‘A stake in the ground’ was how Audi described the plug-in hybrid A3 e-tron recently.

The firm’s flirtation with electric propulsion has been prolonged – the original R8-styled e-tron concept was shown at Geneva five years ago – but the Sportback is the first production model to actually adopt the badge.

The wait, says Audi, is due to its insistence that a zero-emissions-capable Audi ought not to be either a second-car compromise or too huge a leap for its buyers to understand.

Thus its EV comes packaged as a plug-in hybrid that doesn’t require a great deal of plugging in, has grunt to spare and is virtually indistinguishable from any other A3.

It also comes with some easily understood headline claims: 37g/km of CO2, 7.6sec to 62mph and a 580-mile range.

The implied lack of trade-off is compelling, and with only its sister car – the Volkswagen Golf GTE – for immediate company, Audi’s initial electrified offering seems uncannily well judged.

Could this be the consummate petrol/electric hybrid we’ve been waiting for? Read our review to find out whether it’s a lit bulb or a blown fuse. 

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run