Beneath the Audi A3 e-tron’s ubiquitous surface, so familiar from the countless A3s you probably see on your commute, is a very clever petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain that combines the cheap energy of plug-in tech and the ability to recharge on the move. You can use it the way that suits you best, travelling up to 30 miles on electric power only.
Well, it’s an Audi A3 so at least you won’t need to explain it to your neighbours. They won’t even know it’s a hybrid unless you tell them. The e-tron is based on the A3 Sportback Sport (would Sir like some extra sport with that?) trim with a few added goodies such as LED headlights and sat-nav, so it looks expensive without being anti-social in the eyes of the Joneses.
Interior space is good for five, and luggage capacity is the same as a Quattro four-wheel-drive A3, which is to say 100 litres down on the basic A3 Sportback and technically only 29 litres more than a Volkswagen Up. It’s broad rather than deep, though, and turns out to be plenty practical enough. Cupholders, a central storage bin and a fuzz-lined glove box are handy to have.
OK, the e-tron is quick enough in a straight line but along winding mountain roads it’s about as dynamically exciting as an elderly goldfish, especially until you take control of the six-speed S-tronic automatic gearbox yourself. Weekend blasts are not what it’s really designed for.
In town, though, it absolutely excels. It’s so unerringly quiet and smooth in electric-only mode, while the three further drivetrain modes do their respective – very different – jobs impeccably. Crucially, the standard everyday hybrid mode does brilliantly well at using the electric motor as much as possible, saving the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol back-up for fast getaways and topping up battery charge.
At less than 30 big ones this is very around the price that buyers looking for a top-end A3 would happily pay. For that money you don’t get any special performance or an S badge, but you do get Audi’s best everyday A3. It’s that good. If an A3 is on your shopping list, this is the one that could reduce your weekday fuel bills to practically zip.
If we could all afford one as our daily driver, we’d all want one. Half the journalists on the launch had already made requests for long-term test cars by lunchtime. Thing is, the A3 has found thousands of buyers across a statistics-mocking range of demographics. Any buyer who wants premium quality, a near-silent cabin around town and fuel bills that make an eco-diesel look wasteful need look no further.
ENGINE Plug-in hybrid producing 201bhp and 258lb/ft
PERFORMANCE Top speed 137mph, 0-62mph 7.6s
ECONOMY 176mpg combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 37g/km