempting. For the rest, our two rivals are marked in the breeches. And in the end, some cheaper options on the A3 allow it to compensate for its higher base price: € 980 for the head-up display (against € 1,200), € 1,800 for a whole bunch of driving (adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, panel reading, reverse collision warning) charged € 400 more than its rival.
Budget: bonus or equipment, you have to choose.
There are still a few months left to take advantage of the € 2,000 ecological bonus allocated to plug-in hybrid vehicles. But if the configurations of our test models have caught your eye, no need to rush. At nearly € 60,000 each, our A3 40 TFSIe and A250e test vehicles cannot benefit from this aid, which is reserved for vehicles under € 50,000. There remains the possibility of being satisfied with the strict minimum in terms of equipment. Therefore, a Golf e-Hybrid or a future 308 PHEV would surely be a more relevant choice. For the rest, consumption is to the advantage of the A-Class (see next page), an argument countered by the A3 and its 2-year unlimited mileage guarantee (100,000 km for the A-Class).