Audi's A3 e-tron plug-in gets a fresh face after one year on the market

Also new for this year is a wealth of tech updates, including Virtual Cockpit, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

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Why do automakers (Audi, especially) make the car so small in the frame? Nobody's marveling at the background here, folks.

Audi

For a while, the only Audi A3 you could buy in the US was a hatchback, which Audi calls a Sportback for some reason. Then the A3 sedan came along, and the hatchback was relegated to a plug-in hybrid variant only. Now, after giving the A3 sedan a hefty refresh for the 2017 model year, Audi's gone and done the same with its more capacious little'un.

The most obvious change is in the front fascia, where the A3 e-tron adopts the more aggressive countenance of its sedan brethren. LED headlights are standard on more expensive models, but all three trims receive a bunch of standard equipment, including a backup camera, panoramic sunroof, autonomous emergency braking and LED running lights.

There are plenty of changes inside the A3 e-tron, as well. Optional equipment expands to include Audi's excellent Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the gauge cluster with a massive, configurable screen. Tick the right options boxes, and you can also add Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and a 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity. Opt for the Sport package, and you get a flat-bottom steering wheel, a roof spoiler and new 18-inch wheels.

The powertrain, on the other hand, remains exactly the same. Its 1.4-liter engine mates to an electric motor to produce a net 204 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Its 8.8-kWh battery provides enough juice to go about 16 miles without using the gas engine, which is on the lower side of current PHEV offerings, although most other plug-ins are a fair bit larger.

All that new stuff means, naturally, the price is going to jump up a bit. The entry-level 2017 A3 e-tron Premium now starts at $38,900, a $1,000 bump over the 2016 model. The price for the midrange Premium Plus e-tron holds steady at $42,000, and the top-tier Prestige now costs $47,500, up from last year's $46,800. Your price might be cheaper, though, depending on the availability of state and federal tax credits.

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