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BMW 3 Series


Audi A3

Summary

BMW 3 Series

Is the 330e the best of both worlds?

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), it’s a part-time electric car for the city and a full-time sports sedan for everywhere else.

Sound familiar? BMW’s been down this path before, back with 2012’s ‘ActiveHybrid 3’ and then its first 330e-badged successor four years after.

Both were based on the previous F30 3 Series shape. However, this year’s all-new G20 iteration improves the breed with a bigger boot, up to 50 per cent better range and brawnier performance.  

The thing is, it shares showrooms with the 330i and M340i xDrive, which represent a powerful return-to-form for the 3 Series.

So, the question isn’t so much ‘Is the 330e a good enough PHEV?’ more so than ‘Is the PHEV worthy of the BMW badge?’ Let’s find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency2.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Audi A3

If it was the original BMW 3-Series that invented the compact luxury car market segment all those years ago, then it’s probably fair to claim it was Audi’s A3 franchise that gave rise to the luxury small-hatch category.

On that basis, any new Audi A3 is news but, in the face of the SUV onslaught (including its own stablemate the Q3) the new small Audi has its work cut out for it.

With this update, there’s refreshed styling, a new interior layout and, for the launch of the new cars, two body styles, a conventionally styled sedan and what Audi calls the Sportback; fundamentally a five-door hatchback but with the German brand’s own flair plastered all over it.

As well as new connectivity and safety tech, the big news is the availability of a mild-hybrid driveline as well as a second powertrain option with more performance from a more conventional layout.

Interestingly, it’s that (mild) hybrid version of the A3 that represents the entry-level variant of the A3. A sign of the times? Perhaps.

As well as the two powertrains, there are two distinct chassis layouts, starting with a front-drive set-up and extending to the option of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 3 Series9/10

You know about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right?

Well, its themes of too little or too much apply for buyers of an eco-focused luxury sports sedan. If a hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h isn’t electrified enough, and a pure EV such as the Tesla Model 3 is going too far, then a PHEV like the 330e plugs the gap just about perfectly.   

Yes, prices are high (and especially so with a few choice options), boot capacity is on the low side for a 4.7-metre long sedan and that lusty four-pot turbo is sonically no match for a turbine-smooth BMW inline six as per the M340i, but the 330e does most of the expected things well and some of the ones you might not exceptionally.

Pay the price and you can have your cake and eat it too.


Audi A37/10

Producing a car that takes the end result beyond appliance status is no given in a world car-park dominated by SUVs. But Audi has, over the last few decades, shown it is very good at doing just that and the latest incarnation of its A3 stalwart backs that up.

While it might take a bit of mental gymnastics to understand why the base model gets the hybrid driveline, or why the more expensive variant costs more to option with adaptive cruise-control, the fact remains these are driver’s cars from a company that understands that concept.

Yes, the A3 is a relatively expensive way to arrive at a compact hatch or sedan, but if you value the journey as much as the destination, it will all make sense.

While the technical aspects of the 35 TFSI are interesting, the extra power and all-weather grip of the AWD 40 TFSI seem to be worth the additional dollars to us. The A3 has always been a sporty alternative, meaning the sportiest version is the one for us.

CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.

Design

BMW 3 Series

Remember when BMW 3 Series were compact three-box sedans that looked like nothing else? Today’s version seems so close in size to a 5 Series that only an anorak can instantly tell them apart. In fact, at a glance, differentiating the current G20 from the old F30 generation isn’t so easy, either.

It’s no surprise, then, to learn that both the 3- and 5 Series share the company’s scalable, light but super-strong ‘Cluster Architecture’. Imbued with a large-car feel, the 330e is elegant in silhouette and handsomely detailed, its imposing stance highlighted by the M Sport lowered suspension (by 10mm) and bi-colour five-prong double-spoke 19-inch alloys and (optional) Laser-light LEDs.

Flying under the radar for an eco-warrior, there is nothing other than two ‘filler’ flaps to give the PHEV game away externally. It’s all business as usual.

The same cool insouciance permeates our 3 Series’ leather-laden and metallic-accented cabin, that is now properly spacious for four adults. It still retains the signature-BMW driver-centric dashboard angle, but the style certainly isn’t retro, with twin large digital displays and a myriad of personalisation and vehicle configuration choices underlining the 330e’s modernity.

Aided by plenty of eco incentives to go PHEV, in Europe, BMW expects the 330e to be the best selling version; that said, given the inherent conservatism of premium medium sedan buyers globally, there is virtually nothing about this model’s overall execution that is too futuristic, intimidating or oddball.


Audi A36/10

It’s actually refreshing in 2022 to see a carmaker putting such an effort into something that isn’t an SUV.

That Audi has bothered with two distinct bodies and two equally distinct drivelines is also one for the books, really.

Technically, the mild-hybrid driveline as seen in larger Audis in recent years is probably the highlight of the new A3, and even though it doesn’t compare with a conventional petrol-electric hybrid, it demonstrates Audi’s attention to detail.

The same goes for the digital instruments which allows the driver to tailor the information displayed at any given time. Need a city map more than you need a tachometer at a particular point in you journey? That’s where this technology comes into its own.

Practicality

BMW 3 Series

For a swoopy sports sedan, the 330e’s interior is pleasingly practical and – after a little familiarisation – user-friendly. As the biggest-ever 3 Series, four average-sized adults can fit in easily, while a smaller fifth person can crowd in on the rear-centre cushion. For short periods, anyway.

One surprise is the lightness of the doors due to them being partly aluminium, which means while they close with a reassuring thud, they’re might feel flimsy at first.

No such misconceptions await once inside the cocoon-quiet cabin, thanks to solid and lush materials everywhere the eye lands and hands touch. Even the plastics seem expensive.

As the 3 Series is famous for, the 330e’s dash is driver-centric, with ample adjustability of the fat-rimmed wheel and unimpeded reach for most of the important switchgear. Sat low and cosily ensconced between door and bisecting centre console, the mood is definitely grand-touring sports sedan.

For this generation, BMW has honed the once-controversial 'iDrive' controller into an artful yet logical example of on-the-move multimedia interface and data retrieval, with a concerted effort to simplify what is a mountain of available information.

Of course, familiarisation is essential, but even a short tuition will open up a world of configuration and customisation of every single facet of the car – chassis, powertrain, climate control, audio, communication and media being the main platforms. Sounds intimidating but isn’t.

To help relax (or energise), there’s even a ‘Caring Car’ feature in the sub menus with appropriately chilled ambient lighting, audio and climate control.

Indeed, the Germans have made strides in improving the perceived quality and functionality in other areas of the latest 3 Series, such as the gear lever operation, thoughtful storage and effortlessly effective ventilation.

However, the digital instrumentation has ignored decades of classy analogue style for a messy computerised multi-view layout that is just too Space Invaders.

Sure, it’s multi-configurable and includes a less-cluttered basic screen, but where’s the sophistication and beauty here? Notice to carmakers: would you wear a watch this ugly?

Moving to the back seat, the optional sunroof might eat into rear headroom, and really long-legged travellers need to ensure the front-seat occupants are as far forward as comfortably possible, but otherwise it’s the same story of well-sculptured cushions and backrests, set within a business-class style environment.

Twin USB-C ports, a 12V outlet and temperature controls are a bonus, hungry door pockets can take a large drink bottle and the essential cupholders are set within the centre armrest.

The only giveaway that this 3 Series is hauling extra electrification is inside the boot. Somewhat shallower than the regular 480-litre item, a higher floor than usual cuts that by 105L to 375L.

But at least the battery doesn’t intrude to the point where you can’t use the cabin load-through with the tri-sected backrests folded down (via a handy lever if you’re standing behind the vehicle). A through-loading system is part of the standard 40/20/40 split-fold backrest.

The floor itself is stepped half way, but if you require a flat surface, it can be lifted to even out the area. And remember, there is no spare wheel – just tyres that can be driven ‘flat’ as required to drive you to the nearest garage.


Audi A36/10

Although it’s a compact car externally, clever packaging means there’s ample space inside. Even a tall-ish rear-seat passenger can sit behind a tall-ish driver, and the sculpted rear seat-backs help make that possible.

The only complaint would be that the dark headlining material makes the interior a bit of a cave at times.

Paying more for the 40 TFSI gets you extra cargo nets on the front seat backrests and luggage area, 12-volt sockets in the rear seat and boot. Both versions get floor mats and a centre arm-rest front and rear.

 

The rear seat in either is split 40/20/40 for a range of possibilities, with the Sportback offering 325 litres (VDA) for the Sportback quattro models, and 380L (VDA) for the 2WD models and its boot capacity is increased to 1145L (VDA) with the rear seat folded flat. The luggage space in the sedan is 390L (VDA) for the quattro AWD version, and a more capacious 425L (VDA) for the FWD model.

 

Price and features

BMW 3 Series

It’s clear that electrification will become the norm in the not-too-distant future, from hybrids combining internal combustion engines (ICE) with electric motors and batteries, to the full battery electric vehicle (EV) and eventually hydrogen EV experience.

Somewhere along that spectrum, and nestled between the 320i (from $68,900) and 330i (from $74,900), is the 330e.

Arriving from Germany in either racy M Sport or dreary Luxury grades from $81,900 (before on-road costs), it features an electric motor and battery pack for up to 60km of pure EV propulsion, before a four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine kicks in for in excess of 1800km between refills, officially. Range anxiety be damned.

Mind you, the similarly-engined 320i but minus the electrification is almost 300kg lighter. Blame all that extra electrification swag like an 83kW synchronous motor, 10.3kWh lithium ion battery and a five-metre 1.8kW charging cable.

Being a PHEV means it needs up to six hours to recharge from a regular 10-amp household plug, down to a minimum of around 3.5 hours from a larger power source.

In contrast, a non-plug-in, series-parallel hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h barely manages 2.0km of sub-40km/h-only EV range, before its ICE takes over to replenish a much-smaller battery pack, and relegate the electric motor to mere performance and/or economy boosters only. That’s why the Lexus is some $20,000 cheaper.

This leaves the Mercedes-Benz C300e and Volvo S60 T8 Hybrid from $82,300 and $84,990 respectively as the BMW’s only true equals, as they’re PHEVs, too.

Though both promise slightly less EV range than the 330e, the former is comfort-biased while the latter is a bit of a Swedish hot-rod, blitzing all for sheer oomph while scoring all-wheel drive into the bargain.

Note, however, that from $75,425 (before tax and on-road costs) will buy you the mouthful Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus RWD (rear-wheel drive). As a pure EV, the Yank has kicked the ICE habit with a silent and furious need for speed. 

Not that our 330e M Sport Package isn’t hot to trot, with its M Sport-enhanced suspension, brakes, aero body kit, 19-inch alloys shod with run-flat tyres (so no spare wheel), steering wheel, Alcantara/Sensonic vinyl upholstery and ‘Shadow Line’ gloss-grey trimmings. Menacing.  

The BMW’s list of goodies is barely good enough for a sedan that’s over $90K drive-away. You’ll find adaptive dampers that switch seamlessly from firm to soft depending on how stiff/supple you want the ride to be, auto entry/start, stop/start, heated/folding/dipping mirrors, two USB and a single 12V ports, tri-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory, three-year subscription-based in-car emergency and concierge services, Apple CarPlay (but still not Android Auto at the time of publishing), 12.3-inch digital instrumentation with head-up display, a 10.25-inch central screen, satellite navigation, extended Bluetooth connectivity, an unreliable ‘Hey, BMW’ voice-activation system, digital radio, 205W amplifier audio, a 32GB hard drive, wireless smartphone charger and a personalisation function in the key saving all your preferred settings.

On the safety and security front there’s also autonomous emergency braking (AEB), warnings and active assistance/intervention for steering, lane-change, lane-departure and front/rear cross-traffic (with braking) situations, full-auto parking with surround-view 3D cameras and sensors, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go, auto high-beam LED headlights with delay/off, rain-sensing wipers, low-speed EV-mode acoustic warnings for pedestrians and localised recharging info including range radius. Handy.

Still, a sunroof is optional, as are our car’s trick 'Laser-light' active/adaptive LEDs, ambient cabin lighting, motion-sensor electric bootlid, seat and steering wheel heaters, galvanised trim, and other goodies, amounting to over $10,000. All blow out pricing towards $100K. Ouch.

At least you can pre-set the climate control in your 330e via a BMW app. Cool!


Audi A37/10

These are not bargain basement cars, and with a kick-off price of $46,900 for the A3 35 TFSI Sportback (the hatch version) and $49,400 for the sedan in the same specification, that much is obvious.

The fact is, both the new A3 variants represent a fair mark-up on the previous model. But if you look at the post-Covid car market in a macro sense, you can see the same trend across a lot of brands and a lot of previously entry-level models.

Ante up to the 40 TFSI, and the news is no different with an asking price of $53,500 (Sportback) and $56,000 (sedan).

If the price sounds steep on a per-kilo basis, you need to remember this is an Audi we’re talking about and that price premium is part and parcel of a prestige badge. Don’t like it? Go and buy a VW Golf. That’d be Audi’s advice, anyway.

To justify that viewpoint, the A3 is loaded with some impressive standard kit. The 35 TFSI starts things off with Audi’s vaunted 'Virtual Cockpit', wireless phone charging, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote central locking, paddle shifters, park-assist, sat-nav, a 10.1-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, a multi-function steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, digital radio, cruise-control and dual-zone climate control.

The 40 TFSI adds a range of aluminium trim pieces and garnishes, Audi’s 'Drive Select' system which allows the driver to choose the characteristic of the dampers, steering response, exhaust sound, throttle response and transmission shift points.

The 40 TFSI also adds sportier front seats, a rear spoiler, body kit, extra courtesy lights around the car and details such as a 12-volt socket in the luggage area.

Options on the base model include a 'Comfort Pack' consisting of adaptive cruise-control, electric front seats, heated front seats, auto dimming headlights, heated and folding mirrors, four-way electric lumbar control and 'Adaptive Drive Assist', including 'Emergency Assist.'

That will set you back $2600, while the 40 TFSI can be enhanced with Audi’s 'Premium Package' which adds those same items as well as aluminium-look trim pieces, a better sound system, head-up instrument display and a memory function for the driver’s seat. That adds $4500 to either the 40 TFSI Sportback or sedan.

Engine & trans

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s modular (B48) 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivers 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque, and drives the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed automatic. The latter is regarded as one of the best transmissions of its type in production today.

That transmission also houses the 83kW/105Nm synchronous motor, while the 10.3kWh battery pack is located underneath the back seat. Total outputs are 185kW/420Nm.

Each power source works together to create a smooth and quiet EV experience up to a published 60km, before the 2.0-litre takes over the main driving function, but powering down again when coasting or under very light throttle, to help eke out maximum mileage between refills.

There are three modes to choose from ­– 'Sport', 'Hybrid' and 'Electric' – with the latter allowing for pure EV driving as long as the batteries are juiced up enough; otherwise the default Hybrid setting kicks in, where both propulsion options are used to maximum efficiency.

Back in Electric mode, in Battery Control mode, the driver can pre-select a minimum battery charge level for use later on where conditions are better-suited to EV driving – such as in downtown.    

There’s also a so-called ‘XtraBoost’ function, providing up to 30kW of extra power (topping out at 215kW) for short periods, and is accompanied by a fake/enhanced exhaust note. It’s a bit of a scorcher, actually, revving hungrily to the redline and reeling in the horizon like a proper BMW should.

Don't go searching for an evocative in-line six-cylinder soundtrack, however. Instead, there's simply a zingy metallic snarl as the tacho swings swiftly upwards. S mode loves holding on to each gear ratio, aided by a thoughtfully placed set of paddle shifters.

Overall, the 3 Series PHEV is surprisingly rapid – clearing the 100km/h marker needs just 5.9 seconds – but subjectively actually feels even faster. BMW limits the 330e's EV top speed to 140km/h, or 230km/h in dinosaur-fuel mode.    


Audi A37/10

While both versions of the A3 use a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (no manual gearbox will be offered) there’s not a lot of commonality beyond that.

So let’s start with the 35 TFSI’s mild-hybrid running gear. To begin with, mild-hybrid in this sense refers to a starter motor/alternator unit that is linked to a 48-volt battery (the car also has a conventional 12-volt electrical system).

When coasting, the engine can shut off and the starter switches to alternator mode and harvests the otherwise lost energy to charge the 48-volt battery. This 48-volt system also powers the car’s functions when the engine is switched off.

When the car needs to restart (when the traffic-light goes green) the starter kicks in, using that harvested voltage. There’s also a regenerative braking function, saving the car’s actual brakes for more severe stops.

Unlike a 'normal' hybrid system, there’s no electric motor to help drive the car, but Audi claims a potential fuel saving of 0.4 litres per 100km from the set-up. Any benefit will be most noticeable in urban running where the car is speeding up and slowing down regularly.

The rest of the 35 TFSI is technically interesting, too, with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine featuring cylinder-on-demand where it can shut down individual cylinders during cruise conditions to save fuel.

When firing on all four, however, the engine is good for 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, figures which have become almost an industry standard in this sized vehicle.

The 40 TFSI, meanwhile, ditches the hybrid gear for a conventional 2.0-litre powerplant with a turbocharger and 140kW of power. Torque is a handy 320Nm and is developed over a wide range of engine speeds (anywhere from 1500 to 4100rpm).

The other big difference is in the driveline. The 35 TFSI is a front-wheel drive platform while the 40 TFSI uses Audi’s Quattro AWD as it applies to Audis with an east-west engine layout.

That means the car behaves as a front-drive vehicle until the electronics decides more power should be sent to the rear wheels. At that point, anything up to 99 per cent of the available torque can be transferred rearwards via an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch housed at the rear of the car, just in front of the rear axle.

Fuel consumption

BMW 3 Series

On the flipside, BMW reckons over 1800km is possible, thanks to the official combined figure of only 2.2 litres per 100km. That’s outstanding range, especially considering the fuel tank is a teeny 40 litres.

Maybe it was the addictive allure of all that XtraBoost oomph, or perhaps it’s the porky 1740kg throwing its weight around, but we could not better 6.3L/100km during our week with the Bavarian wunderkind.  

BMW recommends either premium unleaded (95 RON plus) or E10 ethanol, so no standard stuff, please.

Meanwhile, in EV mode, less than 40km is the real-world range, and that can drop dramatically with amenities running like the AC. The EU electricity consumption figure is 15.4kW/h/100km, which is reasonable for the 330e’s size and weight.


Audi A37/10

With all its cylinder shut-off, hybrid tricks and small capacity, the 1.5-litre engine boasts a 5.0 litres per 100km combined cycle fuel economy figure.

Combined with its 50-litre tank, that’s a potential for 1000km between service-station visits. It’s also commendably close to the numbers you’d expect from a similarly sized vehicle with a turbo-diesel engine.

The more conventional 2.0-litre A3 variant, meanwhile, boasts a still-credible 6.7 litres per 100km for the same test. To counter its greater thirst, Audi has fitted a slightly bigger, 55-litre fuel tank.

The headline act, of course, is the base-model’s highway figure which, thanks to the small capacity engine and its reduced pumping losses at small throttle-openings, can get right down into the low-fives (5.0 litres per 100km) in the real world at real highway speeds.

With a tail-wind, you might even see a number starting with four. This is why you don’t need a diesel engine any longer.

Expect the 40 TFSI to use roughly a litre more across every 100km travelled. And in either case, you are stuck with paying for 95-RON premium unleaded.

Driving

BMW 3 Series

The good news is that the 330e is designed for built-up and urban environments, since it benefits from a quiet electric motor to whoosh you along almost silently and always serenely for up to that 60km official range. Acceleration is instant, punchy and remains strong as speeds quickly rise, making the BMW ideal for darting in and out of traffic gaps.

In the real world, with the climate-control switched on and other drains on the car, that drops to under 40km, though that can often be more than enough for most commutes. If there’s access to a normal 10a socket, the BMW will be fully charged to get you back home in fewer than six hours.

Of course, the beauty of a PHEV is that the main form of motivation is a brilliantly muscular and responsive BMW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which really gives the 330e wings as a fast and fluent open-road grand tourer. It just laps the miles up.

Still, running on petrol, the Bavarian is as impressive around town, too, since there’s a hefty lump of low-down torque on tap for prompt throttle responses. The superb eight-speed torque-converter auto provides an almost supernatural ability to select the right ratio at the right time, and in a most harmonious manner too.

Perhaps this is a one-off blip in our test car, but a concerning powertrain jolt was discernible from somewhere in the transmission at step-off, as if the 330e is struggling to reconcile electric and petrol power seamlessly.  

Every aspect of the BMW PHEV’s powertrain and chassis – engine, transmission, steering and suspension – can be altered from a cushy softness to a muscular firmness, according to the mood of the driver (or passengers).

Although never heavy, there is substance to the steering even at slower speeds, and the upshot is an engaging and involving experience. Switching to Sport intensifies everything, for an edgier, more athletic experience.

Great for keener folk seeking the 3 Series’ enthusiast’s machine reputation. That said, the turning circle is tight for easy manoeuvrability, while the auto parking feature helps getting the sedan into tighter spots, and generally works reliably.

Adaptive dampers do a great job in helping to smother out most of the bumps and ruts of suburbia’s roads, though larger speed humps can expose the limits of available suspension travel as well as ground clearance (147mm).

Out on the open road, the steering is a boon, working with the taut chassis for sharp handling and balanced roadholding. Displaying towering levels of roadholding, the 330e simply remains glued to the road, even at speed.

One small observation is that the 330e lacks a mechanical limited slip differential, so there isn’t quite the surgical handling crispness that elevates the latest 330i into the dynamic stratosphere.

That, plus the extra mass of the PHEV, do dull the steering’s sharpness and BMW’s overall agility slightly. Never stodgy, just not supernaturally athletic. That’s the price you pay for parsimony.

Finally, in the sportier settings, with the stability and traction controls’ hold loosened, the tail can be made to swing out, meaning the driver must remain alert and ready to reel it all back into place.

This isn’t as much a flaw as a playful aspect of the 330e’s very broad dynamic bandwidth. There’s something for everyone.


Audi A38/10

Let’s start with the less powerful 35 TFSI, if only because - even though we know better in 2022 - there’s a temptation to think a 1.5-litre engine will be underdone. The reality, however, is that you’re not going to drive this car and judge it as anything other than very resolved.

While it’s true the peak power of 110kW isn’t startling, it’s the way it’s delivered (along with the 250Nm of torque) that sets the mood here.

Like many late-model Audis, this one has an engine with a fizzy, zingy feel that makes you want to rev it just to hear and feel it. And when you do, it pays off with plenty of flexibility and a sophisticated, refined feel.

Whether the mild hybrid driveline is adding anything to the formula is debatable, because the technology is so seamless you won’t pick what it’s doing other than the engine stop-start function, which is one of the better ones we’ve sampled.

Move from the 35 into the 40 TFSI and you immediately notice the extra power and torque on tap. And although it’s still not a hot-hatch by modern standards, there’s always enough urge to make the 40 TFSI a convincing driver’s car.

Again, the power delivery is the key to it all, making more of what the engine has to offer by actively encouraging you to use it. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is your friend here.

The extra driveline functionality of the 40 (namely the AWD system) actually means less than you might imagine in day-to-day life. We didn’t get to drive the car in the wet, but it’s fair to say that those conditions (or a loose, gravel road) are really the only ones likely to make a difference to the way the basic platform feels.

That’s for two reasons; the first being the all-wheel-drive is fundamentally on demand anyway and, secondly, the basic platform is so composed and balanced in the first place, that the Quattro system will spend a lot of its time hiding in the background.

The 40 TFSI also get the selectable drive modes which break with tradition by actually making a difference to the way the car feels.

But the reality is that if you took the best bits of every other setting (Comfort, Dynamic and Efficiency) and loaded them into the Individual button, you’d probably wind up with something very close to what the non-adjustable 35 TFSI offers in the first place.

You have to admire the way Audi has made a front-drive car in the A3 steer, handle and talk to the driver in such a clear, precise way.

Yes, the 40’s selectable modes add another layer to that, but only if you can be bothered. Even more than that, the A3 in either form feels like its ultra-stable and safe, while the levels of feel and feedback give the impression they were decided upon by people who enjoy driving.

Safety

BMW 3 Series

As part of the G20 3 Series line-up, the 330e achieved a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating in October, 2019.

There basically isn’t an active or passive safety item left unticked in this grade, meaning AEB (operational from 5km/h to 210km/h), stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control and brake-assist, active lane-change and lane-departure warnings and intervention, front and rear cross-traffic alert with braking and blind-spot monitoring.

Eight airbags are fitted – front and side airbags for driver and front passenger and head airbags for all outboard seat occupants.

There’s also adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, as well as a low-speed EV-mode acoustic warning for pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way. That’s set to about 20km/h.

BMW fits a pair of ISOFIX points for the outboard back seat positions, as well as top tethers for strap-fastened child seats.


Audi A38/10

Possibly the headline (no pun intended) act here is the inclusion of a centre-front airbag. This is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future, particularly in compact cars, where the proximity of the front-seat passengers can lead to head clashes in a side-impact crash.

Beyond that, the Audi has six airbags including side-curtain airbags.

In terms of driver aids, the A3 sets a high bar for its competitors, and with autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian and cyclist recognition, rear-cross-traffic alert, lane-departure assist and a rear-view camera, most bases are covered.

The major omissions are adaptive cruise-control, but that’s available in the 35 TFSI as part of the $2600 Comfort Package, and in the 40 TFSI as part of the $4500 Premium Package.

Yes, the Premium Package also includes heated, memory front seats, a head-up display, improved stereo and the multi-coloured ambient interior lighting (and more) but it does seem strange that it costs more to option up to adaptive cruise in the 40 TFSI than in the base-model.

The A3 scored the full five stars in ANCAP crash testing in 2020.

Ownership

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s warranty is one of the worst in the business. Its meagre three years/unlimited kilometres matches Audi’s Scrooge-y efforts but is two-years shy of arch nemesis Mercedes-Benz.

The 330e’s servicing is condition-based, depending on how it’s driven and other factors, with a dash warning appearing to let the driver/owner know when it’s time. In the UK, a two-year/30,000km interval is advised, if that helps.

No capped-price servicing regime is offered, but the 'BMW Service Inclusive Basic' packages cover scheduled servicing from three years/40,000km to five years/80,000km, and start from $1350.


Audi A37/10

Audi recently improved its factory warranty from three years to five years and unlimited kilometres. Any new Audi (including this one) sold after January 1 this year is the beneficiary of that change.

Audi specifies service intervals of 15,000km or 13 months.

There’s also the option of a fixed-price servicing program for the first five years of A3 ownership, and that will cost you $2250, for an annual average of $450.