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TheStreet Open House

The New 2015 Audi A3 Is Designed For Success

Stocks in this article: TSLA GM F HMC TM

Speaking of electric, there will be a plug-in hybrid version of this car in early 2015. The body of that car will be a hatchback, sort of like the outgoing A3, which is based on the VW Golf. I don't think it looks as good as the sedan but it may have better headroom in the back seat. The 2015 VW Golf certainly has much better rear seat headroom than the A3 sedan.

The plug-in hybrid A3 will follow the recipe of most European plug-in hybrids that will be arriving in the next year and two. It has a small battery and weak electric motor as opposed to the Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR and BMW i3 with range-extender. This means that you can only go 13 to 22 miles on EV power, and the gasoline engine will engage if you apply anywhere near full throttle.

I will likely be driving the plug-in hybrid version of the A3 some time in the second half of 2014, given that it will be in U.S. dealerships in the earliest part of 2015. It will most closely be a competitor to the two Ford (F) plug-in hybrid models (Fusion and C-Max), Honda (HMC) Accord and the next-generation Toyota (TM) Prius plug-in.

The gasoline A3 is rated at 33 miles per gallon on the highway and 27 mpg combined. That is 10 mpg less than the combined mpg of the Chevrolet Volt in charge-sustaining mode.

Speaking of the Chevrolet Volt, it was the car I drove both directly before and after the 2015 Audi A3. Even though the Volt is an almost 3.5 years older design than the A3, the powerful electric motor makes for a superior driving experience.

For the two people sitting in the front, the comfort is similar between the A3 and Volt. In the back seat, the Volt is more comfortable for two tall people (up to 6 feet tall), but the Audi's critical advantage is that it seats three people instead of two.

The 2015 Audi A3 looks better than the Volt, inside and out. It also handles a little better, probably reflecting more sporty tires. A relatively loaded Volt at $39,000 is priced similarly to the base 2015 Audi A3 after federal and state tax incentives.

The 2015 Audi A3 holds up very well against the equivalent entry-level offerings from Mercedes and BMW. However, if you don't need some of the enhanced equipment levels or the superior design beauty, you might get an even better value in the 2015 VW Golf, which also has much more headroom in the back seat. The 2015 VW Golf should be available no later than autumn 2014.

As you might have figured out by now, I think the strongest competitor to the 2015 Audi A3 is the Chevrolet Volt, which despite being almost 3.5 years old in the tooth remains the powertrain champ of our time. The electric drivetrain is powerful and ultra-smooth, and if you don't need to fit a third person in the rear seat -- the Volt's achilles heel -- it is the better choice.

The 2015 Audi A3 is likely going to be very successful, and for good reason. It's supremely beautiful, inside and out. As long as you can live with the very poor rear seat headroom, it is a class leader among the entry-level luxury sedans. I can't wait to drive the plug-in electric version!

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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