Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron Plug-in Hybrid: Best Buy For Holding Value Over Time?

When it comes to residual values for new cars, finance companies and buyers alike have been particularly cautious about all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Relatively new to the market, most plug-in cars are purposely given low residual value predictions by market research firms unsure of both the long-term outlook for plug-in vehicles and (generally unfounded) worries that a car’s expensive lithium-ion battery pack may lose capacity and therefore useful range.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron comes top when it comes to holding its value among compact cars.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron comes top when it comes to holding its value among compact cars.

Even though residual value predictions have improved for electric and plug-in hybrid cars over the last four years, they’re still generally low, resulting in high lease payments and/or higher interest rates for customers wanting to make the switch. And while some cars — like the Tesla Model S for example — now come with guaranteed resale values, newer models with longer-range capabilities mean that plug-in cars aren’t retaining their value.

But now German automotive magazine Auto Bild and market research institute Schwacke have proclaimed that Audi’s A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid is the current model year compact car most likely to retain its value over the next four years. This accolade has earned it the 2015 Wertmeister — or ‘Value Champ’ award in the compact car segment in Auto Bild’s annual residual value survey.

With a predicted residual value of 57.3 percent four years after purchase, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron beats off plenty of other competitors in the compact car segment, both plug-in and non plug-in. In total, more than 40 different cars from 14 different automakers were considered across 15 different categories.

Based on the same Volkswagen MQB platform as the rest of the 2015 Audi A3 and 2015 Volkswagen Golf family, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron features the same plug-in hybrid drivetrain found in the Volkswagen Golf GTE.

The Golf GTE is essentially the same as the Audi A3 -- just with a different badge.

The Golf GTE is essentially the same as the Audi A3 — just with a different badge.

That equates to a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine mated with a hefty 80 kilowatt electric motor and a six-speed s-tronic dual clutch gearbox. Combined, the car is capable of producing 204 brake horsepower and 256 pound feet of torque, and can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds on its way to an electronically-limited top speed of 137.9 mph.

Married with an 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-on battery pack, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron can also drive on electricity alone, managing around 30 miles in electric mode at sensible speeds (less at higher speeds) before needing to fire up its engine. Recharging takes two hours from a standard Type 2/Level 2 charging station capable of providing 3.3 kilowatts.

It’s this all-round capability which seems to have won the day for Audi in terms of residual value. While it has an electric battery pack to allow for electric-only operation, the Audi A3 e-tron’s gasoline engine means it can still be driven even if the on-board battery pack isn’t capable of the 30-mile range it could when new after four years of hard driving.

In the past few years, we’ve noticed a similar trend among other plug-in cars: electric cars like the Nissan LEAF seem to suffer the highest depreciation, while plug-in hybrid models are less likely to sting the original buyer after a few years of use.

In the case of the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron however, its performance edge, everyday practicality, normal-looks, luxury name badge and high fuel efficiency are  enough to ensure that it beats many more quirky plug-in cars.

So if you’re looking to buy a plug-in car that will keep its value, perhaps you need to think about an A3 e-tron too.

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